On Saturday during Swansea’s 1-0 win over Everton, Glenn Hoddle made a tentatively outlandish statement suggesting that Gylfi Sigurdsson would walk into any top-6 side.
Now, this isn’t to say Sigurdsson is a poor player – this writer is a tremendous fan of his – but when looking at the attacking midfield options available to the current top six, and it was a big declaration for Hoddle to make.
Of the six best teams in the Premier League, perhaps only Liverpool would have a spot in their immediate starting XI for a player of the Icelander’s ilk, and even then it would be in a similar role to that of Gini Wijnaldum, with the Dutchman relied upon to provide attacking thrust from deep in Jurgen Klopp’s favoured 4-3-3 formation.
Of course, the move from the biggest fish in a small pond to the grander stage isn’t an alien concept to Sigurdsson. A superb second half to the 2011/12 season saw the 27-year-old earn a move to Tottenham, only for him to struggle with the demands that came with playing for a team that – at the time – was looking to make the leap from perennial top-four contenders to Champions League regulars.
His departure in 2014 was bemoaned by head coach Mauricio Pochettino, who a few months ago said: “I think after he moved to Swansea and we saw his development he was a perfect player for us.”
And develop Sigurdsson has. This season alone, the Iceland international has been directly involved in 51.2% of Swansea’s 41 Premier League goals, adding nine goals to his 12 assists, the latter stat second only to Kevin De Bruyne (15) in England’s top tier this term.
Indeed, he’s showing enough that he perhaps deserves a second shot at one of the Premier League’s top sides, even if Swansea would be loath to losing their star man. With the Swans currently mired in the battle to stave off relegation, there’s no denying that the creative star has done enough to warrant a place in the Premier League next season, be it in South Wales or elsewhere.
The only issue is where that elsewhere would be…
While the likes of Everton, Newcastle and West Ham have been linked, does the player have enough about his game to merit a move to one of the genuine Premier League big boys…?
With Spurs, he arrived at a time where Andre Villas-Boas was aiming to build a team around Gareth Bale, with the Welshman drifting further and further infield as the season wore on, thus minimising the space in the final third that Sigurdsson would preferably occupy.
In the wake of Bale’s sale to Real Madrid, Spurs secured the services of Christian Eriksen, a technically superior attacker to his Icelandic counterpart. And herein lies the problem. When compared to the Premier League’s top creators, they possess the slight of touch Sigurdsson perhaps lacks.
Take David Silva, for example, he’s more than capable of receiving the ball in a tight spot before worming his way out of danger with the ease of a cat navigating its way through a tight spot. Similar applies to Eriksen, Mesut Ozil and Juan Mata of Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester United, respectively.
Ultimately, the top clubs already have a player of slighter touch that play in the position Sigurdsson would start. He’s honed his talent more in his second spell for Swansea, notably in a willingness to start on the left before wreaking havoc in the final third by driftinginside, yet this isn’t enough to convince that he deserves a regular starting spot for one of the Premier League’s elite sides.
— Premier League (@premierleague) May 1, 2017
This presents another issue for Sigurdsson in that, at 27 years of age, he’s coming into the peak of his powers. He’s a player who deserves regular first team action, not to start from the bench as an impact player and he’s proven as much for Swansea this season.
Indeed, he places fourth for key passes played (77) in the Premier League this season, an impressive feat considering Swansea’s current predicament and further proof that, when made the creator in chief, Sigurdsson has the means to be a club’s stand out performer.
Yet, no matter how consistent he may be in the attacking third, Sigurdsson won’t be considered one of the leagues best in his position if we are to be brutally honest. That isn’t a dig at the player, but he lacks the components to bridge the gap between very good and great.
If a team is built around him, then he thrives, with his campaign with Swansea a case in point, yet – unfortunately for Sigurdsson – that wouldn’t happen at a top-6 side. That being said, if one of the best teams in England is prepared to give him a second shot at the big time, then you’d be hard pressed to find anyone suggest he does not deserve another chance at the big time.
By Ben McAleer – @BenMcAleer1