Already starting to fall down the pecking order at Tottenham?
Gylfi Sigurdsson moved to Tottenham this summer from German club Hoffenheim for a fee believed to be in the region of £8m to become Andre Villas-Boas’ first signing at White Hart Lane, but due to a swathe of recent arrivals, is there a danger that he’s becoming marginalised already?
It was seen as something of a coup that the club managed to pinch Sigurdsson right from under the noses of Liverpool at the start of the transfer window, particularly given that his manager at Swansea during that blistering six-month loan spell, Brendan Rodgers, was now in charge at Anfield.
Many observers, and I include myself in this, failed to see the logic behind the switch from the player’s perspective and it was always a risky choice. There’s no doubting that despite the relative upheaval at the club over the past few months that Tottenham are a superior side to Liverpool, but it’s precisely because of that reason that his long-term prospects of being a guaranteed starter are so slim.
Having moved on Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart to both Real Madrid and Hamburg in the final stages of the transfer window, it looked for all intents and purposes as if the 23-year-old Icelandic international was set to become a key player this term at least.
However, since then, the club have forked out nearly £20m on Fulham duo Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey and they were only moments away form clinching a deal for Modric’s heir apparent, Porto playmaker Joao Moutinho – a player you suspect that they will go back in for in the January transfer window.
The thing is, you can justify playing someone like Sigurdsson as part of a fluid front four, with Bale and Lennon out wide and one of Defoe or Adebayor as the lone figure up front, if they’re contributing to the team’s forward play, but so far, the former Reading man has struggled. Of course, it is still very early days into his Tottenham career and he’s started two of the club’s three league games, but you have to wonder what role he will play further down the line.
Dembele looks an excellent signing and he possesses that rare ability to beat a man in the middle of the park and he suits Villas-Boas’ pressing style off the ball down to the ground, while Dempsey excelled last term at Craven Cottage in a more advanced role. The American may have been signed in place of Moutinho at the last-minute, but the more logical explanation is to help provide utility cover up front and out wide and Moutinho would have supplemented this, which is a concern for Sigurdsson.
Behind them, so far Sandro and Livermore have been preferred and while they provide a solid platform from which to build, it does appear a needlessly conservative approach and with Scott Parker still to return, expect to see one of them dropped in favour of Dembele. This isn’t even to mention both Tom Huddlestone and Jermaine Jenas, who have both remained after failing to secure moves away on loan.
Had Sigurdsson chosen Liverpool earlier in the summer, there’s no guarantee that he would have been assured of a starting place every week either, with Steven Gerrard and Lucas bordering on the undroppable while the Joe Allen pursuit had a certain inevitability about it.
Nevertheless, I very much doubt whether Rodgers would have been forced to move for Nuri Sahin had Sigurdsson arrived and under a manager who knows his methods and who would have signed him twice by then, he could be satisfied that he had a key role to play. The suspicion that the attacking midfielder was foisted upon Villas-Boas to an extent as a club target rather than one expressly asked for by the manager refuses to go away.
The pace of change is likely, predominantly given the health of their finances compared with those on Merseyside, to be a lot quicker too which in turn provokes a higher rate of player turnover. There’s nothing to suggest that Sigurdsson will still be involved in two seasons time at Tottenham, while the case would certainly have been very different at Liverpool; it looked a strange choice from the player’s perspective at the time, and it looks even stranger now.
It is still early days in not only the player’s time at the club but also the Portuguese manager’s time at the helm and he will still be feeling his way into things, as he wrestles with changing and adapting the team’s style of play and system. Sigurdsson could have a bright future at the club still, but with so many players being brought in to play in a very similar area already, competition for places will be absolutely fierce and he looks most likely to give way first.
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