Lucas Torreira is not comfortable with being asked to play a new position for Arsenal this season, according to his agent.
Uruguay international Torreira has been linked with a move away from the Gunners, and his agent, Raffaele Bentancur, explained the midfielder's issues during an interview with Naples-based Radio Marte (h/t Football.London's Amie Wilson):
"In football anything can happen. Torreira is doing well at Arsenal, although the change of role does not make him happy, but it must be said that this year the whole team is not going well. It was difficult to take [for] Torreira at the time, now I don't know how things are, but I think Arsenal wants to keep it [as is]. Play [less than others]? In the new role he is not at ease, but we respect the coach's decisions, then we'll see what happens."
Bentancur also outlined how former Sampdoria ace Torreira came close to joining fellow Serie A outfit Napoli before moving to north London in 2018. Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti made a convincing pitch, but the club had not matched Arsenal's offer.
Ultimately, Torreira was left "upset" when he missed the chance to play in Naples. Bentancur said the Uruguayan views Napoli as a similar "environment" to Boca Juniors, where Torreira wants to end his playing days.
It comes as no surprise there have been rumours linking Napoli with interest:
Nicolò Schira @NicoSchira
#Napoli are interested in Lucas #Torreira to replace #Allan. Pablo Betancur (Torreira’s agent) has told Arsenal that the player wants to leave the club in January, but #Sanllehi doesn't want to sell him and will held talks with him and his agent in the next days. #transfers #AFC
Meanwhile, Napoli's Italian top-flight rivals AC Milan are also keen, according to TuttoMercatoWeb (h/t The Sun's William Pugh). The Rossoneri are overseen in part by Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal's former CEO.
In the meantime, the 23-year-old remains an Arsenal player, but one who is still trying to find his feet under the stewardship of head coach Unai Emery. Torreira initially performed well last season, looking like the long-awaited answer to the Gunners' longstanding need for a true enforcer at the base of midfield.
However, Emery has gradually pushed Torreira further forward, valuing the South American more as the most advanced player in the middle.
Playing Torreira further forward has yielded some modest returns for Emery, specifically goals away to Liverpool in both the Premier League and Carabao Cup. Yet while Torreira has the industry to handle such a role, he lacks the quality in possession to operate behind the forward line.
Torreira was back to his natural position at the base of midfield alongside Matteo Guendouzi for the 2-0 defeat to Leicester City last time out. The Gunners were beaten, but there was at least a recognised shape to the team, one helped mightily by dropping Torreira deeper and reinstalling Mesut Ozil as the No. 10.
The 31-year-old Ozil proved against the Foxes that leading the press is not an alien concept to him:
Ozil's burgeoning revival isn't the only factor in making life easier for Torreira. Emery's decision to omit Granit Xhaka from the squad and take away the captaincy after the playmaker's spat with disgruntled home supporters has also made room for Torreira in a deeper role.
Xhaka's future at the club remains in doubt ahead of the January transfer window.
Mark Mann-Bryans @MarkyMBryans
Xhaka's exclusion tomorrow now common knowledge but after the cameras stopped rolling, Unai Emery added more info. Admitted he didn't know if Xhaka would ever play for the club again and revealed conversations have taken place as to whether he should be sold in January. #AFC
Emery himself has been under pressure amid a run of poor performances and results, although Arsenal have backed the Spaniard to turn the team's form around, per David Ornstein of The Athletic:
David Ornstein @David_Ornstein
Arsenal bosses “100%” behind Unai Emery, deny considering change or talking to candidates, plan to review in summer. Kroenkes + execs offering full support, won’t react to “noise”, feel results will improve atmos & think #AFC on right path. @TheAthleticUK: https://t.co/rXXrMAtd9a
Emery's task looks a tall one with the Gunners already nine points adrift of a place in the top four and qualification for next season's UEFA Champions League.
Xhaka's absence may see Torreira deployed deeper in the coming weeks while the likes of Ozil, Nicolas Pepe and Real Madrid loanee Dani Ceballos support strikers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.