Swansea star Gylfi Sigurdsson would be the perfect fit for Antonio Conte and Chelsea


Written in December 2016

Chelsea’s campaign is going quite swimmingly, thank you very much, but it would foolish of the Blues to stick with their lot in January. At this rate, the Londoners could well have a lead that stretches into double figures but Antonio Conte is no doubt going to want to strengthen even further to ensure that his title chasers don’t come up a cropper.

The Italian boss has been lauded for his ability to work with the players already at his disposal but with the vast wealth behind the football club and the inevitable departure of squad players, there will be gaps in the squad, and they are ones that will need filling.

Now, January deals are a strange phenomenon. It seems they almost never bear fruit, Luis Suarez and Nemanja Vidic are two of a few exceptions to that rule. A lot of that is sure to do with players bedding into a new team, a new club, a new home, a new language the list really is endless, right down to the granular detail of picking up your half fat flat white from a different Starbucks. Change is hard and footballers are fragile creatures at the best of times. So, in order to avoid too much of a ‘bedding in period’ it makes perfect sense to recruit from right on your doorstep – the Premier League.

The Stamford Bridge outfit have the financial clout and status to tempt players away from most clubs in Europe but it could be seen as a little naïve to expect Conte to go out and put down huge offers for players to add to his lot. The former Juve boss, as previously stated, has made a name for himself over the years for getting the best out of his players. His priority is always the team, never the individual.  While Manchester United and City will be in the market for players upwards of the £30m mark, you can’t help but feel that Conte’s recruitment at Stamford Bridge will be a little more restrained but in no way less effective.

It appears clear that he wishes to bolster his midfield, despite possessing arguably the best pairing in the division in the shape of N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic. Chelsea made moves to try and lure Radja Nainggolan to west London in the summer but to no avail, while a long term replacement for John Terry and possibly an alternative to Gary Cahill is also top of the list of priorities.

The Pensioners were linked, along with Liverpool, with a move for Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles this week, and while rumours are just that, the smoke usually comes from a spark, and Chelsea fans should be encouraged that the club are potentially looking close to home for new blood.

Back in the centre of the park, and Conte has the issue of Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard hasn’t really been given much time on the field this term, just 248 minutes of Premier League action, but in that time he has racked up a pair of assists and a goal. That sort of form is hard to ignore. Nevertheless, unless injury strikes Matic or Kante, Fabregas will likely remain second choice, such is the system that the manager deploys.

Unsurprisingly, Fabregas just isn’t content with being used as an impact player form the bench, and will never be seen as the ideal starter in the centre of the park, mainly thanks to his inability to get around the pitch and fulfil the defensive duties taken on by both Matic and Kante as one of the tow central players.

A replacement must be sort, and even if Fabregas opts to stay, Conte is still keen to add to his midfield options. One player he should be looking at is Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Some would say the Swansea man was burned when given his chance at Tottenham. However, his record at Spurs was hardly poor, scoring seven goals in his first campaign and six in his last. He was unfortunate, during his time at White Hart Lane, to be thrown into a squad with a wealth of midfielders and two managers who wanted to use them in very different ways. His return to Swansea has seen him thrive. He is clearly the best player at the Welsh club by a considerable distance and remains one of the most underappreciated footballers in the division.  

The accusation that Sigurdsson prefers to be a big fish will always carry some weight unless he is given the opportunity to prove that he can thrive in a more demanding environment.   

The 27-year-old has had a hand in 10 goals (five goals and five assists) for the Swans this season, an incredible statistic in a team that has been, for most of the campaign, atrocious. That is exactly 50% of the goals they have scored. It’s the same amount as Kevin De Bruyne and Philippe Coutinho, two more than Pedro and three more than Mesut Ozil. Not bad for a player operating at the very lower reaches of the Premier League.

Many see Sigurdsson as a genuine number 10 but he actually operates deeper than that for the Swans. He drops in to make a three most of the time and only breaks into a more advance position on the rare occasions that Swansea have the ball. In a role alongside Kante or Matic, he would have that freedom to push forward too, with the extra centre half or one of the wing backs more than capable of dropping into the central midfield berth to cover if needs be. That’s exactly what Matic has been doing this season, and is why he has an impressive six assists to his name already. Sigurdsson also allows Conte to be tactically flexible, should be wish to go with a three-man midfield.

Sigurdsson is the approaching his peak. That’s the type of player Conte likes to work with. He is not one to obsess over the idea of youth but in his time at Juventus, with the exception of the stunningly talented Paul Pogba, he tended to utilise players in their late twenties and thirties. His current preferred XI at Chelsea possesses just one player under 25 in Thibaut Courtois.

The Iceland international deserves another chance at one of the elite clubs in England. He has all the attributes and versatility to be a great player at a team challenging for honours, while there is room in his game for him to grow under a manager such as Conte. Swansea appears to be a sinking ship, and one that should not be allowed to take down a player of such guile and talent with it. Hey may not be a signing to initially strengthen their first XI but that is not what Chelsea require at present, they need options and Gyfi Sigurdsson ticks a lot of boxes.