As the song goes… 🎵 Please don’t take my Emi away.
His latest masterclass may have won us three points and perhaps pushed his price a million or two pounds higher, but it’s hardly going have deterred the recruitment teams of the big boys.
Any waverers – and I’m not sure why there would be any – will have been won over by that precise swoosh of his right boot as that beautifully flighted ball from Kenny McLean dropped over his shoulder.
In a game that had already produced its fair share of quality moments, that particular one stood head and shoulders above the rest. It didn’t belong in the Championship. Neither does Emi Buendia.
Whether City can squeeze another four months of second-tier football out of the Argentinian depends on quite how star-struck said recruitment teams and purse-holders are after watching his latest showreel.
Of course, neither Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber wants to sell. That goes without saying. Buendia’s value to Norwich City right now is infinitely greater than any sum that could be offered by Arsenal (or anyone else) but as we know, there are other factors at play.
Emi seems happy right now, is playing with a smile on his face (which hasn’t always been the case), and is in a good place. That much seems clear.
What is also clear is that he and his agent are on the verge of being promised deals beyond their wildest dreams; sums of money that make his Norwich City contract look like small change. And the club will have a valuation that, if it’s met, will be sufficient to start a conversation.
At that point the collective sphincter can start twitching.
The common phrase is “silly money” and that’s definitely what it will take to prise him from our clutches. It definitely won’t be the £15m that several Arsenal ‘in the know’ types have been quoting.
We’re top of the league at the halfway point of the season with a healthy four-point gap. The biggest prize is so close yet so far away, and only by keeping our best player do we keep ourselves in pole position.
Imagine being Jason Tindall, Steve Cooper and Thomas Frank upon hearing the news that Buendia had left City.
If we were outside the playoff places, the landscape would be very different but we’re not. And minus any of the complicating factors I’ve just mentioned, to sell your best player when losing him would massively hinder your chances of achieving your goal is pure madness.
He’s that good.
The biggest compliment I can pay Buendia is that yesterday’s masterclass was up there with the best individual City performance I’ve ever witnessed – namely Hucks’ loan spell finale when he single-handedly destroyed Cardiff City in a 4-1 in December 2003.
It was therefore appropriate that the great man nailed it in one tweet better than I ever could in 1000 words.
But while it’s tough to contemplate life without Emi, it’s important to not let this pending saga overshadow what has turned into a really good season.
Aside from the sprinkling of Argentinian stardust, there is plenty of good stuff happening, not least a back-four that, with Ben Gibson in it, is a significant upgrade on anything we have seen in the Farke era.
With Grant Hanley staying injury-free, and with the added balance that Gibson offers, we look a much more solid outfit, and helped in no small part by having Oliver Skipp sitting in front to offer another layer of protection and energy.
It’s a phrase I rely on far too much but with the Hanley/Gibson combo at its core, the base is solid and offers a platform from which the pretty stuff can flourish
And yesterday it was tested. Barnsley, despite having an appalling record against City, were bright, breezy, and full of confidence, just as you’d expect of a team who were second only to City in the form table.
The Tykes were energetic and ferocious out of possession and used those same qualities to offer a continuous threat on the counter, posing City as big a challenge as they have faced all season. That they were able to hold firm and protect the returning Tim Krul in the face of such a committed opponent bodes well for the months ahead.
The good performances were plentiful and spread throughout the side. Todd Cantwell, despite misfiring in front of goal, was also as good as he has been all season and treated us to the full repertoire of flicks, tricks and drag-backs. On another day he could have had his first hat-trick.
And therein lies the single criticism that can be currently leveled at City. They waste chances. Lots of them. For all of Barnsley’s threat and energy, had Messrs Cantwell, Pukki, and Sorensen taken the more-than-decent opportunities afforded them, there would have been no scope for the Tykes to spurn the chance of a 94th-minute equaliser.
The inability to add a second cost us against QPR and nearly did so again yesterday. To describe it as a problem is perhaps a step too far but, if only to steady the heart rate of the Canary Nation, it wouldn’t hurt to take a two-goal lead occasionally, would it? 🙂
But, on the day, one was enough… just. And having started 2021 in the best possible way, we find ourselves in a good place.
There’s a sideshow coming. Let’s not allow it to distract us. With Emi we remain firm favourites. Even without him, it’s still ours to throw away.