A Beginner’s Guide to Pau Torres
Right, it’s time to catch-up Pau Torres, the second long-awaited Aston Villa signing of the summer transfer window for the 2023/24 season.
We’ve gone into more detail on Torres on a previous episode of the My Old Man Said podcast, but let’s get everyone up to scratch with the brass tacks skinny guide of Villa’s signing, by fielding the FIVE ‘W’s’ of the player.
Who are they? What are they about? Where will they fit at Villa? Worries about them? And, most importantly, why the hell did we sign them?
Pau Torres – The 5 W’s
Pau Francisco Torres is a 26-year-old Spanish international central defender. Apart from a loan spell with Malaga in the Spanish Second Division in 2018-19, where he helped them gain promotion, he has been a one-club man with Villarreal.
Torres made his debut for Villarreal in a Copa Del Rey tie in 2016, becoming the first Villarreal-born player to do so in 13 years. It is safe to say that leaving the side he has poured his heart and soul into was an emotional wrench.
Pau Torres has been a player that has been on many football scouts’ radar since returning from his loan spell and establishing himself in the Villarreal side in 2019.
Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United have all held an interest in the player in recent transfer windows.
Averaging over 35 games per season, he was a star in the team that beat Manchester United to lift the Europa League in 2021 under Unai Emery. He continued with eye-catching performances as Villarreal reached the semi-finals of the Champions League the next season.
For Spain, despite scoring on his debut in a 7-0 victory against Malta, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Torres was part of the silver medal-winning Olympic team, yet in the Qatar World Cup, he didn’t feature as much as expected, only playing 90 minutes in the shock defeat against Japan in the final group game.
During the World Cup, Spanish Coach Luis Enrique played Torres on his less preferred right side of central defense. This is something to keep in mind when Emery selects his defensive lineup at Aston Villa.
Free UK Delivery Below
The big question on the minds of everyone since it became apparent that Torres was coming to Aston Villa, has been where he will play?
The performances of Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa over last season, did not need upgrading in the minds of many fans, and the unfortunate Diego Carlos, injured after two games, has yet to show what he can bring to the side.
Bringing in a high-profile singning like Torres, in a position where Villa were already stacked is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser.
For the £ 30 million+ fee, Torres should be starting, but will he contribute in a new back-three formation or will he displace either Mings or Konsa? The concerns over Torres playing on the right for Spain may suggest a move to the right-hand side for Tyrone Mings, as the team cannot do without his heading ability and leadership.
In the words of Unai Emery: “Pau is an amazing player, I think he’s top. I’ve been a coach in Sevilla, PSG, Arsenal and I’ve never seen a centre-back like Torres.” The then Villarreal boss said in January 2021.
If Emery holds such an opinion, that is the reason why Torres has been signed.
From a tactical perspective, Torres will provide Aston Villa with much more in terms of attacking prowess and playing out from the back compared to Konsa and Mings.
In the previous La Liga season, Torres led other central defenders in touches (2560) and completed passes (1846). However, it is in other areas where he stands out from Villa’s current options.
He recorded the highest number of passes in the final third (275), the most through balls, the most completed take-ons, and was second in chances created with 14.
This area is where Unai Emery will want his defence to improve without sacrificing the defensive stability of last season. Because as fun as it is to see Tyrone Mings bring the ball out from the back like Franz Beckenbauer, there isn’t always full control of what happens next.
Despite the general excitement and happiness surrounding the signing of a player of Torres’ reputation, there are some concerns.
Villarreal has been his only club, and a settling-in period at another club as well as a new league will be needed. With Villa’s Spanish-speaking cartel and a manager he has worked well with before, this should be easier, but it will still be a worry.
The last thing Aston Villa want is a Spanish version of the David Unsworth situation…
Joking aside, the main concern is tactical. While sentiment has no place if Villa wants to progress, the current defensive unit at Villa is one of the best in the league, having conceded just 26 goals in 25 Premier League matches since Torres’ arrival.
The arrival of Torres, who will very much be Emery’s boy on the pitch, has the potential to disrupt this well-drilled unit, at least in the early stages.
Another concern arises from the Villarreal-based press and fanzines, who largely attributed Torres’ lack of impact at the national level to playing on the right side of defense. If this is true, and not merely a clash with Luis Enrique’s tactics, then does Emery drop Mings? Or does he play him on the right-hand side of a pairing with Torres. It’ll certainly add intrigue to the Villa line-ups of preseason games.
Obviously, after the club parted with £30m+, Emery will be pretty clear in his plan to incorporate his new sergeant on the field.