Unai Emery revealed after Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Bournemouth last weekend why Lucas Torreira asked to be substituted after 79 minutes. He was tired.
The two international friendlies he played with Uruguay days beforehand certainly contributed to his tiredness, but anyone who has seen the 22-year-old play will understand exactly how he’d be so shattered just three months into the new season.
Torreira joined Arsenal from Sampdoria in the summer for a fee in the region of £26 million ($34m) . His performances for Uruguay at the World Cup only served as further leverage to increase the transfer price tag, although luckily for Arsenal they managed to get a deal agreed before he played any games in Russia. Sven Mislintat targeted Torreira as someone who could be crucial to Arsenal in the coming seasons, a tenacious midfielder who possesses a blend of defensive and attacking qualities.
Earlier on in the season it was another summer signing, Matteo Guendouzi, who started alongside Granit Xhaka in midfield. Guendouzi’s raw, high energy performances immediately endeared him to the Arsenal faithful but there was still a sense of anticipation for Torreira’s arrival into the starting line-up following an extended break after his World Cup excursions.
The partnership with Xhaka has been rightly lauded for triggering an improvement in the Swiss international. Xhaka has more freedom to flourish in his deep lying playmaker role, while Torreira screens the defence and offers an incisiveness going forward when required.
"Granit is a player that I link up a lot with in the midfield and he covers lot of ground on the pitch. He occupies space really well and is important to the defensive balance of the team, which the manager knows," Torreira told the Evening Standard .
"He's an outlet for the first pass from defence and frustrates the opposition's attackers. When he's playing well, the team are going to win games. We're gaining points and me and him are playing minutes together and gaining experience together, which is important."
Indeed, against Bournemouth it was Torreira who completed two of his three tackles in midfield, touched the ball 76 times and produced a 91 per cent pass success rate. Along with one key pass and a dribble, his midfield engine emphasises why he is so useful for Unai Emery’s side this season and is arguably the club’s most important player right now. All the more impressive is the fact that he’s learning a new tactical system after joining from Serie A.
"I am going to get to grips better with all the tactical aspects of how Arsenal play," Torreira explained.
"Last year, I got used to Sampdoria's style of play, where we had three players across the midfield, and I'm now adapting to Arsenal's and there just being two of us.
"There are many things I can improve on, but that will come with time. We are going to have a much better understanding, we'll only improve and when things are going well the team will become even better."
While Arsenal no longer have a Gilberto Silva or Patrick Vieira in midfield, they do now have a lynchpin who supporters understand and are appreciative of the kind of work he does on the pitch.
‘He comes from Uruguay, he’s only 5 foot 5’ sing the Arsenal fans in every game – and rightly so. Torreira has added a new dimension to the Gunners and provided the answers to those who questioned whether they found the right defensive midfielder after signing him in the summer.