Even though the team’s unbeaten run seemed to be severely under threat even before Liverpool took to the pitch at the Emirates, and it appeared to be even closer within ten minutes of the final whistle, it could be argued that it was Lucas Torreira who was even more instrumental in achieving the final result than Alexander Lacazette.
On Sunday the papers were full of praise for the outstanding role played by the diminutive Uruguayan who has already more than justified the rumoured £26.4 million that Unai Emery had to pay to lure him over to England from Sampdoria. It’s even been suggested that he may be the most important member of the team – a very unusual accolade for a central midfielder to receive. None other than Martin Keown has also pronounced that he’s exactly what the team has been lacking for too long.
Against Liverpool not even the silky skills of Mo Salah could get the better of him, maybe because he was still mulling over the unfortunate likeness to Leo Sayer of the statue unveiled in his honour at Sharm el Sheik at the weekend. Perhaps what has helped to amplify the difference that Torreira has made to the midfield is the fact that under Wenger this was an area that tended to crumble especially in the face of tougher opposition. But, as they say, you don’t get very far in Uruguayan football as a 5’5” player without a certain level of toughness and this was certainly on display on Saturday.
Many had already seen his potential in Russia in the summer and there were more than a few key moments when he showed exactly what he was made of against the visitors from Anfield. The first was when he made a decisive intervention to block a shot on the edge of the box, materialising seconds later to challenge for the ball on the right wing. But the one event that had half of the Emirates crowd on their feet was when he executed a perfectly timed sliding tackle to up-end Sadio Mané.
But all you really need to know about just how much the little Uruguyan managed to get under the skin of the opposition is the level to which they started to target him. This eventually led to Fabinho getting a booking for an entanglement with him further
strengthening the moral victory for Arsenal.
Then, when the game was almost done and the first loss in 13 matches was in sight, Torreira even opened the way for Lacazette’s equaliser by having his own shot from the edge of the penalty box which gave Alissa plenty to do. So it may be early days but this display has even got fans thinking they may have a chance of a top four finish and even considering a little Premier League betting. Of course, Torreira won’t be able to ensure this on his own. But the midfield partnership with Granit Xhaca looks set to be as solid as the latter’s christian name.
So now the big challenge will be to ensure that they can both stay fit for the rest of the season and with Torriera’s propensity for getting fouled this may be easier said than done. But the last thing he would want or need would be to be wrapped in cotton wool. Because in football, as in life, fortune often does seem to favour the brave.