Swansea host Tottenham on Super Sunday and go into the game ahead of their opponents in the Premier League table. Gylfi Sigurdsson has been in fine form the Swans and has the chance to remind his former employers what they’ve been missing…
Thursday 11 December 2014 17:00, UK
Mauricio Pochettino’s pressing game isn’t for everyone. There have been recent signs that his Tottenham team have been getting to grips with the new way of doing things. But for every step forwards there’s another one back. Emmanuel Adebayor’s outburst last month continues to ring true.
“We just have to find a way so that we can try to understand what he wants to tell us and how he wants us to play and put that on the pitch. If every player could do what the manager wants then we would win the Champions League but at the moment we are not getting the message.”
Adebayor’s replacement, Harry Kane, has impressed with a series of hard-working performances and been praised by Pochettino as someone who “always identifies our values” but the new coach needs more like him. It’s easy to see why Gylfi Sigurdsson might have been suited to this style.
The Swansea midfielder who left White Hart Lane in the summer remains the only player to run 13 kilometres in a Premier League game on two separate occasions this season. He’s not been jogging either. He’s among only a handful to produce over 70 sprints in a game three times or more.
It’s a level of work rate that he’s managed to couple with an end product. As well as four goals for his country in Iceland’s strong start to the European Qualifiers, he’s netted twice for Swansea in the Premier League and scored another in the Capital One Cup.
But it’s as a provider of chances for others where Sigurdsson has really thrived, with his eight Premier League assists putting him second only to the much-praised Cesc Fabregas. Any suggestion these have been simple passes preceding a wonder strike is unfounded.
Opta rates clear chances 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, with his canny knack of finding space in the final third, has fashioned 10 such openings – again, second only to Fabregas.
It’s a pronounced difference to last season at Spurs when he produced no assists and just one clear chance in 1276 minutes of Premier League action. He’s only played 1273 minutes in 2014/15. Sigurdsson offered an explanation for the transformation in a Guardian interview in October.
“I probably played too much on the left for my liking – I’m not that kind of player who is going to get the ball and run past the full-back. Of course if it happens, you’ve got to do a job for the team, and no problem. But I feel better – and think you get more out of me – playing me through the middle.”
Crucially, Swansea boss Garry Monk – a former team-mate of Sigurdsson’s - has known how to use his new signing. “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.
The challenge now is for Sigurdsson to keep it up. Interestingly, those two 13 kilometre games were his first two in a Swansea shirt and his intensity has since dipped. That’s understandable given the demands of the league but his team need him at his best to avoid the slow retreat into mid-table.
That’s precisely where Tottenham find themselves going into the game at the Liberty Stadium, although Pochettino’s side can overtake Swansea with a win. It’ll be intriguing to see whether Sigurdsson raises his levels once again to show his old club just what they’re missing.
Watch Swansea v Spurs on Super Sunday on Sky Sports 1 HD from 3.30pm