Lucas Torreira

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6 days to go until new PL season: Modern number 6 is flourishing in Premier League

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We are officially inside the final week of preparations for the new Premier League season, with just six days to go until the opening match of the new 2019/20 campaign.

With 6 days standing in the way of now and the new season, we take a look at how the Premier League has led the charge for the meteoric rise of the modern number 6 and is experiencing a golden age for the defensive midfielder. To make the argument that the current iteration of the defensive midfielder is the most important position in modern football, one simply has to look at the makeup of the Premier League over the last five years.

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Just this summer, in fact, Manchester City – the defending league champions – broke its club transfer record bringing in a new defensive midfielder in Rodri. With 34-year-old Fernandinho‘s occasional absence last season exposing the two-time Premier League champions, Pep Guardiola identified a position of need and filled it with a bang.

After Fernandinho made his way to the Premier League with his title-winning physicality and passing precision, N’Golo Kante engineered one of the most spectacular underdog stories of this generation, leading Leicester City to the title. One season later, he was shipped off to Chelsea and promptly saw the Blues to the top of the table, winning consecutive Premier League titles with two different teams.

Prior to Kante, Nemanja Matic helped Chelsea to the 2014/15 Premier League title, arriving from Benfica to patrol the Blues midfield and log over 3,000 league minutes in a season to remember.

As top-end Premier League teams look to play out from the back, the defensive midfielder is a critical component of the new style of domination football, but there’s more to it than that. The best defensive midfielders in the world possess an inate sense of the field that allows them to cover passing lanes and grab interceptions, turning possession back over to teams that want to possess the ball.

Taking a peek at the interception leaders in the Premier League last season, the top of the list is dominated by teams dominated in possession which gives them far more opportunities to cut out passes. Still, it proves teams up and down the table have begun employing a modern two-way defensive midfielder to cover the back line, with Watford’s Etienne Capoue leading the charge at a wonderful 2.6 interceptions per 90 minutes, followed by Huddersfield Town’s Jonathan Hogg and Everton’s Idrissa Gueye among the league leaders. Leicester City’s Wilfried Ndidi and Wolverhampton’s Ruben Neves both appear near the top, fitting as they both proved leaders of form for their clubs last season – where they go, the team goes. Lucas Torreira was a heralded signing at Arsenal and quickly proved he could help cover a struggling defensive side. Luka Milivojevic has become a vital part of Roy Hodgson‘s structure at Crystal Palace.

Aside from Pep Guardiola’s use of Rodri and Fernandinho at Manchester City as the club looks to transition from older to younger, one of the most interesting league storylines for the coming year is how Frank Lampard looks to make use of Kante one season removed from a change of scenery. Kantee took significant time to adjust after Maurizio Sarri yanked him from his best position and moved him higher up the pitch, with Jorginho slotted into the role. In the end Sarri was out after just one season and Lampard is left to pick up the pieces. A formerChelsea midfielder himself, Lampard has kept his cards close to his chest and Kante has seen zero playing time this preseason due to injury. Will the French international return to his favored defensive midfield role, or will Lampard continue Jorginho in that role as Sarri did to mixed success?

The new season is nearly upon us, and the modern game is very much alive in the growth, expansion, and dominance of the number 6.

Reports: Arsenal to spend big for Pepe, Tierney

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If the latest reports are to be believed, Arsenal’s transfer budget is actually much bigger than expected.

In a pair of reports, Arsenal is looking at paying as much as around $120 million in transfer fees to sign Lille attacker Nicolas Pepe and Celtic left back Kieran Tierney. L’equipe states that Arsenal has made a $90 million offer for Pepe, while Sky Sports reports Arsenal has made a bid of $31.4 million to Celtic for Tierney.

[READ: Premier League friendly roundup]

If true, it would certainly be an upgrade at left back for Arsenal. Tierney, at 22-years of age, is one of the top young left backs in Europe and if not for Andy Robertson, would be playing a lot more for the Scotland National Team. Regarding Pepe, he’s had a strong last couple of seasons with Lille, including scoring 22 goals with 11 assists in Ligue 1 last season.

However, Pepe really struggled with the Ivory Coast National Team at the Africa Cup of Nations, perhaps due to exhaustion and a lack of gas in the tank. In addition, his position as a forward and winger isn’t exactly a position of need for the Gunners. Arsenal currently has Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Iwobi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and even Reiss Nelson.

Last summer, Arsenal was able to bring in the vast majority of its signings by July 11. Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Bernd Leno and Stephan Lichtsteiner all signed early.

This summer, it’s only signed academy players and 18-year-old Gabriel Martinelli so far, with the necessary signings now late to arrive for preseason training. Arsenal certainly needs a replacement for Aaron Ramsey, David Ospina/Petr Cech, and Lichtsteiner.

Copa America Roundup: Suarez misses and Peru advances to semifinals

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Luis Suarez, the hero for many years for Uruguay in international tournaments, ended up making the key mistake that sent his team home.

Along with a great save from Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, Suarez’s miss in the penalty kick shootout and five-straight makes from Peru led the La Blanquirroja over Uruguay, 5-4 on penalty kicks to advance to the 2019 Copa America semifinals. Despite all the attacking talent on the field, the match was deadlocked at 0-0 after 90 minutes, leading to a penalty kick shootout.

