The 23-year-old was Villas-Boas' first signing but the midfielder has failed to find his feet at Spurs and is now marooned as a mere squad player ahead of Swansea reunionCOMMENT
By Jay Jaffa
When Gylfi Sigurdsson rifled the ball past Brad Friedel to draw Swansea City level at White Hart Lane last April there was little surprise, little shock.
Not only had Tottenham endured a rough run of results at the time, but the Icelandic midfielder was in the rich vein of form that had him held as one of the signings of the season – remarkable given he had only joined the Swans in January.
That goal was the sixth of seven he was to net while playing for Brendan Rodgers and he seemed to capture the plucky nature of the newly-promoted Welsh side. They were bold, pretty and unexpected party-poopers.
Though Emmanuel Adebayor rescued Spurs that day, scoring two in the final 20 minutes, Sigurdsson made an impression big enough to convince Daniel Levy to secure his permanent transfer in the summer from under the noses of Liverpool and Swansea themselves.
It was difficult to see where Sigurdsson would feature when he initially signed. He was the big fish in a small pond before finding the roles reversed as he moved to London. Rafael van der Vaart was still at White Hart Lane and there was simply no way he would be usurped.
An encouraging pre-season, in which he scored twice, hinted at promise as well as reaffirming his own cocksure ways. He was a goalscoring midfielder and that was what he would provide Andre Villas-Boas, especially after the departure of the talismanic Dutchman.
When the two sides meet in the early afternoon kick-off in north London on Sunday, it will be obvious just from glancing at the teamsheets how much change each club has gone through in eight months. There are new managers and tweaked formations, though they still sit in relatively similar positions in the Premier League compared to their last clash (Spurs are a place down on 4th, Swansea a place up on 11th).
After the transfer carousel of the summer, not only will Swansea kick-off without Sigurdsson, but it is also highly likely they will face Steven Caulker, the centre-back who made his England debut following an impressive formative campaign in Wales as well as a promising start to his Spurs career.
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Sit in the stands whilst he is on the pitch and it is obvious the fans are even less taken by the Icelander. When he is off the pitch, you will not hear his name proposed as a game-changing impact substitute.
Ultimately he is not quite what many thought he would be: not quite quick enough, not quite tricky enough, and with his goalscoring knack deserting him, not quite good enough to impact the Spurs first team.
Is it a confidence thing? Perhaps. All goalscorers feed off confidence and more often than not that derives from the manager. There does not appear any friction between Sigurdsson and Villas-Boas on the surface – certainly the Portuguese has done what he can to integrate him into the first-team.
However, with Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey seemingly purchased for the same role, one would eventually trump the other and unfortunately for the man from Hafnarfjordur he has had to make do with warming the bench.
It says a lot that Villas-Boas would rather deploy Adebayor behind Jermain Defoe than Sigurdsson – particularly in the absence of Gareth Bale and subsequent shift of Dempsey from the middle to the left. At present, he is simply not the option.
If Swansea get stung by the curse of the former player, if their fans have to watch a Tottenham player wheel away in muted celebration, it will be Caulker, not Sigurdsson. It will be a surprise to see him even take the field on Sunday.
Comparing statistics can often provide telling insight but given how infrequent his time in Spurs colours has been, even that is a futile task. Aside from the early fixtures where the club were finding their feet with a new manager, Sigurdsson's impact has been limited. He has scored twice for the club, against Maribor and Carlisle – hardly the glamour ties of the Premier League he made his name in.
Sigurdsson says he is not keen on fishing, the business his family earn a living from, yet he chairs a company called Flateyri – making him an influential figure in the industry. How ironic then that this fish out of water has been left marooned as a mere backup option to Villas-Boas.
As with everything in football, the finest of margins can dramatically alter narratives. Had his shot at Everton gone in instead of rebounding back off the crossbar, Spurs would have been talking about three points with Sigurdsson as the match-winner.
But those are the breaks, not just in the Premier League but for a player still trying to prove his credentials. The January window is approaching and with Spurs on the lookout for attacking reinforcements, it may well be the last chance he had to prove his worth.
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