Talent needs talent. It can shine even when among dull objects, but not half as much as it can when radiating against something equally as bright.
Would John Lennon’s star have ascended as far as it did if he had played with Maroon 5 rather than the Fab Four? Or Noel Gallagher if he’d been stuck with the Jonas Brothers rather than his own sibling?
They would have had a few hits, but just wouldn’t have scaled the pinnacles of their potential without having McCartney, Harrison, and little brother Liam to riff with.
With this in mind it’s interesting to review the stadium gig held by Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell on Tuesday night. Up against Birmingham’s team bus, both players’ displays have been reviewed favourably by many – five-star performances according to some.
This is the first match of 2020/21 where we’ve seen two of the Norwich squad’s biggest rock stars perform together after they had both threatened to pull the band apart while the transfer window was open.
After trashing their hotels and metaphorically chucking their TVs out of their windows, the management appear to have calmed Todd and Emi down, put arms around their shoulders, and calmed their egos.
With no moves materialising to the Premier League supergroups, or even Leeds, the boys are back in town and facing a 46-date tour of the Championship – the glamourous venues of Wycombe, Luton, Barnsley and Coventry await.
The comeback tour they both didn’t want to be part of has become an exciting journey with ‘the boys’. The rifts are healed and the easy-listening hits such as ‘I can’t wait to start playing again’, ‘I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else’, and ‘I’m going to give 110% to the club’ were played as a warm-up.
Cantwell and Buendia have played solo this season – Todd looking like he’d rather be playing somewhere else as he took hit after hit from Preston’s rockers, while Emi looked frustrated as he played two notes ahead of his out-of-key teammates during the game with Derby.
Yet playing together on Tuesday there was the semblance of a rhythm, a hint of a beat, and the potential of some special performances to come from the pair.
They just couldn’t keep away from each other. Playing very narrow in the first half, Emi and Todd bounced the ball off back and forth frequently in an attempt to play allegro around a well-orchestrated Birmingham backline.
They were involved in everything City created with Cantwell almost getting on the scoresheet in both halves – while Buendia’s touches grew more incisive as the game wore on. And Emi’s work rate matched it, often covering back down the right wing and helping shore up the defence when the Blues decided to actually move forward.
There’s no doubt that we saw the Argentine starting to find form and looking more settled amongst his peers.
This more composed Emi is at odds to the one we often saw during the final knocks of the Premier League season or even against the Rams recently. We saw a man that believed he was on another level to his teammates, thinking three passes ahead while others didn’t know their next move. It saw his frustration get the better of him. The arms were thrown into the air and his back was turned to play while the game continued to play around him.
Thankfully, this version of Emi wasn’t seen against Birmingham. Apart from one slightly frustrated and incredibly hopeful dig at goal from the best part of 40 yards, he was the personification of calm, a man looking more restrained and at ease with himself.
Maybe not quite the exuberant character that tore the Championship to shreds in 2018/19, but the win over the Blues saw him show the potential to rediscover the golden days of playing lead guitar with Teemu and the Title Winners.
Even when the floodlights faded and the TV cameras switched off on Tuesday night, it was clear that to get the best from our two best performers they need to duet and be supported by the rest of the group.
Despite being incredibly talented in comparison to anything else found in the second tier, shouldering the push by themselves is beyond Todd and Emi. They are not one-man shows, despite the tricks, the skills, the arrogance.
They are still young and have much to learn – much better suited as exceptional members of a talented ensemble than being pressured into being lead performers.
Todd scored one in the Championship during 2018/19 before grabbing six goals in the Premier League. Emi scored eight during the Championship winning season and one in the top division. That’s not to say they didn’t create chances for others, especially the Argentinian, but he’s not at the level of his countryman Lionel Messi – despite our (often unrealistically) high opinions of him.
Buendia isn’t going to carry this team on his back and nor will Dereham’s finest. And we shouldn’t be disappointed in either of them for not being able to do so.
To get the neat, one-touch, fluent and incisive football to return on a consistent basis means getting the pair to play in tandem behind Pukki and/or Hugill. This is crucial to Norwich’s success. They will also bring much more from Marco Stiepermann’s repertoire too – or whoever else is tasked with being the focal point of the attack in the No10 position.
We may only have them to January, but in these short months it’s time for Daniel Farke to keep them, and the rest of the team, playing in tune if he’s going to conduct a Championship promotion winning campaign.
And final word to Lukas Rupp – dependable, energetic, willing and seriously underrated. Ringo Starr anyone?