Adrian Clarke selects the players who have caught his eye in 2018/19 so far.
Arsenal have been crying out for a top-class specialist defensive midfielder for many seasons. They have found one in the shape of Lucas Torreira.
Unai Emery gently integrated the summer signing from Sampdoria, using him as a substitute in the first five matches of 2018/19.
After a positive impact in each of those second-half appearances, Torreira has become a fixture in the first team and already one of their most influential players.
Adding defensive focus, steadfast aggression, positional discipline and ball-winning qualities to the Arsenal midfield, Torreira provides excellent protection to the back four.
He has transformed the team's tactical approach, making Arsenal harder to break down and giving them a more solid central platform that allows Granit Xhaka and others to focus on creativity.
Torreira can be relied upon not to stray too far away from his holding midfield position, always being in place to cover. This gives team-mates the confidence that their forays forward will not leave gaps.
When you study Arsenal's record with Torreira on the pitch, in both a defensive and an attacking capacity, it is remarkably superior.
|2018/19||Without Torreira||With Torreira|
A lot of Torreira's work goes relatively unnoticed, and some of it does not register statistically.
Scurrying around the middle third of the pitch to close down opponents, the Uruguayan's presence forces numerous mistakes that do not count as tackles or ball recoveries.
The numbers do tell us, however, that he is a very good interceptor.
Making six interceptions against Fulham at Craven Cottage last time out, Torreira's reading of the game and speed across short distances help him regularly break up play.
Once he regains possession he is adept at drawing fouls.
Busy and willing to run the ball away from opponents, he has quickly become the division’s most-fouled player.
It should be noted that in possession he is also a good fit for Emery's philosophy.
Keeping things simple and moving the ball on efficiently, the 22-year-old's 88.4 per cent pass accuracy is the second-best figure within the squad.
He rarely overdoes it on the ball, or pushes too far beyond the final 30 metres of the pitch.
His performances strongly indicate that Arsenal will be far less of a soft touch without the ball for the rest of 2018/19.