It’s guest blog time again, and this week it’s the turn of Jacob Robinson…
Emi Buendia, the man with the third most completed dribbles in the league.
Emi Buendia the man who lost possession for the opening goal in the frustrating home defeat to Watford.
Emi Buendia, the man with the most assists for Norwich and sixth most in the league.
Emi Buendia the man who lost the ball against Arsenal, jogged back and at the final whistle went straight down the tunnel.
Emi Buendia, the man who has created the fifth most chances in the Premier League.
Emi Buendia the man who has now lost his place in the Norwich City starting XI for the first time in his career.
The stats alone are saying that the Argentine is one, if not the, most important player to Norwich going forward but the last two games, a deserved away win at Everton and a hard-fought draw at home to Arsenal, has seen him play just 17 minutes in total.
If you had told us at the start of this Premier League season that City would look more disciplined and more likely to get a result without a man who won the most tackles and covered the most ground of any player last season, many would have looked at you like you were going mad.
So why have Norwich gone from not being able to win without Buendia in the side, to looking far more accomplished at this level without him?
The first reason is the emergence of Todd Cantwell, a man who many supporters at the start of the season were unsure about in terms of his end product and overall ability at the top level.
But Cantwell has shown on multiple occasions that he is a goal threat, with goals against Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton and Arsenal plus a willingness to track back and support the defence. These qualities have been critical in the past two results, meaning he is now an integral part of this team.
The second reason is the highlighted need for structure in the Premier League. Norwich came into this season with a swashbuckling, bold approach of playing the way they did last season, which was commended after a good attacking display against the European Champions, swatting aside Newcastle at home the following week and the heroic win over Manchester City.
However, with the goals drying up in defeats away to Burnley and Crystal Palace, the heavy defeat at home to Aston Villa and most recently the defeat to Watford, it became clear that a more regimented approach needed to be taken if City were to pick up points.
City’s number 17 struggled in the Watford game before making an error just 76 seconds into what many were calling a relegation six-pointer. Before trudging off in the 62nd minute, it became clear that Buendia was trying too hard to rectify his mistake. The fans’ criticism of his performance at full time, resulted in him making his Instagram account private and deleting his Twitter account.
Buendia’s and the team’s poor performances against Watford meant a change in tactics and personnel was needed for the away game against Everton. Christoph Zimmerman came in with Alex Tettey and Kenny McLean both getting pushed further forward and the Argentinian being dropped.
As a result, City played more directly, with balls being played down the wings and more balls being played forward quicker, for example, the Cantwell goal. The team were more disciplined and structured defensively and deservedly won the game with a clean sheet.
On Sunday, the Argentine started again on the bench with just one enforced change to the side due to Alex Tettey’s personal reasons. Again, Norwich counter-attacked with gusto, with notable performances again from Cantwell and Hernandez, as well as defending resolutely to get a point in a game they arguably should’ve won.
So do these two games show the side is better without Bunedia?
I say no and here is why: Buendia played a massive part in Denis Srbeny’s goal at Everton, going past three defenders before the ball fell to the Icon who tucked it away. a
It’s easy to forget that Emi is just 22 and along with Cantwell will have periods of inconsistency. His biggest strength last season – his terrier-like play and going everywhere in search of the ball – was ideal for City when they dominated the ball in the majority of Championship games and wanted a quick turnover in possession.
At this level, his style, where City are not dominating the ball, was leaving the side unbalanced and looking suspect defensively in wide areas. For me, to see Emi thrive again is a case of curbing his desire to always leave his position and aim to go more when trigger points have been set for him and the rest of the team to press.
We will see Buendia have many more good games with Norwich. It’s just a case of a few tweaks and patience from both him and us, the supporters.