For years, Arsenal has been missing a midfield presence that can shield the back four and provide some steel in the center of the park, but in rising Uruguayan star Lucas Torreira it appears to have found the answer.

By 90Min
November 06, 2018

When a 20-second clip goes viral over an Arsenal player, it typically features an incredible piece of skill or a goal of the season contending strike. But on Sunday afternoon, it was different. 

The Emirates Stadium was rocking and giving one of its players a standing ovation. And yet, it wasn't after a piece of magic from Mesut Ozil. Or a stunning strike from Alexandre Lacazette. The Arsenal fans were on their feet because little Lucas Torreira had hurled himself at both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in the space of a few seconds to win the ball back twice for the Gunners. 

The 20 seconds epitomized everything that Torreira has brought to the club since his £26m arrival from Sampdoria in the summer. The never say die attitude. The total commitment to the cause. A willingness and genuine desire to tackle and harass in the middle of the park. 

For far too long, Arsenal have fallen to familiar failings. A lack of spine, or as Troy Deeney put it, cojones. The Gunners have been too easy to physically dominate and often in uncomfortable conditions, they would wilt like a flower in the autumn. 

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Arsenal have missed a true holding midfielder, capable of putting out fires and protecting the back four since the Invincible days of Gilberto Silva. Week after week, month after month and even year after year fans and pundits alike have bemoaned the Gunners' lack of defensive protection. 

Where were the men and the leaders of yesteryear? Where was the chest thumping and hearts on their sleeve warriors of the George Graham and early Wenger era? As Graham Souness so eloquently put it, the Arsenal side under Wenger's latter years had become a team full of 'son-in-laws'. They were content with playing tiki-taka football, but didn't have the steel to go with it. 

In Torreira however, they may have found the answer to their problems. A little man with a giant heart. Standing at just 5'5, Torreira perhaps does not fit the conventional stereotype of a defensive midfielder. But in the battle of the summer's two big money defensive midfielders on Sunday, Torreira completely dominated Fabinho. 

All game the Uruguayan swarmed his Brazilian counterpart and bullied him into submission to the point the former Monaco man resorted to elbowing Torreira in the face. It was refreshing and certainly eye-opening for the younger generation of Arsenal fans to see a midfielder flying into challenges and throwing himself in front of shots. 

Torreira has brought discipline to an Arsenal midfield that had been all too obsessed with flooding forward and scoring goals. His blood and thunder style of play has caught the eye and there can be no doubt that his teammates feed off the electricity he brings. A dynamic presence in front of Arsenal's back four, Torreira scuttles around the pitch snapping at the ankles of anything around him. 

With his youthful energy and effervescence, Arsenal have found someone akin to their very own N'Golo Kante. When Wenger missed out on signing the then Leicester City midfielder before his move to Chelsea, and instead decided to sign Granit Xhaka, the eyebrows were immediately raised. 

After winning the title with Chelsea, and Xhaka's own frustratingly inconsistent form, the failure to sign Kante could have become the unwanted legacy of Wenger's final years in the transfer window. Another chance to sign a truly world class holding midfielder passed up. Another one to add to the almost comical collection of Wenger's missed signings. Another reminder that Arsenal were off the pace both on the pitch and off it. Unai Emery however, has changed all that with the arrival of Torreira. 

The Uruguayan ranked amongst the highest in tackles, interceptions and fouls won in his time in the Serie A, and just like the selfless Kante, Torreira seems more than happy to make sure he puts the team first before himself. Indeed, one of Torreira's biggest accomplishments has been to see Xhaka actually turning into the midfielder he once promised to be. 

With Torreira now overseeing protective duties in front of the back four, Xhaka has had the burden and shackles released and arguably produced his best performance in an Arsenal shirt in the 1-1 draw against Liverpool. While Torreira has been happy to sit and sweep up opposition attacks, Xhaka has been able to display his full passing range and has seemed to relish the freedom that the Uruguayan has given him. 

So while he may have only helped secure a point for the Gunners on Sunday, Torreira proved a much bigger one with his performance. After a decade long search, Arsenal may finally have found the answer to their problems in a little man from the small village of Fray Bentos, Uruguay. It truly is 'Time for Torreira'.

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