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Iceland's Gylfi Sigurdsson is back doing what he does best at Swansea following his Tottenham exit in the summer

Gylfi Sigurdsson may have stunned the Netherlands with his goals for Iceland this week, but the quality of his performances won't be a shock to anyone at Swansea. Adam Bate looks at why the midfielder is starring for both club and country since his Tottenham departure...


Monday night’s brace against the Dutch ensured Gylfi Sigurdsson was the talk of Europe as Iceland made it three wins from three in Group A. But the Swansea midfielder, now joint-top scorer in European qualifying, was only emphasising what should already be apparent – he’s a man in fantastic form.

Aside from his international heroics, Sigurdsson’s club efforts have been hugely impressive since his summer switch from Spurs. With six Premier League assists for the Swans so far this season, only Cesc Fabregas can better that in Europe’s top five leagues. One other player has as many to his name and his name is Lionel Messi.

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Volley against the Netherlands

It’s no fluke either. These were not assists preceding a mazy dribble or a 30-yard strike from a team-mate. Opta defines a big chance as ‘a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range’ and Sigurdsson has created five such opportunities already. Only Fabregas and Angel di Maria can beat that tally.

That Sigurdsson has achieved those numbers from just 254 passes (Fabregas has made 573) reflects the fact that he’s being given the freedom to make a difference in key areas of the field. While some might point to the happy happenstance that some players are just a ‘good fit’ at certain clubs, there are tangible reasons why Swans boss Garry Monk has facilitated his success. First and foremost, he immediately identified Sigurdsson as a No 10.

Image: Sigurdsson has been restored to the No 10 role at Swansea - see his touch zones for the season

A look at his touches of the ball for Tottenham last season show that he was doing much of his work cutting inside from the left of midfield. As many as 228 of his Premier League touches in 2013/14 came in that left-midfield zone – 26.7 per cent of his total activity. By comparison, Sigurdsson had only 126 touches in the middle of the pitch – 14.7 per cent.

At Swansea, with the pace of Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer on either side as well as the pivot of Wilfried Bony in attack, Sigurdsson is a more influential figure back in the centre of the pitch. In just seven Premier League appearances, there have already been 110 touches in that same central zone with the percentages reversed – 26.2 per cent in the middle and 12.8 per cent on the left.

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Opening goal against Latvia

Playing as an attacking central midfielder, Sigurdsson has revived thoughts of an old comparison made by his former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers. “He is in the Frank Lampard mould,” said Rodgers in 2012. “He gets into the six-yard box, is willing to get his shot off with his left or right foot and can score with his head.”

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Having scored the winner at Manchester United on the opening weekend, Sigurdsson’s overall goal contribution – that’s to say goals plus assists - is actually level with Fabregas, making him the Premier League’s joint-most potent midfielder. Opportunity has brought confidence and for a player whose attitude was never in doubt, that offers the prospect of exponential improvement.

Image: Sigurdsson is in good company alongside Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi for assists

In fact, former Spurs coach Andre Villas Boas called Sigurdsson “a big fighter” and while his time at White Hart Lane was only a qualified success, there is a feeling that the experience can only aid his development. As a former team-mate, Monk certainly knew the potential he was acquiring.

“He has been under-rated but he fits into the certain way I want us to play and that’s why we wanted him,” said Monk. “At Spurs they had a lot of players for a lot of positions and good quality players but I knew what quality he had because I’d seen it first-hand when I played with him.

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“He improved at Spurs and he is a top-six player without a doubt but he wanted to come and get regular football and be somewhere where he can enjoy his football. He’s doing that and we allow him to express himself – but it’s the work-rate he has that is the incredible thing. He has got the assists but amount of work rate he does is infectious. If you have got someone in your team doing it and you’re next to him then you’re thinking I have to put in a shift in.”

The Premier League tracking data reveals that there is real substance to Monk's claims. Sigurdsson has not only covered more ground and produced more high-intensity sprints than any other Swansea player, his work rate surpasses that of anyone in the Premier League. The 13 kilometre mark has only been passed by any player on two occasions so far this season... Both times it was by Sigurdsson, in back-to-back games against Manchester United and Burnley.

Having only celebrated his 25th birthday last month, there is plenty of time for Sigurdsson to develop his game further. Indeed, the aforementioned Lampard had neither scored for England nor won a trophy when he turned 25. If the progression bears any resemblance and Monk continues to use his man astutely, Swansea could be about to get the very best of Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Watch Gylfi Sigurdsson in action for Swansea at Stoke on Super Sunday (Sky Sports 1 HD, 4pm kick off)

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