Among the chopping and changing in Saturday’s friendly with Espanyol, one constant thing of interest was Gylfi Sigurdsson playing in a central role.
The Icelander featured out on the left for much of last season, but could AVB be thinking of returning him to the position that he played in so well for Swansea?
Siggy in the middle
Sigurdsson netted 7 times in 18 appearances for the Swans, playing in front of Leon Britton and Joe Allen in Brendan Rodgers’ 4-3-3. His goal scoring was impressive, but so too was his chance creation, as he set up an opportunity for a team mate every 31 minutes on pitch.
His first appearance in a Swansea shirt saw him come off the bench against Arsenal, threading a ball through for Danny Graham to score the winner in a 3-2 victory. This wasn’t the only through pass he attempted in his 45 minutes on pitch.
Two matches later and Sigurdsson was at it once more. He scored an equaliser, then threaded a pass through the inside right channel, again to Danny Graham, to make it 2-1. It was one of many attacking passes played in to or towards the box by the Icelander.
His goal in that game was also of note, as it came from a pass cut back to him in the penalty area by left back Neil Taylor.
In fact, goals from either low crosses or passes cut back to Sigurdsson were a feature of his time at Swansea.
After his goal against the Baggies, his double in a 3-0 thrashing of Fulham were both created from passes cut back to him. He opened the scoring after neat interplay with Wayne Routledge allowed him to get on the end of a ball that was cut back by Scott Sinclair after the former Spurs man’s cross.
Sigurdsson then scored his second after threading a ball through for Routledge to run on to once more, then getting the return laid back nicely in to his path.
Gylfi Sigurdsson in the centre for Spurs
His seven goals and five assists for Swansea prompted us to secure his services last summer. However, given the chance at the start of the campaign to play in the centre, Sigurdsson struggled.
The main reason for this was the gap between AVB’s double defensive pivot of Sandro and Jake Livermore and the Icelander. This was highlighted in the Newcastle 2 Spurs 1 and Spurs 1 Norwich 1 match reports.
When Moussa Dembele arrived at the club, this immediately provided a player to bridge the gap. In the Belgian’s first start, Gylfi Sigurdsson had arguably his best game playing in the centre against Reading.
The Icelander was heavily involved in our opener, sliding a pass through for Aaron Lennon to cut the ball back to Jermain Defoe to slot home. He then saw his effort blocked on the line as Defoe then squared a pass back for him.
After struggling in our opening matches of the season, he was finally showing some of the signs we’d seen at Swansea.
Despite his good performance, Gylfi Sigurdsson would rarely be spotted occupying the central role again.
Clint Dempsey’s arrival meant the American was handed the berth in order to provide aerial support. Sigurdsson is weak in the air and with Jermain Defoe as the only fit striker, AVB needed an aerial threat to win any balls cleared long out of defence.
Later in the season, after the return of strong in the air Emmanuel Adebayor, Gareth Bale switched to the centre and Sigurdsson had to carve out a role on the left.
Switch to 4-3-3 could be key
That could all be set to change though. A move by AVB to 4-3-3 this season would see Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado and Gareth Bale occupying the three forward positions, leaving Sigurdsson with a chance to contend for the advanced midfield role.
In the article “Are Spurs starting to create goals the Andre Villas-Boas way” I looked at how our head coach likes his teams to create chances. These come from either through balls to a runner on the other side of the defence or from low-driven crosses and cut-backs after a pass has been slid in-behind the opposition full back.
Gylfi Sigurdsson excelled at Swansea with the South Wales side trying to create chances in a similar manner. He not only scored goals from cut-backs, but also created them for team mates with his through passing, something Roberto Soldado thrives off.
Saturday’s stint against Espanyol may just be a sign that AVB has recognised this and plans to use Gylfi Sigurdsson more in the centre this season.