I am delighted to bring you my latest interview – I speak to Italian Football Writer Matthew Santangelo who gives me his views and tells us all about our latest signing Lucas Torreira. Enjoy!
CD: With Lucas Torreira’s signing officially announced today….finally – what sort of player will we be getting?
MS: First off, Arsenal are getting an absolute steal in Lucas Torreira for €30m, not to mention it will be paid in multiple installments versus all upfront. Arsenal will acquire one of the best young midfield talents in the game today, and an individual who is mature beyond his years despite being just 22. Torreira is a well-versed defensive midfielder who can control proceedings at the base, and put in the work to support both in and out of possession. By all accounts, this is a no-brainer investment.
CD: He certainly looks like he is, but from your point of view, is he really the sort of player Arsenal have been crying out for in that midfield? – energetic, ball winner, very good position wise and reads the game well. What can we expect from him?
MS: Torreira is an ideal fit for Arsenal. What this purchase will do for their midfield is allow Unai Emery to get their monies worth on Granit Xhaka and free up Aaron Ramsey to influence further up the pitch. In some cases, a player in this role will help elevate others around him, and I believe this could be applicable to Torreira. Despite his age, Torreira’s energetic approach to fulfilling his duties should translate over from Serie A to Premier League – even if his size isn’t aligned with what we are accustomed to seeing from an operator at a big club in England.
CD: What would you say his strengths and weaknesses are?
MS: There is very little Lucas Torreira cannot do from this defensive midfielder position. Smooth, composed and decisive in possession. Reads the game well and circulates the ball to advance play fluidly and with confidence. He can play the ball long over the top to stretch the field, dictate the tempo and is able to play out of pressure without being flustered or mistake-prone. Add in his ball retention and strength, Torreira is a difficult assignment to dispossess. Defensively, he is a plus-ball winner and is quite calculated with his tackling; these are both due largely to his intense nature and feisty demeanor. Typically, a player his size would get bullied off the ball or outmuscled, but Torreira is the type whose diminutive nature works in his favour. There are no alarming weaknesses in his game. However, I suspect he would become less of an offensive force in England than he was in Italy with Samp where he showed glimpses of being a threat in the final third (see the victory over Juventus from last season)
CD: What sort of season has Lucas had at Sampdoria?
MS: 2017-18 was Torreira’s breakout campaign for a young, upcoming side under Marco Giampaolo. Without question, the Uruguayan was the Blucerchiati’s most influential player and tied the loose ends together in the middle of the park alongside Dennis Praet and Karol Linetty. Lucas showed tremendous growth and maturity, proving that he was ready for a bigger platform.
CD: Just how highly regarded is he over in Italy?
MS: Torreira wasn’t just one of Serie A’s best young stars last year, he was one of the best midfielders in the league period. Moving from strength to the strength, this jewel from Fray Bentos had top clubs with European pedigree chasing him as early as January, including Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. Believe the hype, because it’s real and not exaggerated. Everyone across the Italian peninsula recognizes that Torreira is something special and that Arsenal have a gem on their hands.
CD: When you’ve watched him play, what’s stood out to you?
MS: His ability to be such an influence on both ends of the pitch despite a small frame. Few players I’ve watched over the last several years have given me the satisfaction that Torreira has, and that is saying an awful lot. At 5 feet, 6 inches, and aged 22, Torreira is ahead of the development curve.
CD: At 5’6, there’s been a few concerns about how well he will do in the Premier League due to the physicality of it. From what I’ve seen of him, it doesn’t seem an issue at all, especially when you look at someone like N’golo Kante – what are your thoughts on this?
MS: Since Torreira bursted onto the scene this past season in Genoa, people labeled him the ‘Uruguayan Marco Verratti’ – quite the compliment for a 21-22 year old. But personally, I believe that slapping a label on him (i.e., Cazorla-Kante hybrid) is misleading. Obviously you can pinpoint certain qualities in Torreira’s game that support those comparisons, but Lucas is his own individual and one who exudes confidence in himself and takes the pitch with energy to burn. I’ve no doubts in my mind after closely observing him for the last two season in Italy that he should slide right into the Arsenal fold and make a difference.
CD: Do you think a move to Arsenal is the right one for him? Reports suggest there were quite a few clubs looking at him. How do you think Unai Emery can improve him as a player?
MS: A player of his ilk is a fit at many top clubs across Europe. As mentioned earlier, Torreira would have been perhaps the most ideal for Spanish football at either Barcelona or Atletico Madrid due to La Liga’ pace of pace and lighter physicality. However, with Emery’s experience and success at Sevilla, there is compatability between Torreira and Arsenal – just as long as the coach does not force the World Cup standout to occupy a different role on the pitch.
CD: It’s known that Arsenal had a pre-agreement with the player and Sampdoria before the World Cup started – Surely the Italian club must be kicking themselves a little bit after his fantastic performances in Russia? Maybe they could’ve easily got double the amount now but credit to Arsenal for doing what they did.
MS: I firmly believed that if Oscar Tabarez and Uruguay were to travel deep into this World Cup, Torreira needed to start. Initially, Torreira’s minutes came from the bench, but with every opportunity, he showed why he was a level above his contemporaries, similarly to Rodrigo Bentancur who also seized the moment as a teenager. Hindsight is 20/20 though, and Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero will receive roughly €5m for Torreira than his €25 million release clause. From Samp’s perspective, they made a large profit on a small investment and will continue this model as a club.
CD: Finally, overall and in your personal opinion – good signing for Arsenal and one which should get the fans excited? Even though the majority of them including myself are already!
MS: Slam-dunk bit of business here. €30 million spread out over two installments makes this both a sporting and financial heist. Lucas Torreira is the real deal and a player the Gunners should be extremely happy about.
I thank Matt for taking the time to do this interview with me, he has given myself and all Arsenal fans a fantastic insight into the player and i cannot wait to see Lucas in action for us next season.