Connor Southwell: City fans must cherish magic Buendia this season
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It’s rare that a player comes along and provokes joy when they have the football at their feet. Emi Buendia is one of those footballers, and Norwich City are fortunate to have him.
In the chant that in ordinary times is heard from the terraces, the last line ‘please don’t take my Emi away’ is perhaps the most meaningful. From being a street footballer in Argentina as a kid, the midfielder is now lighting up Championship venues again.
Buendia is capable of producing moments of sheer brilliance, graphically illustrated by the perfection of the touch in the lead up to his goal against Bristol City.
There are also the moments of frustration. The arm waving. The failure to track back on some occasions. In fairness, those elements haven’t been as visible so far during this campaign.
What’s more, there is far more to come. This isn’t Emi Buendia operating in top gear.
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Suspension, injury and speculation prompted doubt about whether he would ever don the yellow and green of the Canaries again. After relegation, many expected the midfielder to be one of the first through the exit door.
His statistics were compared to Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne, but Daniel Farke was only keen to discuss one of those statistics, which was goals scored.
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Buendia’s ability alone saw City supporters expect him to leave. Relegation made the thought of having another year of watching him operate in the Championship difficult to comprehend.
Despite supposed interest from Leeds United, the weeks kept coming and going and cautious confidence was growing amongst supporters that Buendia would stick around for another season.
His omission against Bournemouth and the brunt words from his head coach that followed only accelerated those fears further.
Fundamentally, it boils down to quality. Norwich City are a better side with Buendia in it. They create more chances, score more goals and play better football.
Strip it all back, that is the reality.
Let’s get it straight, Buendia is the best footballer in the Championship. That isn’t hyperbole or exaggeration, his technical proficiency sees him perform at a level far superior to his peers consistently.
Look at his creative statistics at present, he is constructing chances more regularly than anyone else in the division and is still working his way through the gears.
I’d even go one further. Beyond the elite clubs and even including some of them, Buendia would add quality to the vast majority of clubs around the continent.
But that’s our little secret, for now.
Where the Canaries recruitment team differed from others in this country previously was their willingness to take a chance on him.
Nobody did that during the summer. A decision that will be regretted as they watch his performances develop and improve in the Championship.
Farke criticised his lack of goals, Buendia listened and is responding accordingly.
Compared with the 2018/19 season, when City won the league, Buendia is shooting more, getting into the box more and is taking up better positions within goal scoring areas.
All of that has been improved whilst retaining his creativity and ball carrying skills.
In scouting circles, there were doubts about his goalscoring capabilities and some felt his defensive contributions (mainly pressing), whilst high, disrupted City’s balance and left them exposed.
For the price quoted, nobody took that risk on a player with supreme talent. Now they are left ruing that decision as they watch him storm the division.
The reality is this, Buendia can be anything he wants to be in football. He’s that good.
For a club that has enjoyed a tapestry of attacking midfielders, on current ability, Buendia trumps Wes Hoolahan and even James Maddison (who has hit higher heights since joining Leicester City).
If City can maintain his focus and fitness, they will have a fun season but also a productive one. If they can hold onto him for the remainder of the season, propel themselves back into the Premier League, then maybe they can convince the Argentine to stick around long-term.
For now, it’s about enjoyment and cherishing his talent. Like every good thing, it will come to an end, so let’s indulge.