Sigurðsson against Stoke.
Gylfi Sigurðsson is the best player on his team for both club and country. Putting aside his first year at Reading and a largely ill-fated two-season spell at Tottenham, this has been true for the entirety of his professional career. If rumours about a move to Everton or a similar-level club are to believed, this will change in the summer, so it’s probably best to write about how great he is, and has been over the past few seasons, now.
You’d be hard pressed to call Sigurðsson underrated- most would cite him as the most consistent player at Swansea and many would recognise him as one of the best dead ball specialists in the league- him mugging off Ander Herrera and De Gea with a curling free kick the other week was a prescient reminder of that. He’s also not a bad-looking lad. Still, it’s still easy to underestimate how much he adds to his team. He was the only non-defender or goalkeeper in the top ten table for minutes played in the 16/17 season, delivered the joint (with De Bruyne) most crosses per game in the league (an especially important aspect of his game when you consider he was supplying the 6 ft 4 inch Llorente) and was directly involved, either through assists or finding the net himself, in half of Swansea’s (admittedly measly) 45 goals. Sigurðsson sits consistently on the outer-edge of the top tier of most attacking and supporting statistics- high enough to end up in a lot of fantasy football teams but low enough for his overall contribution to still be undervalued in comparison to some of the league’s biggest hitters.
Whilst Paul Clement’s tactical overhaul and Llorente’s 15 goals both deserve a lot of credit for Swansea’s late-season survival, there aren’t many players, especially that would be available to a team like Swansea, who can offer the quality and consistency that Sigurðsson continues to bring. His adaptability- switching from his more traditional role, playing off a big-man striker, to the left flank with a more conventional winger on the opposite side of the pitch- helped lift the Welsh side out of their funk at the beginning of 2017 with victories over Liverpool, Southampton and Leicester, with Gylfi picking up at least goal or an assist in each of these three games.
Despite his curling free kicks and occasional flashes of individual flair making him a prime candidate for highlight videos with bad EDM playing really loudly over them, Sigurðsson is far from a luxury player, and it’s his capability playing off a variety of systems and maximise the performance of other, weaker players in the team that makes him well-suited to a mid-table team like Swansea.
Remember that stat about all the crosses he put in to Llorente? Compare that to his successful 2014-15 season, primarily supplying Wilfried Bony (who stands 5 inches shorter than Llorente), where he didn’t finish in the top 15 in terms of crosses but did apparently deliver 2.3 key passes along the ground per game, putting him in the top 10 for the league. I know stats chat is pretty dry and boring, but it shows Sigurðsson’s propensity for changing his style of play and delivery in order to work with the changing cast of players around him. His ability to switch positions and fit into a variety of tactical philosophies solidifies his status as part of a dying breed- the talismanic star player who doesn’t need a team to be built in his image.
I’ve talked about stats a bit here so here is a graph to go with it.
It’s this selflessness and willingness to commit to a team philosophy that also helped Iceland’s remarkable campaign at Euro 2016, where despite recording a solitary goal and assist, his contribution in terms of holding the midfield together and propensity for digging in and defending when his team were defending a small lead Whilst it is difficult to predict what the Everton team like will look like in the wake of Lukaku’s seemingly inevitable departure this summer, it’s hard to imagine a situation where Gylfi would be able to have the same sort of impact as part of a deep, high-quality squad as that he has consistently had at Swansea, Iceland and Reading.
He has clearly improved as a player since his iffy period at Spurs, but it seems pretty self-evident, due to his individual skill and ability to pull up those surrounding him, that he works best as the beating heart at the centre of a team. Whilst he could add value to any squad, his best performances wont't come when he's used as yet another tool to be weaponised in a side pushing for a top four (I reserve the right to delete this when he inevitably scores 10 and gets 15 assists as Everton finish in a Champions League spot in 2018).
Back to how good he is though- he’s really good. Sigurðsson is easily in the top 2 Icelandic players of all time, scores goals from all over the place and is the most exciting Swansea player at least since Lee Trundle. He keeps himself to himself, seems like a nice bloke and looks a bit like a mix of Beckham and Totti. His Instagram is just pictures of him playing golf, but I suppose everyone has their flaws. He’s really good, I hope he stays at Swansea for the foreseeable future, and I can’t really be bothered to copy and paste any more stats to justify what is really just an instinctive fondness for him.
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