Gylfi Sigurdsson arrived at the Lane after a very impressive loan spell at Swansea highlighted the 22 year-olds’ potential in the Premier League.
The Icelandic International was heavily linked with a move to Liverpool in the summer, before we were able to sign him in an £8 million deal.
It’s still early days for Sigurdsson in a Spurs shirt, but after starring for Swansea, he hasn’t completed 90 minutes yet for us. He’s started twice and been subbed after an hour on both occasions, whilst also coming off the bench once. So, just what is going on with Gylfi Sigurdsson?
To understand how the Icelandic interntaional is best employed, we need to take a step back to his time at Swansea last season.
Gylfi Sigurdsson at Swansea
In the article ‘What Gylfi Sigurdsson brings to Spurs’ we saw how our new signing roamed the inside-right channel for the Swans, creating and scoring goals from here.
You can read the full article on the link above, but as a quick highlight, here is a chart of where he picks up the ball when he played for Swansea against Spurs last season.
We can see how Gylfi Sigurdsson is constantly looking for the ball down the inside-right channel throughout the match. This includes where he received the ball for his curling effort in to the top corner, highlighted by the yellow line.
He also provides assists from this channel as well, as we can see when he sets up Danny Graham against West Brom. Neil Taylor (3) pings a long cross-field pass to Gylfi Sigurdsson (42) in the inside-right channel. The Icelander then dribbles to the right-hand corner of the box, before crossing for Graham (10) to score.
Working this channel was very much a feature of his time at Swansea, so lets take a look and see how he has faired for Spurs.
Gylfi Sigurdsson at Spurs
So far for Spurs, Gylfi Sigurdsson has operated centrally in the hole behind Jermain Defoe in Andre Villas-Boas’ 4-2-3-1 system. This is slightly different to his position whilst at Swansea. Brendan Rodgers used the Icelander at the head of his three-man midfield in a 4-3-3 formation.
Leon Britton was at the base of the midfield with Joe Allen playing slightly in advance of him as the playmaker. Gylfi Sigurdsson was playing further up the pitch, but worked the inside right channel as we have seen above. Swansea focussed their attacks to this right side, as they went down the left 31% of the time, 26% up the middle and 42% to the right according to WhoScored.com.
In AVB’s 4-2-3-1 system, Gylfi Sigurdsson hasn’t had the service he was receiving at Swansea where Joe Allen was feeding him the ball. So far, we have deployed the rather defensive duo of Sandro and Jake Livermore at the base of the 4-2-3-1 and this has left the Icelander isolated in his two starts.
There was a big gulf in our opening match against Newcastle between the two players at the base of the formation and Sigurdsson.
The same gap also existed in the formation in his 55 minutes against Norwich.
As a result, rather than getting the best out of the Icelander down his favoured right-hand channel, he has received less frequent service in areas across the whole pitch.
We can see this from the opening match against Newcastle, where Gylfi Sigurdsson only receives 21 passes in his 68 minutes on the pitch across a wide area.
In our second match against West Brom, he only came in to the game with 17 minutes to go. However, in this brief period, he was able to put in the corner that was partially cleared for Assou-Ekotto’s goal and played slightly more down his preferred side of the field.
Last weekend against Norwich, Gylfi Sigurdsson was back in the starting line-up. Although he was replaced on 55 minutes, he did see more of the ball with Spurs dominating possession. He also receive an increased number of passes down his preferred inside-right channel, but was pulled a lot more centrally as well.
The signs frpm this match are more promising though.
Move to 4-3-3 could get the best out of Gylfi
Andre Villas-Boas didn’t have the players to deploy his preferred 4-3-3 system, until Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele were signed at the end of the transfer Window.
I show how AVB’s 4-3-3 operates in the post ‘Where does Clint Dempsey fit in at Spurs?’ so check that out if you haven’t read it.
A move to 4-3-3 could really see Gylfi Sigurdsson excel down his preferred inside-right channel where he had so much success at Swansea. The reason being that the advanced midfielder in this system looks to create overloads and move in to the space vacated by the right forward.
Spurs in this 4-3-3 system would line up like this.
This would give Gylfi Sigurdsson the chance to move back in to an area where he had success at Swansea last season.
In the first two matches for Spurs that he started, there hasn’t been anyone to link the base of the midfield with the advanced midfielders. This has starved Sigurdsson of service, causing him to look somewhat lost in the formation.
Moussa Dembele filled this gap in the last game, as we can see from his average position when he entered the match with Norwich at half time.
Having Dembele in the playmaker role in midfield, will provide a link between Sandro at the base and Sigurdsson working the inside right channel.
This would get the Icelander more of the ball in locations where he does his best work in the opposition half.
It’s fair to say we haven’t seen the best of Gylfi Sigurdsson just yet this season. He has looked at times like he is struggling to get to grips with a slightly different role in behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. However, he’s also not been helped without someone linking the play between the base and advanced midfielders, creating a gap in the formation.
A switch to 4-3-3 would allow Gylfi Sigurdsson to operate in an area of the field where he has excelled before, making Spurs’ investment look like money well spent.