This time last season, Gyfli Sigurdsson had plaudits clambering over themselves to hail the Icelandic midfielder. Even in the nascent stages of the campaign, many were beginning to dub him the ‘signing of the season’ and, alongside Cesc Fabregas, there was talk that he could be in the running for Player of the Year honours at the season’s finale.
As it turned out, obviously such talk was hugely premature for Gylfi, just as it would turn out to be with Cesc too. Nevermind Premier League Player of the Season, Sigurdsson has the greater honour of owning the accolade of ‘My Favourite Swansea Player’. So, you see, it pains me to say this – really, really pains me – but, the truth is, he has been fairly average since 2014 became 2015. Forgive me Gylfi!
Undoubtedly, Sigurdsson played a huge part in getting Garry Monk’s new look Swansea City up and running in the first few months of 2014/215. The Swans took nine points from nine in their opening 3 games, a run that included an opening day 2-1 win at Old Trafford. The match winner that day? Gylfi Sigurdsson. This is what we got from him – match-deciding contributions, whether that be a killer pass or one of his trademark venomous shots. Yet at the turn of the year, Sigurdsson’s contribution seemed to lessen. Don’t think that I’m suggesting that he has had a woeful second half of the season – far from it! Just that his contribution seemed to fade slightly. This could be put down to a number of factors.
Firstly, at the turn of the year Garry Monk switched the team from one renowned for its quick wingers and 4-2-3-1 formation to suddenly one that had no true wingers as a diamond formation was deployed. This meant that Sigurdsson had less to pass to in front of him, despite the team now having two players up front. On top of that, opposition defences now turned more of their attention to cutting off his feeding of the front line with no wingers to preoccupy them. As the playmaker became quieter, the midfield trio of Jack Cork, Jonjo Shelvey and Ki Sung-Yeung became far more prominent and all three had superb second halves to the season. Sigurdsson was outshone by his fellow midfielders.
As well as a new formation to fit into, Sigurdsson also had a new striker to work with and adapt to in Bafetimbi Gomis. Sigurdsson and former Swans striker Wilfried Bony had a superb understanding of each other’s game and their partnership proved lethal before the Ivorian was sold to Manchester City. No doubt our Icelandic star would take time to alter his playmaking style to suit the Frenchman.
After a good end to the season, Gomis has continued his goalscoring form into the new campaign. In fact, almost every Swans player has started the season in good form; Gomis is scoring, Ayew has just won August Player of the Month, Montero has been lethal, Shelvey has made himself into an England international (and has massively overshadowed Gylfi with his playmaking from deep so far this season) and the defence looks strong. The only weak link in the side at the moment is arguably Sigurdsson.
Despite this, it is difficult to be negative about the Icelander as his dip in form definitely doesn’t come from a lack of effort. Whilst everyone was raving about his goals and assists last season, I found it remarkable how so overlooked his work rate was by pundits and journalists alike – at least those outside of SA1 anyway. That work rate remains and Monk has recently come out publicly and praised Sigurdsson’s efforts in that respect. It’s that ‘bit of magic’ we saw so often from Sigurdsson last season that seems to be lacking, so much so I’d drop him for the next game. A demotion to the bench may be the catalyst to shake him out of his current malaise. Plus, this will mean that Ki Sung-Yeung will get a starting berth – a player who has been unlucky to remain on the bench after picking a slight injury early season, which saw him exit the starting XI for one game. Let’s remember that Ki was voted Fans’ Player of the Year last season (I voted for him too), so it’s not as if we haven’t got a capable pair of hands (well, feet) to take Sigurdsson’s place.
It has pained me writing about Sigurdsson’s less than stellar start to the season and although the logical option at the moment is to drop him, there is still a voice in my head saying it’s a silly idea. The thing with him is you feel that one goal or one piece of magic will revitalise his season and an in-form Sigurdsson in this in-form Swansea team would be one hell of a lethal combination. Monk has come out saying that there is no pressure on the number 23 at the moment and it’ll be interesting to see whether this vote of confidence proves a greater motivator than benching him.