Although it’s hard to see anything resembling a silver lining emanating out of the loss of Gareth Bale to injury for Tottenham Hotspur, not everyone involved with the club will necessarily be cursing the Welshman’s loss.
If you’re Gylfi Sigurdsson in fact, you’d imagine it’d be quite the opposite.
While it’s hard to imagine the Icelandic international punching the air with delight to see the side’s talismanic figure sidelines with a hamstring injury, Bale’s loss has in some ways, opened up a desperately needed door for Sigurdsson.
The ex-Swansea man’s struggles at White Hart Lane since his summer switch from Hoffenheim seem to be growing in prominence with every passing game. While he’s not necessarily been granted the game time he’s needed to play himself into form, the longer his lack of meaningful contribution has gone on, the harsher the skepticism has become.
But although it may have only been a fleeting glimpse, Spurs fans were finally treated to a dashing of magic from Sigurdsson during last weekend’s 3-0 win away at Fulham.
Released down the left-hand side, where he’d filled in for the departed Bale, Sigurdsson burst into the box, dropped a shoulder and nearly left Philippe Senderos on his backside, as he cut back for Jermain Defoe to finish from 10 yards. Although he’s netted in both the League Cup and Europa League for Spurs, that wonderful bit of skill was perhaps his best contribution of the season so far.
Supporters have of course, had seldom to pick from in terms of best bits from the Sigurdsson box of tricks this season. While he was starting games under Andre Villas-Boas at the start of the season, a whole 90 minutes on the pitch have been hard to come by. In fact, that’s only come once, in the 4-2 home defeat to Chelsea back in October.
While he has had fleeting opportunities to start, you can’t help but feel a lack of a run in the Premier League hasn’t helped his cause. With Clint Dempsey taking favour in the central role of Villas-Boas’ attacking trio next to Bale and Aaron Lennon either side, that starting place has looked hard to come by. With Dempsey beginning to repay the time invested in him by the Portuguese, Sigurdsson has been left somewhat in the cold.
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But with the aforementioned loss of Bale for up to a fortnight, the Icelander has got his foot back in the door in N17. And while some supporters may be slightly alarmed by the notion of Sigurdsson being drafted in for their prized asset, they might in fact be pleasantly surprised by what they might see.
The school of thought when Sigurdsson first signed for Tottenham, was that he appeared to be a natural fit for the No10 like role in the 4-2-3-1. It would be bordering on heresy to supporters to call him a replacement for Rafael van der Vaart. But however you’d like to frame his touted role in this side, the general feeling was that it’d be a central role.
And although he still has time to try and make that role his own at White Hart Lane, from what the small glimpses of excellence that we have seen from Sigurdsson, that might not necessarily be his best fit.
His 20-minute cameo impressing on the left hand side for Spurs against Fulham, wasn’t the first time we’ve seen Sigurdsson prosper in that position. He didn’t quite set the world on fire, but in his one 90 minute Premier League outing for the Lilywhites, he was of the few positives Andre Villas-Boas could take out of the game against Chelsea.
Filling in for the maternity ward-bound Gareth Bale, Sigurdsson looked comfortable receiving the ball down the channel and drifting into the box. It wasn’t the box office pace and the unplayable runs that supporters were used to on the flanks, but Sigurdsson’s craft and guile offered something a little different to the side.
But given the success he had playing for Swansea, it seems strange that many have raised eyebrows at the prospect of Sigurdsson playing down one of the channels. He hardly hugged the touchline in the mould of an Aaron Lennon, but much of his barnstorming success at the Liberty Stadium last term, came from cutting in from the right hand side.
Given the success Clint Dempsey had performing a very similar task but on the left hand side for Fulham, the temptation will be there to perhaps see the American fill in for Bale during his absence. But with Dempsey now finally looking to settle in his more central role within this team, it’s Sigurdsson who could really benefit from a couple of starts on the left.
The pressure will be on for him to start producing as an attacking outlet if he’s given the nod, especially given the man he’s coming in for, but it could be just what he needs. While he prospered in the 4-3-3 like midfield Villas-Boas deployed at Reading earlier on this term, Sigurdsson has often floundered centrally, looking both unsure and unconfident in the role.
Playing on the left gives him a little more freedom, without the pressures of acting as the focal point between attack and midfield. A little more freedom and a remit to cut inside have done him well in the past.
A left hand sided berth doesn’t bode well for him in terms of a long term outlook given who he’s up against, but for Gylfi Sigurdsson, that might not be as important as simply gaining a bit of confidence in this Tottenham team. If football’s all about taking chances, then Sigurdsson would do well to seize the opportunity, starting tonight against Panathinaikos.