It was becoming a sight perhaps more familiar to Spurs fans than Hugo Lloris nearly killing a striker or Gareth Bale hefting the team onto his back with a 30-yard screamer. Gylfi Sigurdsson receives the ball just around the edge of the area. He takes one or two little touches into space, shapes himself perfectly, and lets rip with a peachy curving strike at the top corner. For a second the ball hangs in the air, the collective breath of Spurs fans across the globe is seized away, and for a split second a brief flicker of hope sparks in all of our minds: Gylfi has finally arrived. Then, inevitably, the crushing sight of a wonderful reflex save or the intervention of the post preventing what should have been the watershed moment we've all been waiting for. Siggy's long goal drought, the most undesirable of personal records for a footballer, remains intact.
Across this scenario, which has played out time and time again in different circumstances but with the same basic details and outcome throughout the season, Sigurdsson does nothing wrong. He gets free of his man, positions himself for the shot appropriately and lets fly with great technique. But the crucial point is that without the ball actually entering the net, Gylfi's claim to a shot at the first team place remains just as tenuous as it had been before. This has been the story of his season so far. Rivaling him for his preferred position in the team for much of the season has been Clint Dempsey, who has never shown a third of the dimension and flair that Sigurdsson has shown in flashes to his game in his time with Spurs. But the cold, harsh fact is that Dempsey scores goals- ugly, scrappy ones almost exclusively but goals nonetheless. Put this in the context of the fact that Siggy was brought into this team primarily to fill the void left by Rafa van der Vaart's departure of the goalscoring inside forward, and no matter how many times he comes close, no matter how badly we root for him, unless he can score or at least contribute to the scoring of goals his name on the teamsheet cannot be justified. And with a player of Lewis Holtby's multifaceted quality also coming into the side, he has cruelly but rightly slipped down the depth a notch further.
For a man of lesser character, subjection to this repeated humiliation might have been enough to damage someone's moral indefinitely. Vitally, however, Sigurdsson has allowed himself to slip into this trap. Week after week, usually from the bench, he has entered the Spurs side with his head up and his eye on the goal. And it is in his outstanding work rate, resolve and professionalism that has finally secured him the breakthrough what I would argue should be a return to another shot at first team action.
Gylfi's goal yesterday was far from one that will go down in the annals of Spurs history, yet it was a monolithically important moment for both him the team none the less. That bundled-in strike from a scrappy scrum in the box represented the watershed moment that Siggy has pursued since his first minute in a Spurs shirt. With the monkey off his back, Tottenham can welcome a supremely talented, ambidextrous and predatory No.10 back into the side, now that his hard work and superior instincts have been manifested into a 'tangible' contribution to team success.
OK, you might be tempted to ask at this point. We know that Siggy is talented and that the goal against West Ham represented the token, long-overdue justification to give him the play time that he's worked hard to get. But we need to think about things in a team context. Does Siggy really offer us a better option than Lewis Holtby and Clint Dempsey right now in terms of the way Tottenham play as a unit?
I would argue he does, for one simple reason. Gareth Bale is the best thing about Spurs now, and controversially, I believe Gylfi Sigurdsson plays better with Bale than any other No.10 option we have right now. For all of the things that Holtby has done well in his short career with Spurs, my main complaint is that he isn't so good at moving out to and playing from wide positions when Bale does his roaming thing in the centre of the park. Dempsey is perhaps a touch better; but Siggy is in his element playing out on the left. With his left foot, he can ping crosses the the target man; with his right, he can cut in and provide a desperately-needed source of goal danger. His interplay with Bale has been scintillating and times this season and I am convinced that the team will hang together as a result of setting their partnership free.
So there you have. Gylfi to start for the NLD. He's earned it, and on paper it works for the team too. As a professional of his calibre, I have faith he will relish the challenge, and rather than fear the unknown we should thus back his inclusion to the hilt. Time to come in from the cold, Gylfi.