Unai Emery tells Arsenal’s Lucas Torreira to improve for holding role

Nick Ames on 22 November 2019

Lucas Torreira faces further frustration if he wants a return to Arsenal’s holding midfield position, according to Unai Emery, who believes the player’s consistency has dropped this season and that he is not yet equipped to play in his preferred role. Talks have taken place between the pair this week following suggestions, made during the international break, that the Uruguayan is unsettled.

It has been an uncertain period for Torreira, who was trumpeted as the answer to a long-standing problem in the deeper position when he arrived from Sampdoria in July 2018 and earned instant plaudits for his performances. This season he has been in and out of the side, sometimes looking uncomfortable occupying the more advanced berth in which Emery has deployed him recently.

“At the moment he’s helping us like two midfielders, because his pressing on the opposition is the best of our midfielders and his capacity to get into the box, to get opportunities to score, is very good for us,” Emery said. “He has a very big future here, but he needs to improve. He has to learn in some situations to help us and do better. It’s one process. He was playing good last year; this year he’s not being consistent but my challenge to him is to improve, to do better with some tactical issues on the pitch, but above all being consistent and taking that into the next matches.”

Torreira was tight-lipped over his future when speaking to media from his home country while on international duty, after his agent Pablo Bentancur stated that he is unhappy with his positional change. Emery met with the 23-year-old on Wednesday and Thursday, showing him videos of his better moments and those that suggested room for improvement. “He is a very good player, important for us, and his focus needs to be with us 100%,” he said. “His response to me was positive.”

Emery went on to explain that Torreira, who is largely feted for his tenacity and aggression, must develop his buildup play if he is to be first choice in the holding role.

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“We need that position for the capacity to build up; it’s a big responsibility,” he said. “He can play as a defensive midfielder, but we need a defensive midfielder [to be] offensive because the buildup for us is very important. At the moment, to give him that responsibility as a defensive midfielder who builds up and creates a lot of combinations with our team, he needs more time. He’s helping us, he’s sometimes playing well, he’s being consistent, but needs to learn and improve in that issue.”

Torreira should at least start against Southampton on Saturday afternoon, with Granit Xhaka unlikely to be recalled for a home fixture and Dani Ceballos ruled out for around three weeks with a hamstring injury.

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