Analysing Gylfi Sigurdsson's influential display for Swansea against Sunderland
Swansea’s hosting of fellow Premier League strugglers Sunderland on Saturday epitomised the “six pointer” scenario. Swansea were bottom of the league with just nine points to their names, and had come off the back of a 5-0 mauling at Tottenham going into the clash, whilst Sunderland had won three of their previous four with safety from the bottom three in sight.
Yet Swansea, who had won their last game on home turf against Crystal Palace, blew away a shell shocked Sunderland side and coasted to a 3-0 victory to move out of the bottom three themselves. An opening strike from Gylfi Sigurdsson, followed by a brace from summer signing Fernando Llorente, proved enough to see off the visitors, and hand Swans boss Bob Bradley a precious second win as manager.
Sigurdsson proved decisive with his creative presence in midfield and going forward for the hosts, and linked up with forward man Fernando Llorente to devastating effect for the visitors. The Icelander was involved in two goals on this occasion, meaning he has now had a hand in eight goals in his last eight games for Swansea; the driving engine and beating heart behind their cause to stay in the Premier League.
In a cagey first-half at a rain-swept Liberty Stadium, Sigurdsson’s influence was minimal as the Swans went long and Sunderland were able to deal with their forward thrust comfortably. All of that changed after the break however, and when Jason Denayer was caught out, handling the ball in his own penalty area, it would be the Icelander to take the responsibility once again, stroking the spot-kick beyond Jordan Pickford to edge the hosts ahead and ease the tension growing inside the ground.
From that moment on, the shackles were off the diminutive attacking midfielder. As Swansea grew in confidence and their play grew more expansive, the influential Sigurdsson began to see more of the ball, and having shown nerves of steel to give Swansea a much needed advantage, just two minutes later he was at the heart of the action once again and turned provider.
After placing the ball down for a corner, Sigurdsson spied Fernando Llorente in space, playing a clever quick ball along the ground which the Spaniard side-footed first-time across Pickford and into the back of the net for 2-0. It was a moment of genius, had you blinked you’d have missed it, but it is that very type of craft and inventiveness that a team needs to unlock stern opposition, especially when down at the foot of the table. It proved decisive on this occasion, but the Swans will need that to continue if they are to harbour hopes of survival.
The growing understanding between Sigurdsson and Llorente is beginning to provide a much needed focal point for the Swans, and as the hosts ran riot in the second half, the play began to run through the Icelander. As well as his assist, he became far more prominent in running the channels, attempting two take-ons and getting a total of nine crosses into the Sunderland box. Excluding his assist, he created four other goalscoring chances which were spurned, and had a total of three efforts on goal, including his penalty. He also took charge in midfield and began to dictate the play for the hosts, completing 79% of his passes.
Despite winning no tackles or aerial duels in midfield and often being forced out wide, Sigurdsson did his bit defensively where he was needed, intercepting the ball twice and coming up with two crucial blocks in the penalty area, all whilst giving away only one foul throughout the game.
The statistics aren’t really required however to show where his true value lies in this Swansea team. He scored the first, assisted the second, and as ever was the creative lynchpin in the centre of the park, and Sunderland simply had no answer. The Black Cats were left trailing in his wake, and his individual display and contribution to the cause handed Bob Bradley a much needed boost after last week’s defeat.
It may also, somewhat more crucially, just be the beginning of Swansea City making the Liberty a fortress at this level once again, having now won their last two in the league on home turf. If Bradley is to keep Swansea in the division, he and the club will surely owe a great deal to the midfielder. Everything goes through him, and if his rich vein of form continues, then they may face a challenge in holding onto him next month. For now, they move out of the bottom three, but what is for sure is that there is still much work to be done.
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