Lucas Torreira Says 'Big Club' Arsenal Focused on Reaching UEFA Champions League

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: Lucas Torreira of Arsenal acknowledges the fans at full time during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on February 3, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Arsenal need to refocus to beat Chelsea and Manchester United in the race to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League, according to Lucas Torreira.

The Uruguay international midfielder told Sky Sports News (h/t Tom Doyle of the London Evening Standard and the Press Association) he believes “a big club like Arsenal deserves to be playing in that competition.”

History supports Torreira’s assertion that Arsenal belong at a higher level. The Gunners featured in the Champions League every year from 1998 to 2017 under former manager Arsene Wenger.

He said playing in Europe’s premier club tournament next season is the “objective” the Gunners are “fighting for.” However, Torreira, who has arguably been the best signing Arsenal made when Unai Emery replaced Wenger last summer, sent out a warning after a recent dip in form.

The north London club has dropped to sixth in the Premier League behind Manchester United and Chelsea after a run of three defeats and a draw from their last seven league matches.

Torreira explained how Arsenal players are putting the poor results behind them: “Just a few weeks ago, (Manchester) United were obviously behind us, but it’s happened, and it’s something we have to deal with. We obviously don’t want that form to happen again.”

He also called on unity among the squad as the key to Arsenal achieving the season’s main goal: “We know it’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure, because we are up against some great teams such as Chelsea and Manchester United, but we need to try and stand firm as a team and as a group and battle in every game.”

Torreira’s call for focus comes at a time in the season when the Gunners are beginning to falter under Emery. The Spaniard recovered from starting his tenure with two-straight defeats by embarking on a lengthy winning run in all competitions.

Yet Sunday’s 3-1 defeat away to Manchester City has cast fresh doubt about how much Emery has improved Arsenal. Those doubts extend to Arsenal’s ability to finish in the top four for the first time since 2016.

There are issues at both ends of the pitch, most notably in defence. The Gunners have conceded 51 goals in 25 league matches thanks largely to a raft of injuries and mistakes.

Unfortunately, Arsenal have begun to falter in attacking areas as well. A team headlined by proven goalscorers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang couldn’t muster a shot during the second half against City.

The Gunners were also outshot during a recent 2-1 home win over relegation-threatened Cardiff City.

It’s a two-fold problem borne first from Emery being a more pragmatic tactician than Wenger. While his attempts to tighten things up haven’t yielded defensive improvement, they have limited Arsenal in the final third.

Emery has contributed to the problem by regularly leaving out the squad’s two best creative talents. Aaron Ramsey has been on the bench for most games since he reportedly agreed to join Juventus on a free transfer next summer.

Meanwhile, Mesut Ozil has struggled to convince his new boss of his worth. Arsenal’s highest earner has regularly been left out for matches away from home.

The result has seen the Gunners’ match-winners up top starved of service recently:

It means Arsenal have a lot of problems to fix amid a tight race for a Champions League berth. Fortunately, Torreira and Co. have two good opportunities to meet their season’s target.

While they have slipped behind United and Chelsea, the Gunners have some favourable league fixtures on the horizon. Saturday sees Emery’s team face bottom-of-the-table Huddersfield Town away from home before hosting Southampton and Bournemouth.

Arsenal can also reach the Champions League by winning the UEFA Europa League, a trophy Emery lifted three times as Sevilla manager. The Gunners will be fancied to go through when they face BATE Borisov in the round of 32 this month.

Emery has ample experience taking the Europa League route to Europe's top table.

Emery has ample experience taking the Europa League route to Europe's top table.GIUSEPPE CACACE/Getty Images

Arsenal’s Champions League chances remain high. Yet the club won’t get there on the merits of history alone.

Instead, only improved and consistent performances, led by Torreira, will help.  

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