LONDON — Former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva said he hopes Lucas Torreira will have a similar impact at the Emirates as N’Golo Kante has had at Chelsea.
Arsenal signed Torreira from Sampdoria in July to fill a glaring hole in defensive midfield — a position many believe they have neglected ever since Gilberto left the club a decade ago.
Although he has yet to start a game, the 5-foot-6 Torreira can be a big presence on the pitch despite his diminutive stature, Gilberto said.
“You have Kante at Chelsea, he’s a small player,” Gilberto said at the charity match between Arsenal and Real Madrid legends on Saturday. “It’s about how smart they are to play at this position, to find the best ball to give, play nice and simple.”
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Gilberto said smaller holding midfielders can be effective in the Premier League.
“The Premier League is not easy,” he said. “You have to work hard to be considered a top player and progress from game to game, season to season. But he’s got the potential. We saw that at the World Cup, where he did a great job for Uruguay.”
Torreira still has to convince Emery that he is ready for a starting role, with the Arsenal coach preferring Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi in central midfield so far.
But Gilberto thinks it is just a matter of time before Torreira gets his chance because he is the only natural defensive midfielder in the Arsenal squad.
“Before he arrived, none of the other players were the kind who would sit in front of the back four,” Gilberto said. “It’s a hard job. Not everyone wants this job.
“I watched him in the World Cup. He did a very good job. If you see the way he plays, he plays the game very simply. He makes things easy for him on the field. He gives protection to the back four and support to the guys up front. He tries to find the best spot to be [in]. The protective instinct is very natural for him.”