David Freezer: It’s great to see Buendia’s smile returning
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
“Please don’t take my Emi away...” was the chant, as Norwich City roared their way to the Championship title. Canaries fans got their wish and we’re starting to see again why Emi Buendia is so loved.
Some had even wondered if the magic feet of the man from Mar del Plata during the past two seasons could eventually see him mentioned in the same breath as some of City’s all-time greats, such is his talent and ability to tie the opposition in knots.
Well that path to yellow and green stardom has featured a few potholes, with the Argentine losing his way at times. The transfer window opened and closed without too much fuss and the 23-year-old has had to gather his thoughts and re-focus on his future as a Norwich City player.
That chant in full, in case you’ve forgotten it during this difficult year of Premier League relegation woe and behind-closed-doors frustration.
Emi Buendia, from Argentina, he comes to City, from sunny Spain.
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He’s five foot seven, he’s football heaven, so please don’t take, my Emi, away.
Well, skies are particularly grey at the moment, so to see two assists from Buendia in the last two games and a place in the Championship Team of Midweek was a significant step back towards happier times.
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As crucial as Tim Krul’s saves were for City when the score was still 1-0 at Brentford on Tuesday night, I thought the former Real Madrid trainee was the best player on the pitch at the very smart new Brentford Community Stadium.
That inclusion in the divisional team for the midweek games backed up the stats, with Buendia making six key passes during the 1-1 draw - four more than any other player on the pitch managed.
That creative spark is his speciality. He has surged to an average of 3.4 per game after the last two matches, clear of his nearest competitor, Millwall winger Jed Wallace, who is on 2.5.
It was that passing strength that saw fans of so many teams take notice of Buendia last season, when only Kevin De Bruyne, James Maddison and Jack Grealish averaged higher than his 2.3 per game across the campaign - in spite of City finishing bottom.
His seven assists in the top flight, in addition to his majestic Championship season, meant that most expected the former Getafe midfielder would be snapped up by one of the big boys after relegation.
Whether it was a price tag in the region of £30million thanks to his long-term contract, just the one goal in the Premier League or doubts about his attitude, even an interview in August making clear that he wanted to remain at the top level wasn’t enough to avoid a return to Championship battle.
After being suspended for the first two games of the season, the former Argentina Under-20 international has taken time to find his form - and still isn’t in top gear just yet, as City evolve and rebuild confidence as a team.
He ended up angrily charging down the tunnel at full-time of the 1-0 win over Birmingham after more than one team-mate took exception to his decision not to take the ball into the corner in injury-time which, aided by some naive play from Xavi Quintilla, allowed the Blues a late chance.
He was also lucky not to be booked on two occasions for late challenges against Wycombe on Saturday.
Yet the defence-splitting pass for Teemu Pukki against the Chairboys and the brilliant skill ahead of a wasteful finish during the early stages at Brentford were hugely encouraging.
If Buendia can continue to settle, prove he has matured and keep rediscovering his exciting rhythm, he has the potential to be the best player in the Championship this season.
It’s been a challenging spell for a young man who is clearly desperate to succeed and rightfully ambitious, so it’s been great to see his smile returning in recent weeks.
- Buendia was named man of the match in my latest video verdict on the Pink Un YouTube channel, which you can watch live around an hour after the final whistle of every Canaries game.
- The 2020 edition of the Official Norwich City Sticker Book is available to order now from PinkUnShop.co.uk ahead of stickers being released in November