Swimming With The Sharks: The Emiliano Buendía Story
Opaper, Daniel Farke’s Norwich side are your regular cut-and-dry relegation fight citizens, aside from their patches of managerial and personnel brilliance. But a 23-year-old diamond in the rough could be their saving grace away from their usual home to Premier League safety and possibly more, and he seems destined for greatness.
What do they have on offer, then? Well, enter Emiliano Buendía, an attacking midfielder capable of slotting in the hole as well as on the right as a hybrid winger, where he is at his absolute best. A former Real Madrid trainee costing a mere £1.5 million from Getafe, Buendía is a savvy operator whose arsenal boasts of everything from defence splitting through balls to criss-crossing late runs to the box, making wide forays forward that drag centre backs in his wake. He spent the entirety of the 2017-18 season on loan at Cultural y Deportiva Leonesa, helping himself to 13 assists and 6 goals in 40 league games and earning their Player of the Year award.
Half-spaces and excellent positional awareness are his bread and butter, with teammate Max Aarons developing a partnership with him on the overlap. The Argentinian can also switch to the left when Onel Hernández or the illustrious Todd Cantwell comes to the right, and is fairly capable with both feet, drifting inside when necessary. Furthermore, Buendía is a willing worker and intelligent in his pressing, winning a bevy of balls in the final third before running at the defence and playing incisive passes into dangerous areas. Picking out space to receive, move the ball on and dictating play, 4 assists in 5 opening Premier League games should paint a clear picture of what he brings to the table, matching a certain Belgian legend and Ballon d’Or nominee in Eden Hazard.
Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool have bulldozed their way through the Premier League and it’s no surprise that Farke and Norwich have picked some inspiration off of that. And no better example of Buendía’s prowess in that system than the Canaries’ goal this season against Liverpool where Emi found Teemu Pukki through the eye of a needle for the Finn to simply guide it in. As an attacking unit, Norwich are well-drilled and function as a 2-3-5 with wide overlapping fullbacks and attackers getting into the blind spots of defenders; Buendía is at the heart of it all. Much like another one of Klopp’s famous Dortmund side, they press compactly in a 4-2-3-1 system with an adopted version of the gegenpress, keeping their shape and harassing personnel trying to play the ball out from the back
The Argentine creator’s 81.7% pass success rate is high for a creative playmaker who often makes risky through balls like nobody’s business (14 of them as of yet), making key passes second only to another midfield master-surgeon in Kevin De Bruyne. Already looking way above and beyond his peers in class, potential and quality, Norwich’s No. 17 looks like he’s taken to British top flight football like a duck to water, and has firmly placed himself in the record books as well fantasy teams everywhere.
Tireless in application and with bottomless baskets of tekkers, Buendía is just a few inches away from the complete article, and probably won’t be in the Championship next season, with Liverpool hovering over and Norwich seemingly destined to second-tier anonymity come August. The budding puppet master raises the standard of any outfit he joins, and would be a great acquisition for any club with hopes of a top four finish or European football.
It would be a shame to see him wasted at a level below his own. We stay tuned.