AC Milan are reportedly set to reignite their interest in Lucas Torreira this summer. Selling the Uruguayan, however, would waste the ‘What if?’ that Arsenal should instead explore.
Lucas Torreira burst onto the scene was one of the brightest, more energetic, uncontainable, and infectious defensive midfielders in the Premier League.
He arrived as a 22-year-old off a very encouraging World Cup in 2018. There was a tentative hope that he could be Arsenal’s N’Golo Kante, and the scrappy nature with which he immediately arrived seemed to suggest that he could meet such lofty expectations. His passion was evident, his gritty, gnarly, explosive style a catalyst for the team, and it certainly felt as if the Gunners had unearthed a future legend.
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However, as his first season progressed, he tired. The lack of a winter break hurt his fitness levels. The World Cup also did not help, as well as no preseason and a late start to the season. All this while playing at breakneck speed whenever he stepped onto the pitch and adapting to a new team and league that is renowned for its physicality. Unai Emery slowly dropped him from the team and by his second season, Torreira was playing a whole new position.
Emery moved Torreira into a more advanced, box-to-box role. He was able to perform admirably in the role and was still effective, but it was clearly not the best use of his skill set. As soon as Mikel Arteta replace Emery as head coach, he immediately reinstated Torreira to the base of the midfield, and Arsenal’s entire shape immediately looked more balanced and cohesive as a result.
But then even Arteta started to veer away from Torreira. Dani Ceballos was ushered into the team, while Granit Xhaka kept his place as a pseudo-left-back-central-midfielder. Torreira then suffered a nasty ankle against Portsmouth that had seemingly ended his season. He was out of the Premier League starting XI and now facing an extended rehabilitation.
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As a result of his sliding down the pecking order, rumours have spread that Torreira might leave north London. It is widely known that he would have departed had Emery remained as manager, but while he briefly enjoyed a resurgence under Arteta, Torreira has since been moved into a substitute role. According to Corriere dello Sport, AC Milan are again interested in the midfielder and will make a move in the summer.
It is quite likely that Arsenal would sell, for the right price. But that feels like a wasted transfer. The potential that Torreira showed in those first few months, as well as the high level of performance he produced under Arteta before being harshly dropped, prove what he is capable of being: an elite destructive midfielder. He is still 24, has had three different managers, and is still yet to enjoy a run of starts in the team beyond the opening period of his north London tenure.
Selling Torreira, then, seems like a wasted ‘what if?’ We do not know what he could become because he has not been given the chance to prove it. But he might be just what Arsenal need. Throwing that away seems a little hasty and rash.