The Gunners midfielder – who the Italian outfit tried to sign last summer – was on top form as Unai Emery’s side sealed victory at the Emirates
How Napoli must hate Lucas Torreira.
For a time last summer, the Italians thought they had managed to prize the diminutive Uruguayan away from Sampdoria to help fill the void left by Jorginho’s departure to Chelsea.
But then Unai Emery and Arsenal’s former head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, nipped in and convinced the midfielder that London was a better bet than Naples.
And as was evidenced on Thursday at the Emirates, Napoli’s loss has clearly been Arsenal’s gain.
Torreira has had a fabulous first season in England, but there is no doubt his performances have dipped somewhat since the turn of the year, which is perhaps no surprise given his exploits at the World Cup and having to adjust to a season with no winter break.
But in this absorbing Europa League quarter-final first leg he was back to his very best, bossing the midfield battle to remind Napoli what they could have had.
With Granit Xhaka once again missing due to the thigh strain he picked up on international duty, Torreira – who has missed the last three Premier League games due to suspension – was brought back into the midfield alongside Aaron Ramsey.
Emery then paired Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette together up front, with Mesut Ozil operating just behind the strikers.
It was the same way Arsenal had set up against Rennes in the second leg of their last-16 clash and, just as they did against the French side, the Gunners flew out of the blocks, playing with an intensity that made Sunday’s dire performance at Everton all the more baffling.
And it was the central midfield pairing of Torreira and Ramsey who were the driving force behind a 45 minute showing that blew Napoli away.
Ramsey had already given Arsenal the lead, finishing off a flowing move involving Ozil, Lacazette and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, before Torreira inflicted even more damage on the visitors.
Robbing Fabian Ruiz – the man Napoli signed in the summer having failed to land Torreira – he drove towards the edge of the box before showing his excellent footwork to earn himself a shooting chance.
His effort may have taken a huge deflection off the formidable Kalidou Koulibaly before beating Alex Meret, but that should not take anything away from the Arsenal man.
It was no more than Arsenal deserved and it is the goal that has given Emery’s side a commanding lead to take to Naples this week.
They had chances to extend that advantage, not least when Ramsey blazed over from 10 yards in the second half, but the Gunners have given themselves a golden opportunity of making the semi-finals for a second successive season.
There is stil work to be done in Naples, especially when you consider Arsenal’s miserable away form in 2019, but there is no doubt they are favourites to progress through to the last four.
And with Torreira in this sort of form, there is every chance they could go one better than last season and make the final.