David Freezer: Risky tactic from City boss but now the ball is very much in Buendia’s court
PUBLISHED: 08:00 22 February 2020 | UPDATED: 09:19 22 February 2020
Daniel Farke has caused something of a stir with comments clearly designed to get the best out of Emi Buendia – taking a risk which could prove costly for Norwich City, or prove why the German is such a highly rated coach.
If the Argentine goes and scores his first goal of the season at Wolves tomorrow, Farke will be hailed as a motivational genius, for giving his talented midfielder the added edge required to finally open his Premier League account.
That will come down to how the 23-year-old reacts though.
For Farke to go public with such strong comments about the areas Buendia needs to improve upon, for his need to add more goal threat and to admit that the former Real Madrid trainee wasn't at 100 percent in training ahead of last week's game against Liverpool, may have come as a surprise to some Canaries fans.
However, it should not be overlooked that those strong words were framed in the context of much positivity about the creative ace's first season in the Premier League.
Farke made it clear that he sees massive top-level potential in Buendia, said he has been "fantastic in many topics", described his creative passing ability as "top drawer" and reflected on the pivotal role the ex-Argentina U20 international had played in last season's Championship title triumph.
Yet publicly questioning the attacker's lack of goals, criticising his display during the 0-0 draw at Newcastle and overall reminding Buendia that he hasn't made it as a top-level player just because he has seven assists, all very much caught the attention of City fans.
It's highly unlikely the comments came as a surprise to the player. There will have been plenty of conversations in private about his development.
Concerns may stem from criticism of a player who many will see as the most valuable asset though, ahead of a summer when the Canaries will need to cash in on some of their star assets, if relegation back to the Championship is confirmed.
Only Manchester City superstar Kevin De Bruyne averages more key passes per game (3.8) than Buendia and Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (both 2.8) so far this season, while those seven assists would comfortably be into double figures had Teemu Pukki's confidence not dipped since a toe injury at Leicester in December.
It's possible that the former Getafe man will already have done enough to persuade one of the big boys to fork out a big fee in the summer, regardless of City's fate, thanks to that creative ability.
That is only emphasised by the @OptaJoe stat on Twitter which swiftly followed Farke's press conference, saying: "Emi Buendía has created 69 chances for Norwich in the Premier League this season, and ranks fourth among all players in Europe's top fives leagues behind Kevin De Bruyne (94), Dimitri Payet (78) and Ángel Di María (71)."
So if Buendia takes exception to the situation and continues the stroppy body language which has seeped back in recently - and has people around him advising him badly - then a frustrating spell could be in its infancy.
Yet there is only one outcome which benefits everyone in this situation: take on board Farke's criticism, channel frustrations into beating Wolves and ensure his star continues to rise.
Just imagine if Buendia goes and sticks one in the top corner at Molineux and registers his first goal since the 4-0 win over QPR on April 4, 2019 - not far off a year ago, emphasising Farke's point.
Then the youngster has his opportunity. Stick it to his boss with a moody celebration or do what Nelson Oliveira should have done at Fulham, run to his head coach, celebrate heartily together and crack on with forging your career as a top-level footballer.
Then provide the driving force for a great escape, show what you're truly capable of, help keep Norwich City in the Premier League against all the odds and earn that big-money move to a club in European competition. That should be the only focus.
Do that and Canaries fans would send Buendia off on his way with heavy hearts but with their best wishes, knowing that he is following James Maddison to the upper echelons of the game.
He responded perfectly to Farke dropping him in December after a downturn in form, earning a Premier League Player of the Month nomination.
Now comes another test of whether a player with top-level ability has the top-level mentality to match.
- You can watch Farke's full seven-minute answer to a question about Buendia in the video at the top of this page