Paddy Davitt: City should prepare for Buendia fallout

Emi Buendia is leading the charge for Daniel Farke's Norwich City in the Championship promotion battle

Emi Buendia is leading the charge for Daniel Farke's Norwich City in the Championship promotion battle - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

The bigger concern with Arsenal’s ‘pursuit’ of Emi Buendia is not that he goes but that he stays at Norwich City in this transfer window. 

As it stands there has been no contact between the clubs regarding a move for arguably the best player in the Championship. A player who underlined his pedigree again with a stunning volleyed winner to sink Barnsley at the weekend. 

What there continues to be in such a void is endless speculation, rumour and counter rumour claiming everything from exploratory talks with his representative to the player himself wants the move. 

These things are never black and white. More is the pity. Would a young man like Buendia not want to test himself at a club of Arsenal’s stature? In the same way Max Aarons no doubt fancied pulling on a Barcelona jersey for real. Or for that matter Jamal Lewis had his head turned when the European and Premier League champions Liverpool came calling.

One hardly needs to provide the answer. There would actually be something questionable if such precocious talents did not back their own ability to go and mix it on a higher stage.

But as the Liverpool saga proved there are many moving parts to such transfer machinations. Chief among them what Stuart Webber and Norwich City want, given the contractual status of Buendia.

Webber has spoken in general terms on this topic previously. Players who are happy to sign longer term deals should not expect to depart for pastures new when the money or the timing is not right for their current employers. 

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Norwich remain mindful of the financial pressures they operate under; for all the prudence shown in terms of the approach to last season’s Premier League tilt and the tough negotiations they concluded for the eventual departures of Lewis and Ben Godfrey.

Such pressures have been magnified exponentially by the prolonged loss of matchday revenue, due to the absence of supporters at Carrow Road during this pandemic.

But to again quote City’s sporting director they do not have a ‘gun to their heads’ in this window in the manner they did the summer James Maddison departed for Leicester. Then it was a perilous financial situation driving their decision-making.

Now it is the quest to return to the top table from a relative position of strength at the top of the Championship that must dictate Webber’s thinking in the hours and weeks ahead this month. 

Mikel Arteta has openly suggested Arsenal must offload fringe players to generate January funds to trade. That one fact, separate from the social media-fuelled fiction, suggests the Gunners will struggle to get anywhere near Norwich’s valuation for a player with the potential to be a superstar. Charity begins at home and no favours or sentimentality will cloud Webber’s judgement. 

But when the smoke clears and Buendia remains on Norwich’s books from February 1 onwards, one hopes there is no collateral damage to repair. The fear is such a torrent of speculation does permeate his bubble and lessens the razor sharp focus driving the Argentine and his team onwards and upwards. 

Farke had to demote him for the Championship defeat at Bournemouth, along with Todd Cantwell, and then cited the impact from incessant summer speculation during a window when no bids materialised for either player.

Buendia’s escalating number of goals and assists, allied to the maturity and responsibility he is showing week in, week on the pitch, illustrate he was able to close that chapter and move on. But it might be much harder to do so if the daily drip of Arsenal, or whoever else, amounts to nothing. 

Different player, different stage perhaps but there are parallels with how Jadon Sancho remained at Borussia Dortmund despite attracting envious glances from Manchester United in the summer. The England international has looked a pale imitation of the player who caught the eye in the Bundesliga last season and put Europe’s wealthiest clubs on red alert. 

Sancho scored only his first league goal of this campaign last weekend, in Dortmund’s 2-0 victory over Wolfsburg.

After which the club’s chief executive officer, Hans-Joachim Watzke, said this: ‘Jadon had probably already subconsciously prepared himself a little bit for a change. I think he had at least thought about it so much that he lost his fluency. But I've felt he's been trying very hard for weeks. Things will pick up again very quickly. He is still one of the greatest talents there is.’ 

Buendia is surely one of the greatest talents ever to wear the green and yellow. 

Norwich’s season is edging towards a crucial, defining phase. The last thing Farke, or Webber needs for that matter, is to worry about bringing their most creative spark back onside.

How they manage Buendia through this turbulent month, should these endless rumours fail to translate into firm offers, could in time be a pivotal moment in the success or failure of City’s Championship promotion bid. 

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