(Original Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
When you look at Arsenal’s current squad, bar the emerging Emile Smith Rowe and controversially outcasted Mesut Ozil, you cannot help but see the gaping lack of creativity possessed within the club. It has been commonly accepted by the Arsenal fanbase and even hierarchy at the club that this is a problem that must be addressed immediately, after failure to do so in last summer’s window leaving us more desperate than ever for playmakers. With the January Transfer Window officially open, now is the time to address our void in creativity- and here’s why Emiliano Buendia can be an effective solution to our problems.
Club manager Mikel Arteta made it clear in the summer that his top priority for the window was to sign a creative midfielder who could preferably fill in as a #8 in the 4-3-3 system he wished to play. Houssem Aouar was identified as Arteta’s desired signing and despite lengthy negotiations between the club, the player’s agents and Lyon- we did not manage to get our man. Any possibility of achieving the signing was soon shut down by Arsenal’s Technical Director Edu Gaspar, who overruled Arteta’s preference to instead sign Thomas Partey, a player who the club had been interested for a number of years prior. Partey was, without doubt, a world class signing and most definitely a step in the right direction- but the ever-exacerbating void in creativity was left unanswered as the consequence.
Fast forward a number of months, and this problem is still unsolved. Despite a remaining interest in Aouar, it has been widely reported that the North London club are not set to make another move for the Frenchman during this particular window, in order to prioritise other targets. Who, however, may these other targets be? You guessed it; Norwich’s star man and playmaker Emiliano Buendia.
As many of you will know, Emiliano (Emi, for short) Buendia is a 24 year old playmaker for Championship side. The Argentine is widely regarded to be one of the best players in the league, and therefore easily one who could make the jump up to England’s top division- as proven from his eye-catching success in Norwich’s 2019-20 Premier League cameo. Buendia’s 8 goal involvements in 36 league games do an injustice to the player’s overall impact to a poor Norwich side; he ranked fourth of all Premier League players last season in take-ons completed (102), as well as ranking seventh in minutes per chance created from open play, making one every 45 minutes. This is drastically greater than any Arsenal player in that very season, with Hale End graduate Joe Willock being the closest of the pack (70 minutes/chance created). Quite simply, Emi Buendia was nothing short of exceptional in his debut Premier League season- a star in an otherwise dull and uninspiring Norwich side; a diamond in the rough so to speak. He averaged 1.5 shots per game, 3 key passes, 3.7 dribbles, 6 crosses and 3 tackles- all per 90 minutes. (Opta Stats via WhoScored). Truly outstanding statistics from a player with no previous Premier League experience.
Although Buendia normally adopts the position on the right wing for Norwich, he is also able to play on both wings, as well as behind the striker at #10- as he himself said when questioned: “At first, I played on the right wing, but with the freedom I can move around. For most of my life, my position has been the number ten behind the striker, but with this system, it doesn’t matter for me if I’m there or on the left or right wing.”
As well as his creativity and excellent underlying stats, Buendia’s versatility is yet another quality that could prove beneficial to Arsenal- who could operate a fluid front line, with Buendia starting centrally but drifting between their and the right wing with Bukayo Saka. This dynamism could prove threatening for opposition back lines, who would struggle to pick up the interchangeable creative men.
Buendia has more than three years left on his current deal at Norwich, and the Canaries are keen to keep their star player at the club as they challenge for promotion to the Premier League this season. The club are said to be willing to accept offers if they have to sell- but would alternatively offer Buendia a bonus if he chose to stay. Joining Arsenal would easily be a step up for Buendia’s career, and I have no doubt he’ll be an Arsenal player shortly if the clubs can reach a deal.
Since writing is article, news broke this morning from the Independent that Arsenal are investigating a possible play-plus-cash deal for Emi Buendia, to sweeten the deal for Norwich. The two players in question thus far as potential exits are Hale End graduates Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock. With neither of the two getting many minutes for the first team of late, if we are offering these players as a loan, then it makes complete sense; get them to a club where they will play more football, potentially increase their market value with good performances, whilst helping Arsenal sign a target. However, if the deal includes a permanent swap, it would be a much harder situation. Ideally, I would offer Eddie Nketiah to Norwich, a player who is still young and would undoubtedly score a lot in the Championship, which would allow Arsenal to keep Nelson, Willock and give upcoming striker Folarin Balogun more minutes- so he will have a greater reason to sign his new contract. However, we cannot say if Norwich would be interested in Nketiah, and for me selling the other two at this early stage would be a waste of talent- I think they both have the potential to contribute to Arsenal in years to come.
If Arsenal are to offer a swap deal for Buendia, I would hope it is a fee, plus one (or both) of Nelson and Willock heading to Norwich on loan to help them secure promotion, with Buendia coming the other way. I’d be against selling Willock and Nelson as of now, but would let Nketiah go if Norwich are interested.
Emiliano Buendia: young, exciting, Premier League proven, relatively cheap, versatile and seemingly a good solution to our creative drought. This seems like a perfect signing for Arsenal, given the circumstances we find ourselves in. Were we to acquire Buendia before February 1st’s deadline, I strongly believe it would be the first piece in the puzzle to resolving our issues and revitalising what is left of this season.
Arsenal should move quickly to secure the affordable signing of Emiliano Buendia, before another club comes along and picks him up. He should be the first signing of a (hopefully!) productive transfer window this month. It’s that simple.
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