Why Gylfi Sigurdsson Is The Most Underrated Premier League Player


Hand on heart; power and pace don’t really do it for me.

I respect those blessed with it, and envy them. I also understand why those traits are given such credence in the modern game, for speed, strength and athleticism influence most matches we see. Every side needs a dash of it. Still leaves me a little bit cold though.

The same goes for ‘showy’ players. Not my thing.

While I grasp the notion that watching someone try and beat his man over and over again gets bums off seats and applause from the crowd, it strikes me that if there’s no end product what’s the point? The sight of a selfish forward lollipoping his way into brick walls without looking up to see what’s around him, winds me up big-time.

Give me an intelligent, thoughtful footballer every day of the week instead.

Players that see pictures early, players that make the right decisions for the team and not themselves, players that use their brains to deliver quality end product. Now you’re talking!

Give me someone like Gylfi Sigurdsson.

In footballing terms I’ve carried a torch for the Icelandic midfielder ever since he broke through as a rocket shot Roy of the Rovers type at Reading in 2009/10.

A streaky scorer of goals (often great goals) I noticed right away that the attacking midfielder’s sharp thinking, bright movement and subtle touches marked him out as a young footballer to keep an eye on.

He wasn’t quick, he wasn’t flashy but there was more than a smattering of class.

From Reading to Hoffenheim and then to Swansea on loan in 2012, Sigurdsson was influential wherever he went, scoring goals and scooping individual awards for his understated excellence.

Then, for reasons unknown (sorry, couldn’t resist) he joined Tottenham Hotspur. And it was there that things began to stall.

Why, though? I suspect he was inadvertently squeezed out of doing the things he does best.

Accustomed to having a license to roam within a side that sits off and plays counter attacking football, for teams built around his ability to play on the half-turn exploiting pockets of space, Sigurdsson found his ‘hole’ at White Hart Lane shrunk into a virtual nothingness.

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The high-intensity pressing game encouraged by Andre Villas-Boas accidentally crowded his key area, and teammates around him either weren’t prepared, or asked, to make him the centre of attention.

If Gareth Bale wasn’t saving the day with a moment of heroism behind the front man, there were a whole host of other players striving to get into the same corridors the Icelander had his eye on; Moussa Dembele, Lewis Holtby, wide men who were always encouraged to run inside, and later of course the likes of Christian Eriksen, Nacer Chadli and Paulinho too.

In the end, Sigurdsson found more solace and space in unfamiliar positions on the flanks. Playing in that Spurs side just didn’t suit him.

Things are different in South Wales, where Sigurdsson’s qualities are encouraged to thrive.

With two deep-lying midfielders, both full-backs and the centre forward always looking to bring him into play, Iceland’s finest export since Eidur Gudjohnsen is so heavily involved that remarkably, he’s already made nearly a quarter of the passes he made in a Tottenham shirt all last season in 25 appearances.

Averaging 20 passes a match in 2013/14, and just a pitiful 13 the year before in north London, the Scandinavian is currently enjoying double (40 per game) or even treble the involvement in the white of Swansea.

It’s proving effective too.

Only five players have created more chances than Sigurdsson so far this season, he and Cesc Fabregas share the lead when it comes to assists, and right across the board from tackles and interceptions to shots on goal, his data and displays are impressing.

Involved in all six of Swansea City’s goals, creating four directly himself and scoring another, the attacking midfielder’s influence has been nothing if not extensive.

As I said at the outset he’s not showy or speedy. He’s the kind of guy that’s happy to stay out of the spotlight, so you won’t hear Sigurdsson making a song and a dance out of his form either.

Yet there’s no doubt in my mind that Garry Monk’s in-form Swansea City are singing to his tune right now.

Is there a more underrated footballer in the Premier League? I’m not sure there is. 

 

Read more from former Arsenal man Adrian Clarke