LUCAS TORREIRA is quickly establishing himself as a fan favourite at the Emirates – and a stunning performance against arch-rivals Tottenham only added to his popularity.
Any suggestions he might take a while to get used to his first North London derby were quashed almost immediately when he crunched Dele Alli in the first few minutes – boy did that go down well.
Getty Images – Getty9 Lucas Torreira delivered the perfect midfield performance against Tottenham at the Emirates
AFP or licensors9 He looked at home from the first whistle despite appearing in his first North London derby
And it really set the tone from the outset with the tenacious Uruguayan delivering a man-of-the-match performance – yes, even better than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
So what made it so good?
WON THE MIDFIELD BATTLE
Last season at Wembley, Spurs won the midfield battle and as a result they won the match.
Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele dominated that day but yesterday it was all about Lucas Torreira and his midfield partner Granit Xhaka.
Getty Images – Getty9 Torreira put in a crunching tackle on Dele Alli which set the tone at the Emirates
Reuters9 He sniffs out danger and more often than not goes and wins the ball back for his team
Spurs started with a diamond midfield, anchored by Dier and spearheaded by Alli with Christian Eriksen and Moussa Sissoko also in the mix.
But they struggled to get through the Torreira-Xhaka wall with the diminutive midfielder winning three tackles, five duels and 12 recoveries.
It is just what you want from a holding midfielder.
Speaking on Match of the Day 2, Ian Wright said: "He’s he guy we’ve been looking for for the past four or five years. Everybody has been asking “when are we going to sign a defensive midfielder?” and now we have got that guy in Torreira."
#Arsenal #Tottenham #Derby #PremierLeague #ComeOnGunners🔴#LT11 ❤️⚽️🦁💪🏻 pic.twitter.com/h04nNpgxuw
— Lucas Torreira 34 (@LTorreira34) December 2, 2018
WANTS TO GO FORWARD
Many of the best defensive midfielders – think N'Golo Kante – are happy to go and win the ball off the opposition but look far less comfortable with the ball at their feet.
It means they usually offload it to their midfield partner or look to find a centre-half or a full-back.
That's where Torreira differs – he wants to go forward at every opportunity and refuses to go back.
One particular example stands out during the second half: facing his own goal and under pressure from Dier, Ben Davies and Son Heung-min, he managed to somehow turn away from all three and start another attack.
EPA9 Even when under pressure from Eric Dier and Ben Davies, Torreira looked to move the ball forwards
As SunSport columnist Wright pointed out: "It’s the way he naturally gets into positions where he can get into people. And when he’s got time, he’s got quality on the ball.
"He’s natural at it. He can read danger and he can sense danger. Unfortunately sometimes you see Granit and he doesn’t really recognise danger. This guy [Torreira] sees it and he springs us forward as well."
Our former midfield maestro #Torreira celebrating his first @premierleague goal, and during the #NorthLondonDerby, no less!
It’s alright Lucas, you can take some of the credit – it’s not ALL thanks to us 😉 pic.twitter.com/GEDX3SAzoa
— Sampdoria English (@sampdoria_en) December 2, 2018
TERRIER SHOWS HIS NASTINESS
When Arsenal fans heard they were signing a Uruguayan holding midfielder in the summer, they must have been excited.
There is a certain reputation associated with South American players like that: no nonsense, physical, tough in the tackle.
Lucas Torreira vs Spurs: The Stats
- Minutes: 90
- Goals: 1
- Attempts on target: 1
- Attempts off target: 2
- Completed passes: 43 (90 per cent)
- Accurate forward half pass completion: 86 per cent
- Duel success: 50 per cent (from 10)
- Tackles: 3 (67 per cent)
- Recoveries: 12
- Free-kicks won: 2
- Fouls: 2
And Torreira the Terrier ticks all of those boxes… and more.
He put that heavy challenge in on Alli in the opening five minutes to the delight of the Emirates faithful and was not afraid to get involved in the numerous brawls throughout the game.
Gary Neville said: "When you see him busying around like a terrier, the rest have to respond to it and thrive off it.
"It just felt like they had some nastiness about them today. Even when Eric Dier scored they went over and had a scrap with them over that.
"I like that. Arsenal teams haven’t had a fight in them for years."
Getty Images – Getty9 Torreira may only be 5ft 5in but he has had a big impact on Arsenal this season and showed his nastiness yesterday
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DOMINATED ACROSS THE PITCH
Torreira may have been playing in a holding midfield role against Spurs but he was effective all over the pitch.
As his heat map shows, he filled in at right-back when Hector Bellerin pushed forward in attack, looked to create and was often the link-man with Aubameyang and Co up front.
He managed 68 touches and, although he may only be 5ft 5in, his presence on the pitch is massive and continues to grow.
Arsenal legend Wright added: "He was magnificent today, absolutely brilliant. When you look at the way he plays, when you look at his touches – he’s everywhere. He’s everywhere on the pitch."
Opta9 Lucas Torreira was effective right across the pitch, as his heat map from yesterday shows
And goalkeeper Bernd Leno explained just how crucial Torreira is to the side: "Torreira is incredible.
"He’s a fighter and he’s so important for our game, for the whole defence. He produced another perfect game."
Epic celebration from Lucas Torreira after his first Arsenal goal.
An Arsenal legend in the making. pic.twitter.com/KlF2yJUzza
— Warriors of Uruguay (@UruguayanHeroes) December 2, 2018
Lucas Torreira has now got Man of the Match in three of Arsenal’s last four PL games.
Liverpool: MOTM ✅
Bournemouth: MOTM ✅
Tottenham: MOTM ✅#afc pic.twitter.com/y1Tq3LI2zg
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) December 2, 2018
Torreira signing of the season
— Austin (@AustinDarbo) December 2, 2018
OWNS A PAIR OF SHOOTING BOOTS
As if he had not already produced the complete performance in one of the biggest matches of the season, Torreira went and bagged his first Arsenal goal to really cap it off.
He went close during the second half, letting fly as the ball fell to him on the edge of the area but it whistled just beyond Hugo Lloris' top corner.
The Uruguayan got it in the end, though, picking his spot and slotting in when Aubameyang fed him through.
He ripped off his shirt in celebration – cue the yellow card – showing just how much it meant to him.
Perfection. Oh, and he's still only 22.