Emi Buendia has failed to start a game for over a month in both league and cup. The last time we saw him in the starting eleven was Bournemouth at Carrow Road on 18.01.2020. It’s no surprise that this was the date of Norwich’s last win in the league.
Buendia was named Man of the Match that day after completing four key passes, five dribbles, a 100% tackle success rate and five shots. He was a constant thorn in Bournemouth’s side, as he has been for many teams this season. Yet, he hasn’t started a game since.
The observant among you will point to the injury he picked up in that game – a pulled quad – that inhibited his ability to sprint. Subsequently, the Argentine struggled to train in the aftermath of the Bournemouth game.
He was ruled him out of the midweek game against Spurs and the following Saturday’s cup tie at Turf Moor, meaning he didn’t make a first-team appearance for two weeks.
Buendia was back, fit and available for a very winnable game away to Newcastle, news that was music to the ears of Norwich. He is, after all, exactly the type of player you need to help unlock a stubborn and deep-lying Newcastle defence. Yet he was limited to just 23 minutes off the bench in a game that was stale and never really looked like progressing beyond 0-0.
It was the same story against Liverpool, albeit on that occasion it was more understandable that Daniel Farke opted for Lukas Rupp to combat the marauding Andy Robertson. Rupp played 83 minutes, with Emi limited to just seven, but even it that short time, he managed to thread through a pass to put Teemu Pukki in on goal.
After that positive impact against the champions-elect, City travelled to Wolves, Farke again opting to leave Buendia on the bench.
But, after a promising opening 15 minutes, City capitulated and turned in possibly their worst performance of the season. Buendia finally made an appearance in the 59th minute, but it was too late by then and making the substitution at half-time would have been entirely justified.
Something doesn’t add up. A two-week layoff for a pulled quad? Demoting Emi to the bench for the sake of Lukas Rupp, a new recruit being played out of position ahead of our best player?
It sounds a lot like shooting yourself in the foot, especially with Premier League survival now looking unlikely. Surely it should be all hands to the pump.
Here is a stat for you by the excellent @NCFCNumbers: Of the team that started against Wolves, none of them have registered a single assist since Southampton away [04.12.2020] when Alex Tettey assisted Pukki for the consolation goal.
Unfortunately, the damning statistics don’t stop there. It’s now been 626 minutes since City scored from open play, the last being against Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day when Todd Cantwell scored early in the game.
Yet, still Emi doesn’t play.
Buendia hasn’t covered himself in glory either to be fair, choosing to storm down the tunnel after the last three games. The Argentine has always had the potential to sulk and throw his hands in the air, but when you weigh up the pros and cons, there are undoubtedly more benefits to be had from squeezing every last ounce of football out of Buendia while we still have him at the club.
We’re not talking about Mo Leitner here, who, with the greatest respect, excelled in the Championship last year, passed Newcastle off the park earlier in the season but has done very little since. We are talking about one of the great creative forces in not just the Premier League, but Europe.
Buendia’s 69 chances created are enough to rank fourth behind Kevin De Bruyne (94), Dimitri Payet (78) and Angel Di Maria (71). All while playing in a Norwich team rooted to the foot of the Premier League table. Mind-boggling numbers.
City have still not won a league game in which Buendia hasn’t played. He was signed in the summer of 2018. If that is not a stark enough demonstration of his excellence, I don’t know what is.
We accept that sulking and projecting poor body language is not something you want to see from one of your best players, or any player for that matter, but when you factor in the uphill battle Norwich have against relegation – ie. How much revenue is on the line, how many players the club will potentially lose – I think it’s worth reassessing the situation.
Farke is the boss, he calls the shots and every player should understand that, but once you consider all the stats and records mentioned above, it’s blatantly obvious to see that we don’t create enough chances to pick up points at this level without Emi in the team.
He is our best player and by benching him, it feels like Farke is cutting off his nose to spite his face.
No one player is bigger than the club, but in certain situations, egos and hierarchies have to be put to one side. And this is one of those situations.
Buendia. Must. Start.