A return to the centre for Gylfi Sigurdsson?

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.


Gylfi Sigurdsson passes, Swansea 3 Arsenal 2.

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.


Gylfi Sigurdsson passes played, West Brom 1 Swansea 2.

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.


Gylfi Sigurdsson first goal, Fulham 0 Swansea 3.

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 second goal, Fulham 0 Swansea 3.

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.


Against Newcastle and Norwich there was a huge gap between the Sandro and Jake Livermore and Gylfi Sigurdsson (22).

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.


Moussa Dembele bridges the gap to Gylfi Sigurdsson.

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.


Gylfi Sigurdsson passes played, Reading 1 Spurs 3.

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.

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5 Responses to A return to the centre for Gylfi Sigurdsson?

  1. Aaron 16th August 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Great stuff! Curious how you think Siggy will do if Bale goes. How would AVB’s formation change?

    Love your blog keep up the great work!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th August 2013 at 4:01 pm #

      Thanks Aaron, very good question. If Bale goes, which i hope he doesn’t, then other players will see more of the ball, including Sigurdsson. This should allow him to step up if he plays centrally which has always been his best position.

      This season, i’m looking for Bale to be able to roam from a right forward position in a 4-3-3. If he goes to Madrid, then we may see a lop-sided 4-3-3 with Chadli on the left playing higher up than Aaron Lennon on the right – he’s more of a traditional winger than a wide forward. Or, we may see both players operating slightly deeper in a 4-2-3-1 if AVB wants a more balanced side. Of course Andros Townsend with Chadli would offer two more direct dribbling players in the wide positions who can score by cutting inside on to their favoured feet. I have several other permutations, but overall we would be less predictable with the increased attacking threat we now have from Paulinho, Chadli and Soldado.

      • Aaron 16th August 2013 at 4:22 pm #

        Obviously we’re a better side with Bale in it, but I’m starting to really feel that we’ll be in great shape without him if he does go.

        One other question: what do you Tom Carrol is missing to get him into the side? I think he was great in his limited appearances last campaign and could be a great deputy to Sigurdsson, providing that creative attacking pass.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th August 2013 at 5:56 pm #

          Experience. AVB gave him his first run out in the Premier League last season after Harry gave him a few appearances in the Europa League the season before. I think we’ll see more of Tom Carroll this season, but with the abundance of options we have in central midfield a loan to another Premier League side (not someone like Watford which is being rumoured) would really benefit his progression.

  2. KING 20th August 2013 at 6:32 am #

    I think in AVB 4-3-3 formation, he needs 3 midfielders who can score goals, and also defend very well. So all 3 midfielders could change their positions during the game. A trio of Capoue, Paulinho, Dembele, would seem to be our main 3 players who are going to play in that role.
    And Sigurdsson just doesn’t fits into the “Central Role” for AVB’s 4-3-3, because he is not very good at the defence, and he can’t switch positions with Paulinho or Capoue during the game.
    I think he will compete with Chadli for a starting place on the left, and I think its more likely to happen.

    If Sigurdsson is going to play in the centre, then our formation would just switch into 4-2-3-1. But AVB would prefer 4-3-3.
    And it seems that Sigurdsson got his central role against C.Palace and during Pre-season matches, just because Holtby and Sandro weren’t fit and Capoue was just only signed.