Norwich City may be rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table but that hasn’t stopped top clubs keeping a close eye on the goings-on at Carrow Road.
Despite their struggles on their return to the English top-flight, a number of Daniel Farke’s squad have impressed this season.
Teemu Pukki was Player of the Month for August while Ben Godfrey was being linked with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur before injury ruled him out until February.
Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons are regularly linked with top-six clubs while Todd Cantwell has strutted his stuff onto the radar of some of the very best in England. Another name being linked with a move elsewhere is Emi Buendía.
The Argentine moved to Norwich in the summer of 2017 in a deal believed to be in the region of £1.5million. He was earmarked by the recruitment team as the man to replace the departed James Maddison. The season prior to the switch to England, Buendía had impressed on loan with Cultural Leonesa in the Spanish second division. By no means a household name, the Canaries used the data available to them to profile him as a player who could become their chief creator. It was an inspired bit of scouting.
In his debut season in England, the fleet-footed attacker was involved in 20 goals, split 60:40 in favour of assists, as Norwich stunned the masses to claim promotion to the Premier League.
The feeling ahead of the 2019/20 campaign was that Norwich would head straight back to the Championship. That may come to pass but it is a near certainty Buendía will remain. Liverpool are the latest team to be linked with the former Argentina under-20 international.
As things stand, Norwich's No.17 has assisted 31 per cent of the goals scored by Farke’s side in the Premier League this term. He’s showcased his big-game temperament, too, by registering assists in games against Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Leicester City and Spurs.
Buendía is yet to net this season but that isn’t what his game is built on. He’s a creative force and he’s pulling the strings for the Canaries.
So far he's averaged 0.4 assists per 90 against an expected assists average of 0.31. That goes some way to put to bed fears that the former stat is not sustainable. Buendía isn't in a purple patch of form. We're 21 games into the Premier League campaign and he's still posting these averages.
Unlike other playmakers, however, Buendía is much more than just a ball-player. The Norwich maestro looks to take responsibility. He's attempting, on average, 5.76 dribbles per 90 and completing 66 per cent of them. Wingers are often one-on-one players but Buendía isn't an old-school wide player.
He drifts centrally, as shown in his heat map below. He's moving into crowded areas, often the opposite of what players are instructed to do but due to his ability in tight spaces he's able to bypass the opposition and this creates space, and opportunities, for others.
The Norwich attacker also, impressively, completes 76 per cent of his final third passes and his passing accuracy, overall, is 83 per cent. For such an expressive player, those are impressive numbers.
The one-time Spain under-19 international is heavily involved in the play for a wide man. He's averaging close to 52 passes per 90 and 3.5 of those are deemed to be key. Buendía is playing 32 per cent of his passes forward. For a little more context, Mohamed Salah, considered to be one of Liverpool's most creative players, only plays 19 per cent of his forward while Roberto Firmino directs 23 per cent of his ahead of him.
What makes Buendía so intriguing is how effective he is all over the pitch. The shot-assist map above really highlights this. Though he starts on the right, he often plays key passes in areas traditionally occupied by a number ten. He is also a set-piece threat but he's largely influential in open-play situations.
Move Buendía to a more dominant side and his numbers would likely spike. His understanding with Pukki, a striker eager to get in behind, can be replicated with a number of players in the Premier League. Buendía is intriguing, and clubs will no doubt swoop to add him to their ranks. Even for a fee of £30million, the 23-year-old could be a bargain in what is usually an overpriced market.