[READ: USMNT’s Weah joins Lille in Ligue 1]

Edison Flores of Morelia in Liga MX scored the game-winning penalty kick with a strike right down the middle, one that Fernando Muslera dived away from and couldn’t adjust his leg to block it. Suarez was captured by video after the final penalty kick in tears on the field, his dream of another Copa America title crushed by his own mistake.

Suarez and his strike-partner Edinson Cavani will rue the chances they had earlier in the match to score, as Peru’s defense was in the “bend, but don’t break” mode. Midway through the first half, Suarez dribbled through a string of Peruvian defenders in the box before centering the ball. Cavani met it at the edge of the six yard box but couldn’t get the shot on a bouncing ball down, going over the bar.

Uruguayan midfielder Georgian De Arrascaeta, just two minutes later in the 29th minute, had a goal disallowed because the man who passed it to him, Nahitan Nandez, was offside when he received the ball initially.

In the second half, Suarez found his veteran teammate Diego Godin but he also missed on his shot in the box, blasting it over Gallese’s goal. Soon after, Uruguay had another goal disallowed after Cavani was ruled offside before scoring a terrific curling effort.

Uruguay had a third goal called back, this time from Suarez as he was just a step offside past the Peru backline.

Uruguay went first in the penalty kick shootout and paid for it, as Suarez missed on his strike to the left side of the net, leading to a mid-section save by Gallese. Cavani, Cristhian Stuani, Rodrigo Betancur and Lucas Torreira all scored for Uruguay, but Peru made all five of its shots. It started with Paolo Guerrero, the Seattle SOunders Raul Ruidiaz and former Orlando City midfielder Yoshimar Yotum. Luis Advincula scored past Muslera with a terrific shot into the corner before Flores sent Peru to the semifinals.

Up next, Peru faces Chile on Wednesday in Porto Alegre, joining Brazil v. Argentina as the other Copa America semifinal.

Report: Torreira not pushing to leave Arsenal

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According to a report by Sam Dean of The Telegraph, Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira is not actively looking to leave The Emirates, contradicting reports from Italy over the past week that have claimed the Uruguayan is unsettled in England and hoping to return to Serie A.

The Telegraph report cites “sources close to the player” and says that Torreira is “happy” at Arsenal.

There have been heavy links with Torreira to AC Milan, as the new manager Marco Giampaolo was his old boss at Sampdoria before he moved to London last summer. While Torreira himself admitted that he has struggled to adapt to life in England and has faced significant adversity with the language barrier, The Telegraph report calls any suggestions that the player is looking to force his way out “wildly exaggerated.”

However, the report also admits that AC Milan sees Torreira as a “priority” this summer and will hope to make a compelling move, led by former Arsenal sporting director Ivan Gazidis who is now employed by Milan. The 23-year-old has a whopping four years left on his contract, so the club still holds significant power over his future, and with the player supposedly yet to force a move, Milan would likely need to blow Arsenal out of the water with a bid to have a chance. The Telegraph notes that a successful offer would need to provide Arsenal with a significant return on investment of the $32 million they paid Sampdoria a year ago.

Torreira performed well in his first season at Arsenal, endearing fans with his no-nonsense style and a technical ability to help the team play out of the back. He made 32 Premier League appearances, struggling at first to earn a place in the starting lineup with Unai Emery unsure how to fit both he and Granit Xhaka in the formation together, but as the Arsenal boss began to pivot the two, Torreira found more time on the pitch, sometimes at the expense of Mateo Guendouzi.

Watch Live: Uruguay takes on Copa America visitors Japan

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Uruguay looks to continue its hot start to the 2019 Copa America when they take on tournament guests Japan in Porto Alegre.

A hot first half saw Uruguay down Ecuador 4-0 in its opener and positioned the South American giants well in Group C alongside fellow 4-0 winners Chile. A Uruguay win tonight and Chile win tomorrow against Ecuador would see both sides clinch spots in the knockout stage.

[ WATCH LIVE: Uruguay vs. Japan on Telemundo Deportes ]

Manager Oscar Tabarez has made one change to his starting lineup against Japan, installing Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira in place of Matias Vecino who will miss the rest of the Copa America with a thigh injury. Otherwise, the team is unchanged with Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez, and Nicolas Lodiero manning the front lines.

For Japan, there is still plenty riding on this match as well despite their poor start. The Asian side can still qualify for the knockout stage in a number of ways, including one of two third-place slots. Still, they need points for that to happen and with each of the other two groups sporting third-place teams that have picked up points, Japan is behind the eight ball.

LINEUPS

Uruguay: Muslera; Caceres, Godin, Giminez, Laxalt; Nandez, Betancur, Torreira; Lodeiro, Cavani, Suarez.
Bench: Campana, Silva, Coates, G Gonzalez, Saracchi, Valverde, Arrascaeta, Pereiro, J Rodriguez, Stuani, M Gomez.

Japan: Kawashima, Sugioka, Itakura, Ueda, Tomiyasu, Shibasaki, Nakajima, Miyoshi, Shinji Okazaki, Iwata, Hiroki Abe.
Bench: Nakayama, Suga, Matsumoto, Tatsuta, Hara, Osako, Kubo, Kojima, Ito, Ueda, Watanabe, Maeda.