Arsenal's new signing Lucas Torreira can ease the pain of missing out on N'Golo Kante in 2016
It never gets any less galling that Arsenal had the chance to sign N'Golo Kante two years ago. The France midfielder may have had an aberrant bad game in the World Cup final, but there was no doubt in the minds of his teammates about the role he played in their triumph in Russia. On Monday, as they waited to enter Elysee Palace for a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, Paul Pogba led them all in singing his name. Much to Kante's embarrassment, of course.
The best midfielder in the world? Maybe. With two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a World Cup in the past three years, there have been plenty of occasions to give Arsenal fans frequent flashes of frustration that they never managed to get their hands on a player who seemed ideally suited for them. Instead, in the summer of 2016, they signed Granit Xhaka.
The Switzerland international improved noticeably in the second half of last season and influenced an increasing number of games with his impressive range of passing. That being said, Arsene Wenger never really seemed to accept that a defensive midfielder should also have some grasp of defensive duties rather than simply being a deep-lying playmaker. Xhaka spent much of the season sitting in front of the defence without providing the necessary protection. There will be a role for a player of his quality at Arsenal but it cannot be one in which he is asked to tackle.
With Kante's remarkable career portraying the value of a player who can tackle, as well as charge around, intercept and distribute tidily from the back -- just look at Pogba's contrasting performances for Manchester United and France -- it is just as well that Arsenal have signed one this summer. Lucas Torreira was not in contention to be named the best player at the World Cup, as Kante surely was, but he did make a distinct impression and was named in The Guardian's best Under-23 XI on Saturday.
Torreira also provided some memorable moments that hinted at the qualities he will bring to the Arsenal midfield. In one snapshot that proved popular on social media, in the last-16 win over Portugal he hurled his torso into Cristiano Ronaldo to knock him to the ground. In the same game, he headed a ball that was on the floor, chucking his face in the way of a moving boot, putting every part of his body on the line. In the quarter-final defeat to France, he even gave a passable impression of the man opposite him, Kante.
But playing in a holding midfield role for head coach Unai Emery will entail more than mere destruction. Torreira will have to have a flavour of Xhaka without the accompanying defensive limpness. Indeed, we may have got an insight into what Emery wants from his holding midfielder at the weekend.
If Calum Chambers wasn't regurgitating the instructions Emery had given him when asking him to play an unfamiliar role at defensive midfield in the 8-0 friendly win over Boreham Wood, he was presumably keen to offer a view that chimed with his manager's view on football.
Speaking after his runout in midfield, he said: "It's an important position. If you can get on the ball, turn and break their lines, then it kills their press, so I think it's an important position, and anyone who's playing in there needs to learn how to do that ... If you can get on it and you have time and it's not a risk, turn and play forward, and that's the best way to get through a press."
Playing those kind of penetrative passes is Xhaka's specialty. He likes to find a through ball or dink a lofted pass out wide. It's what he does best.
But in Torreira, Arsenal will be hoping they have the best of both worlds. He is unlikely to be as impactful as Kante -- no one really is -- but Arsenal can expect their Uruguayan signing to be a significant upgrade at that position.
Tom is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @tomEurosport