Lucas Torreira: The rise of the Uruguayan Pitbull

Torreira - The next Vieira
Torreira - The next Vieira
Annmay Sharma

"Torreira Woaah Torreira Woaahh" sang the Arsenal fans as they marched from Craven Cottage back to their not-so-far-away home of North London. The crowd sang in unity as they gathered three more vital away points. This would most probably not have been the case last season. A horrific away-form and the desperate need for a change in management angered all the fans and almost tore the fan base apart. The Emirates was empty, weekly rants from Arsenal Fan TV were getting millions of views and the main theme of football meme pages was Arsenal. 'The Invincibles' no longer looked invincible but rather invisible, especially when it came to the title race.

But new hope arose as the long tenure of Arsene Wenger came to an end and Unai Emery was handed the reigns. One of his first orders of business was the signing of Uruguayan defensive midfielder, Lucas Torreira. Many fans were sceptical at first as they had not seen much of him and he didn't even start for the national team in the first two games of the World Cup. But when the opportunity came knocking, the 5 foot 5 inches brash midfielder took it with both his arms. He kept the hosts, Russia, at bay as Uruguay won their final group stage match 3-0 capping off a 100% winning record in the group stage. The Round of 16 was a big challenge for La Celeste as they took on Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal. Lucas Torreira shined under the pressure of marking perhaps the best player in the world. He took the challenge with great grit and passion and ensured a quiet evening for the Portugal no.7. His performance against Portugal was praised by many pundits and fans alike. The Arsenal fans were finally seeing what an important addition the 22-year-old might be.

After returning from the World Cup, Emery didn't want to include the midfielder in the starting team immediately. However, seeing how quick Chelsea and Manchester City countered, saying Torreira was a player that was missed is an understatement. Although he was introduced at halftime in both those games, the damage was already done. The impact of the Uruguayan didn't go unnoticed. It was clear that he was hungry and showed the same desire on the pitch. But he was more than just a defensive midfielder. Unlike most ball-winning midfielders who play the safest pass five yards away or knock the ball sideways, Torreira had a more forward approach. Often he would spray the ball to the wings or play a through ball to the dangerous strikers such as Aubameyang and Lacazette. He was special.

Soon, Lucas Torreira was handed his first start of the season as Everton visited The Emirates. Ironically enough, Arsenal also got their first clean sheet of the season in the same game. The midfielder picked up a yellow card early on in the first half, but disciplined himself and timed his tackles to perfection to remain on the field for the remainder of the ninety minutes and lead the team to a 2-0 victory. Defensively, he has been a pivotal part of Arsenal's 11-game-winning run and 15-game unbeaten run.

Originally getting rejected at many trials and not making the fit for the senior team, the beginning of the journey was tough for Torreira. But he soon got his opportunity at Serie B team with Pescara. Sampdoria president, Massimo Ferrero was impressed by the young Uruguayan. While many were baffled at the decision, Ferrero felt that the €3 million he spent would soon profit him. Scoring 4 goals and averaging 2.8 tackles per game in the 2017-18 season (more than any other Arsenal player at the same time), the investment clearly paid off. Arsenal came knocking with an offer in the range of €30 million and Sampdoria felt that was an offer too good to refuse.

Torreira has a sharp edge about him. As he patrols the midfield, he blocks out passes and defuses threats before they can even produce. Keeping a Liverpool team with a wealth of attacking assets goal-less for sixty odd minutes is no easy task. But Torreira was able to keep out the danger with his swift tackles and no-nonsense physical approach. This is something Arsenal fans have been crying out for during the past many years. Maybe the change is finally here at The Emirates as a new era dawns upon the gunners under Unai Emery. The biggest diamond - a 5 foot 5 inches midfielder ensuring Arsenal always win the ball back quickly and are able to counter in seconds.

So it is clearly justified why Arsenal fans sing the song they used for the legendary Patrick Vieira. But instead of the tall Vieira now lies the shorter Torreira who may have a height difference but has the same tenacity, heart and a little South American guile.

Edited by Vikshith R
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