Lucas Torreira is the combative midfielder Arsenal have been “crying out for”, says Paul Merson, with the Uruguayan billed as the next Patrick Vieira or Gilberto Silva.
While the Gunners were famed for their ball-playing approach under Arsene Wenger and boasted plenty of creative influences in their squad, their finest sides had graft to complement the guile.
World Cup winner Vieira epitomised those qualities, with the Frenchman an explosive presence who was capable of putting a boot in and driving forward.
Brazil international Silva was cut from the same cloth, and Arsenal have finally found a suitable successor in another South American.
Uruguayan star Torreira has been a revelation since completing a £26 million ($33m) move from Sampdoria, with former Gunners star Merson telling Sky Sports of the 22-year-old: “They’ve been crying out for someone like him since Gilberto Silva and Patrick Vieira.
“He gets around people, closes players down, gets everybody fighting. He’s not a natural passer, but he sets the tempo.
“I’ve said all along, for years and years; Arsenal are one of the best teams in the world with the ball.
“But for the last four or five years they’ve been one of the worst in the world without the ball. He has changed that.
“When Torreira gets around people, it’s a domino effect, and everybody else rallies and gets around the opposition players.
“And his attitude is great; he leaves nothing on the pitch and gets stuck in. He gets people going.
“He’s done absolutely outstandingly well, and came up with two massive goals in the last couple weeks.”
Torreira opened his goal account for Arsenal in a north London derby date with Tottenham, before going on to grab a spectacular match-winner in his most recent outing against Huddersfield.
Merson believes there is still plenty of potential for him to unlock, with Arsenal set to be the ones to benefit from a shrewd addition that could have slipped under the radar.
He added: “Liverpool wouldn’t buy him tomorrow morning, I wouldn’t have thought any of the top four would. He can and will get better, but he’s done great.
“They needed it, we all knew that, Arsene Wenger knew it but he was too stubborn to go and get someone.
“He could be playing at Southampton and wouldn’t get a mention, or Burnley. No-one would mention it. It’s just that Arsenal needed it so badly.”
Arsenal, who are now 22 games unbeaten after edging out Qarabag 1-0 in the Europa League on Thursday, will be back in Premier League action on Sunday when they travel to Southampton