Unai Emery Wants to Use Lucas Torreira 'High Up the Pitch' for Arsenal

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 02: Lucas Torreira of Arsenal is consoled by Arsenal Manager Unai Emery after being awarded a red card during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC at Wembley Stadium on March 2, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)
Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Lucas Torreira may be Arsenal's best defensive midfielder in the eyes of many, but Gunners head coach Unai Emery doesn't agree. The Spaniard instead wants to use the Uruguay international farther forward.

Emery spelled out where Torreira can be most effective after Arsenal beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday, per Joe Krishnan of the London Evening Standard:

"He was able to go from box to box and I want to use his quality. His qualities are that he can give us good pressing, and he can win the ball high up the pitch to give us the possession to score. He did that tonight. After, we need someone with the ball and in his position, he can help us with the build-up."

Torreira started in Germany, but he hasn't been a fixture of Emery's starting XIs so far this season. He has otherwise been limited to one start and three appearances off the bench in four Premier League games.

However, Emery explained the trip to Germany was the first time when Torreira "was feeling physically very good."

If the 23-year-old is back up to speed, Emery's idea about pushing him closer to the attacking areas has some merit. While his aggression would seem to lend itself to a role as a destroyer in front of a shaky Arsenal back four, Torreira's energy and willingness to scrap for possession can be key to the pressing philosophy Emery is trying to employ.

A high and consistent press requires midfielders relentless and intense enough to harass the opposition. Arsenal don't have many of those after over two decades under Emery's predecessor, Arsene Wenger.

The Frenchman preferred a more patient and passive style with his players taking care in possession and sitting off waiting to break when out of it. Wenger's way called for more languid technicians like Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka, midfielders defined more by their artistry than industry.

Torreira's fits Emery's desire to turn Arsenal into a pressing team better than Ozil and Xhaka.
Torreira's fits Emery's desire to turn Arsenal into a pressing team better than Ozil and Xhaka.Julian Finney/Getty Images

Torreira is of a different mold. As Football.London's James Benge explained, Torreira suits a pressing game better than he does dictating passing from deep.

Benge believes winning the ball in danger areas is a better way to keep Arsenal's marquee forwards, including club-record signing Nicolas Pepe, supplied with chances: "Pressing high with a player like the Uruguayan is a plan that works and there can be few better ways to guarantee good service to Pepe, Aubameyang and Lacazette than nicking the ball off the opposition high up the pitch."

The idea works in practice, even though Torreira fluffed his lines when presented with a great chance in the box early on against Frankfurt.

To his credit, he was heavily involved in helping win the ball in the final third to precede Arsenal's third goal. Torreira made a nuisance of himself, while Bukayo Saka eventually seized possession and played in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score.

An assist for Alexandre Lacazette in last season's Europa League semi-final second leg, to go with league goals against Tottenham Hotspur and Huddersfield Town, showcased what Torreira can contribute in attacking areas.

Having already scored against Liverpool earlier this season, Torreira can occupy a role similar to the one Jordan Henderson operates in for the Reds as the most advanced presser from midfield.

It's a bold idea by Emery, especially since his leaky defence often hasn't received enough protection from midfield in league games. However, using Torreira to help make Arsenal better at defending from the front could be the key to the Gunners improving in both phases of the game.   

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