A lot of debate has surfaced about Óliver Torres over the past couple of weeks. Most of it criticises the performance of the Spaniard, and claim how he does not have what it takes to cement a place on the bench, let alone the starting eleven.
It is normal to have doubts when a player is not performing as you would expect, but to completely rule him out?
Amongst the speculation, rumours stating that El Cholo does not value young Oliver caught my attention the most. This is bonkers.
El Cholo handed him the number 10 shirt, and I cannot stress how important that is. Oliver was Arda’s direct replacement, and that can be proven by the fact that El Cholo played Oliver in Arda’s position, on the flanks opposite Koke, and started him the first few games.
Granted some say he did not perform well, and this subsequently cost him his starting berth. It did not help his case how quickly Carrasco adapted either.
Every time he is asked about his line-up, El Cholo inevitably says something in the mould of “we will see how everyone trains, and then we will see what type of player the game needs.”
Most recently the games have dictated that it will be better to utilise pacey players on the wings. Hence why Oliver was left out numerous times, with El Cholo opting for Carrasco instead.
Let us discuss Oliver’s allegedly ‘poor’ performances. Sure, he has not been dazzling us with dribbles and he isn’t beating players. Sure, two assists in 13 matches in La Liga is not so great.
Óliver is still young and he still lacks experience, however we should not judge him solely based on that. The youngster has improved his defensive game and work rate immensely this season.
He’s always tracking back and putting in his share of tackles, which El Cholo values the most, something neither Correa nor Carrasco do as well. No one can deny there are moments of magic from Óliver. He has this ‘wow’ factor to his game. His unpredictable movement and thinking makes him a dangerous player to face.
There are a few who doubted Oliver’s ability, whilst comparing his progress to that of his young colleague José Giménez.
Gimenez has been tutored by the very best – El Cholo and Diego Godín – both mentally and tactically. This can be seen from the last league game against Las Palmas. For a couple of moments I thought that Godin had successfully managed to clone himself.
On the other hand, Oliver does not have anyone to learn from, aside from the likes of Gabi and Tiago. The tutoring from these two would explain why his mental and defensive game has improved. Not that I’m belittling Gabi or Tiago’s influence, but Oliver must discover who he is, offensively, on his own.
With the arrivals of Augusto and Kranevitter, some speculate that this means Óliver will drop down the pecking order behind the likes of Ángel Correa, Saúl and company, thus will have to seek minutes elsewhere.
That is not necessarily true. I believe that Óliver has something unique to offer, something others in the team can’t.
His vision and ability to thread through-balls, which is undoubtedly one of his finest traits, will be useful on the counter-attack against teams that press high up the pitch.
His ball control and ability to dribble out of tight areas will be extremely useful when playing against teams that park the bus.
We will be competing on three fronts, in the league, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. Simeone will be need to rotate his starters frequently; which means that Oliver will be featuring much more regularly.
Óliver still has a role to play this season – and should be kept at all costs.