Arsenal’s summer transfer strategy was a peculiar one to work out. The Gunners clearly needed an overhaul of their squad, with the departure of Arsene Wenger at the end of last season opening up the opportunity for them to go through with this. And yet few of their signings caught the eye.
The addition of Lucas Torreira was the one exception, though. The Uruguayan became something of a star at the World Cup, showing fans why Arsenal were so keen to sign him for £26.5 million from Sampdoria. He is the type of central midfielder that the Gunners have needed for a long, long time. Torreira has the potential to be Arsenal’s very own N’Golo Kante.
But so far Unai Emery has kept Torreira on the bench. The 22-year-old has yet to make a single start in the Premier League this season, coming on as a substitute in all four of Arsenal’s opening four games of the new campaign. Instead, Emery has favoured a midfield partnership of Matteo Guendouzi and Granit Xhaka, with Aaron Ramsey slightly further up the pitch as more of an attacking midfielder.
Guendouzi is a different sort of midfield operator to Torreira, with the French youngster more of a pass master, a tempo setter. Guendouzi isn’t costing Torreira his place in the Arsenal team, but Xhaka is. As things stand, the Swiss midfielder is ahead of the Gunners’ big summer signing in the pecking order.
Xhaka divides opinion, even among his own fans. The 25-year-old has failed to live up to his billing in his two years since joining Arsenal from Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer of 2016, but every so often there is a glimpse of what he can do. Of why he was once considered one of the best young midfielders in the Bundesliga.
Emery, it would seem, is a fan of Xhaka. But by picking the Swiss over Torreira, he is robbing Arsenal of the energy the Uruguayan would bring in the centre of the pitch. Torreira is similar to Kante in the way he covers so much ground, from left to right, top to bottom – he is irrepressible.
He is a nightmare to play against and Arsenal desperately need more of those sort of figures in their team. Stephan Lichtsteiner is another one of those figures and yet he too has so far failed to win a place in Emery’s starting lineup since signing as a free agent from Juventus in the summer.
Arsenal have been criticised for their soft centre for years. That is a problem that long predates Emery. But in picking Xhaka over Torreira, the new man in the job at the Emirates is only accentuating this issue. Torreira won’t fix all Arsenal’s problems, but he would at least help address one of them.
How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.