There once was a midfielder who had become the hottest property on the market. Women wanted him, men wanted to be him and the biggest football teams in all the land worked their socks off to sign him. His name is David Bentley and since his arrival at Tottenham Hotspur, his career has, in every essence of the phrase, taken a downward spiral.
Signing for an initial £15m from Blackburn Rovers, the self proclaimed ‘New David Beckham’ had been expected to challenge, and eventually usurp, Aaron Lennon on the wing. 62 appearances, a majority of which were from the bench, and two loan spells at Birmingham City and West Ham United later and Bentley now finds himself in the deepest, darkest depths of South Russia, FC Rostov to be precise.
You would think that after his flop at White Hart Lane, Spurs would think twice about attempting to bring in another midfielder that could replicate his capabilities. How wrong fans were. Step forward Gylfi Sigurdsson.
The Iceland international moved to North London over the summer, in hindsight, as a replacement for the soon to be departing Rafael van der Vaart. The midfielder, who spent a successful loan spell with Swansea City last season, was expected to fill the void for a goalscorer from deep.
You only have to look at his stats from his time with the Swans to understand why Spurs believed he was the right man for the role. Seven goals in 19 appearances, coupled with three assists, is a return that isn’t to be scoffed at.
Many were expectant of instant success from Sigurdsson and his pre-season performances saw fans salivating at the prospect of the 23-year-old performing in the ‘number 10 role’. An impressive strike in the 2-1 win over New York Red Bulls led the supporters to believe that the youngster was the midfielder Spurs have needed to provide the goals from outside the 18 yard box.
Yet, while he may’ve performed admirably for the Swans last season, his form at White Hart Lane has left a lot to be desired. The first game of the campaign, an away defeat with Newcastle United, Sigurdsson showed glimpses as to why Spurs spent around £8m to beat off competition for his services from Liverpool.
However, since the opening day loss, the 23-year-old’s input has been minimal, at most. The arrival of Clint Dempsey may’ve seen his starting opportunities limited, with the American the preferred choice to play behind the front-man.
It isn’t as though Sigurdsson hasn’t been handed the chance to impress either. Dempsey didn’t sign until late on transfer deadline day and was clearly lacking match fitness, having gone on strike to force a move away from Fulham.
With 14 appearances already this season, but only two goals against Carlisle United and Maribor respectively to show for his efforts, it’s no surprise to see Sigurdsson utilised sporadically as the campaign wears on.
A prime example of his inability to really grasp a stranglehold in the Premier League this season came in the 2-1 win over Queen’s Park Rangers back in September. With Spurs failing to break down the staunch R’s defence, following a tactical nightmare from Andre Villas-Boas, Sigurdsson was dragged off at half-time in order to make way for Steven Caulker, allowing Gareth Bale to push further forward to support Jermain Defoe.
The Icelander was ineffectual and, at times, looked lost by the striker, with Dempsey often drifting infield to clog up the space between the midfield and the defence, leaving him unable to really flex his creative muscles.
Whether that is his fault or Dempsey’s, it remains to be seen, but that fact that Spurs were a much improved team in the second half of the encounter hardly swung the pendulum in Sigurdsson’s favour. Since that win over QPR, he has mustered just 197 minutes of Premiership football, with injuries to Mousa Dembele and Sandro, against Chelsea and Wigan Athletic respectively, being the reason the figure is so high.
The problem with the midfielder is that, like Simon trying to get a boner when he attempts to have sex with Tara for the first, and last, time on the Inbetweeners, he is trying too hard to really showcase his capabilities to the fans.
Much like Bentley before him, his performances have failed to live up to the expectations fans anticipate from him. Many are beginning to become fearful he had his five minutes of fame during his stint at the Liberty Stadium and, like many players in the past, turn out to be a flash in the pan.
Whether his performances improve with Emmanuel Adebayor leading the front-line is unclear, with the Togo front-man better ate bringing players into the game, compared to teammate Defoe. It is very much unfair to completely rule him out just yet, being 23 and no longer the big fish in a small pond like he was at Swansea.
But, his performances must improve significantly if he is to break back into the starting XI. Every opportunity must be grasped with both hands and taken full advantage of, as he runs the very real risk of becoming a peripheral member of the squad and treading a similar path to that of Bentley.
After all, the similarities are striking. Both living off the back of a decent campaign, young, cost a hefty amount and are, without emasculating myself, good looking chaps.
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