Matt Howman: City lucky to have one of game's great entertainers
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
As the weeks of lockdown continue to rumble on, I’ve been drawn deeper and deeper into the archives on YouTube of classic football moments.
It’s usually the case where you start off watching a 5-4 game of the season from the Premier League and then ten minutes later you’re watching Micah Richards laughing at Roy Keane in a television studio and wondering how you got drawn into it.
I’ve also re-watched plenty of classic Norwich City comebacks, then one random video stood out to me the other day recommended after Henri Lansbury had just fired a winner against Millwall, which was a two-minute clip from David Ginola on a Monday Night Football episode.
When asked about the price he would command in today's transfer market, he deflects a straight answer and then proceeds to give an eloquent, passionate speech about creativity in football being constrained by modern tactics and the entertainment factor being lost from the game.
I thought there is a lot of truth to that. Perhaps in the Premier League more than anywhere else, the pressure to win and the financial impact on results are now so great, the fear of making a mistake and costing the team reduces the amount of “fans out of their seats” moments in a game.
There are still moments of brilliance and the entertainment is of course still there, but the individuality of players, and that freedom to express themselves has undoubtedly been constrained by the level of detail that goes into tactics, positioning and game-plans.
However, there are players that still seem to find a way to show that spark of creativity. They’re the match-winners, the star man in the team and the headache for every opposition because it’s much more difficult to prepare against the unpredictable.
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Thankfully, Norwich have had a great track record of having a player of that mould in the squad. In recent years Wes Hoolahan has been our source of magic, then the baton was passed on to James Maddison and currently it’s Emi Buendia.
Much like Maddison before him, he is showing all of the traits to become a top, top player. Primarily, it’s that creative spark to do the unpredictable, shift the ball in an instant and leave the opposition chasing shadows.
His range of passing is excellent and more importantly, the speed in which he can see a through-ball opportunity is another outstanding quality, one which Teemu Pukki has certainly been a happy benefactor.
There are players that thrive better within certain teams and under specific managers. The way Farke sets the team up and structures our attacking play lends itself to Buendia’s strengths.
However as an individual he still has to have that instinct and application to be a game-changer.
In terms of raw talent he is up there in the top bracket of the plethora of players that have come and gone from Norwich in recent years. Farke and his backroom staff have coached him from a rough-diamond into a jewel and the club will have their work cut out to hold off the likes of Arsenal and co in the summer transfer window.
As a fan I wouldn’t sell him even if an eye-watering mega deal was on the table. Why? Because Buendia is, for me, an example of what Ginola was alluding to of the rare crop of players that will make instinctive decisions in a match that transcend normal football tactics - moments that get you off your seat or just leave you there applauding the audacity of what he’s done on the pitch.
However, if he does move on, Norwich fans will have been lucky to have seen another top class player develop their game at our football club. It will be a tough ask to replace a player that can pull off a back-heel pass in mid air to set up a goal, or one that can watch a 50 yard pass float towards him and score with his first touch.
Enjoy watching him play for Norwich while we can, as Ginola rightly said there aren’t many more players like it anymore...