WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Gylfi Sigurdsson of Swansea celebrates scoring his teams first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City at The Hawthorns on February 4, 2012 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Since Tottenham Hotspur officially announced the signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson yesterday morning, the delight at Spurs having actually tempted a real-life young player with talent and promise and stuff to the club has been tempered by a touch of confusion over what exact role he would play for Tottenham, based both on his personal history and the way AVB is likely to line up his sides. This confusion has been stoked by the slant put on the signing by the UK media, who for absolutely no reason other than lazy journalism have identified Gylfi as a replacement for Luka Modric, the Croatian wunderkind whose departure from the Lane they claim is a nigh-on inevitability following the capture of our new Icelandic star. In light of this state of affairs, I’m going to attempt to demonstrate more clearly exactly how Gylfi fits into a potential Spurs system, and in doing so engage in one of my favourite hobbies in the whole wide world- demonstrating with facts why the British press has got everything completely wrong.
To elucidate the Gylfi debate a little more clearly, while as previously mentioned a significant contingent are talking up Gylfi to be Tottenham’s new midfield conductor in the mould of little Luka, many fans and commentators are contrastingly speculating that he’s going to take over the reins from Rafa as our attacking midfielder goal threat behind the striker. This is closer to the truth, as despite his passing range Gylfi is not a playmaker of Luka's calibre and much prefers to attack the goal, but still doesn’t quite catch the nuances of his preferred role within a side. It is definitely true that Sigurdsson wouldn’t look out of place in a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-2-3-1, playing ‘in the hole’ behind a centre forward; for my money, however, the formation into which he can be best accommodated is a 4-3-3. This is because Gylfi likes to build attacks from centre midfield, working the ball forwards from the middle of the pitch with quick passes rather than goal hanging and waiting for the opportunity to smash one into the top corner, a point demonstrated by his placement as the 'ACM' in the formation diagram below which is based on the lineup deployed by his loan club Swansea last season. In this respect, he plays if you will the Clarence Seedorf role in the AC Milan side of 2009- the more advanced of a centre midfield ‘triangle’ who plays a dynamic and versatile part in a team’s attacking movement. Towards this end, Gylfi can serve as much as a facilitator to others as he does a goal threat in his own right- a lynchpin of everything dangerous about the sides he plays in.
Conveniently, as Andre Villas-Boas covets the 4-3-3 and midfield triangles similar to the above, Gylfi should slot right into Tottenham Hotspur’s projected system for next season, filling the role that Ramires occupied for Chelsea under AVB’s reign last time out. While as I hope I’ve indicated Gylfi won’t play exactly the same role as Rafa for us, however, I understand that people might still be concerned that he will nonetheless be taking van der Vaart’s AM starting spot. All is not lost, however; as I see it, there are two ways that Sigurdsson and our favourite annihilator of Gooners can fit into the same lineup. First of all, it’s important to remember that Rafa never had a chance of nailing down an attacking role in a Dutch national side which features Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, and thus has traditionally played a central, deep-lying playmaker role every time he’s been called up to represent his country. With the departure of Luka Modric looking more and more likely every day, I genuinely don’t think it would be such a bad idea to start moving Rafa into this position, a transition which would help to keep an element of flair and creativity in our midfield. Alternatively, AVB might also choose to deploy van der Vaart on the right of his front three, a role he fulfilled (albeit grudgingly) a lot for Spurs last season. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Unless it involves playing Gylfi in Luka’s role of course- whatever the press might lead you to believe, Sigurdsson isn’t our new Modric, and the sooner we puncture that notion and the rumours that stem from it the better.