Why Arsenal MUST target Emi Buendia this Summer
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
Whilst we are in the midst of a pandemic, I thought I’d begin to flirt with a few potential signings we could make whenever the window is open, analysing several targets who I believe would be great additions to a squad that needs a large overhaul.
It’s quite evident that one area that we need to address is finding a natural replacement for Mesut Ozil, although perhaps a player who can fill a slightly different role to the German. Ozil has been on the decline for almost two years, with his creative assets dipping significantly since Arsene Wenger left the club. Much of that can be put down to the systematic changes made by Unai Emery, which did inhibit Ozil’s creative capacity. In a possession based style that should provide the foundation for him to excel under Arteta, he has hardly improved. Yes, he is applying more pressure and covering more ground under our new head coach, but his chance creation abilities have not improved (evident in no rise in his xA/90).
Whilst Ozil’s key passes per 90 remain at a respectable 2.26, the xA/90 of 0.14 is significantly lower than he has managed in previous years. He’s still creating a decent volume of chances, but not a load of high quality chances. This is perhaps due to a drop in physical attributes, his inability to find space as easily and his decline in agility. He needs replacing.
Arteta is currently deploying a 4-2-3-1 formation, which switches to a 3-2-5 in possession, and this shape largely appears to accommodate for Mesut Ozil. Shoe-horning a declining 31-year-old into your team is hardly a sustainable strategy. I expect Arteta to slowly mould the shape into the 4-3-3 we saw Pep use at Manchester City- a 4-3-3 with two Mezzalas (attacking eights) who attack the half spaces and link up with the wide players to create overloads on either side. This is a much more progressive system that should lead to greater offensive fluidity and thus get more productivity out of our promising wide players.
Mesut Ozil doesn’t really fit this system due to his defensive deficiencies. Whilst he works a lot harder than people tend to think, when he gets into the positions to apply defensive actions, he actually struggles in carrying these actions out. We need a player who has the creative abilities of a conventional number ten, but the defensive abilities of a conventional number eight.
Step forward Emiliano Buendia- one of the most slept on players in the Premier League at the moment. The Argentine is often overlooked by the likes of Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki in this Norwich team, with their goals allowing them to stand out to the media and fans. However, Buendia is the creative hub of Daniel Farke’s side, creating chances at a rate only bettered by Kevin De Bruyne in the Premier League this campaign. Cantwell is often the player touted by Arsenal fans to replace Ozil, but Buendia is the better player in every aspect.
Buendia has managed an incredible 0.31 xA/90, a stat bettered only by De Bruyne and Trent Alexander-Arnold this season (of players with more than 10 league starts). This demonstrates his consistent ability to create high quality chances, and he’s doing it for the side placed firmly at the foot of the table. His key pass per 90 rate of 3.27 is again only bettered by Manchester City’s Belgian genius.
The former Getafe man creates chances at will. His ability to find space in central areas, turn with his quick feet and play a slide rule pass to split open the opposition defence is unparalleled in this Arsenal team. His nifty footwork and outstanding close control which allow him to escape tight spaces is very reminiscent of Santi Cazorla, and his overall physical stature and frame remind me of our former Spanish magician.
As shown in the video above, Buendia’s most common piece of play is receiving the ball on the half turn and slipping Teemu Pukki in on goal with a perfectly executed through ball. His vision and weight of pass are immaculate, and having a player who can player on the shoulder and make short, sharp runs in behind will get the best out of Buendia. Having played a lot from the right-hand side, the Argentine should seamlessly be able to slot into playing as a Mezzalla, with that ability to occupy the half spaces.
Question marks around his ability to play against compact, low block sides may concern you, seeing as most of these clips show him being able to operate with a lot of space. However, last season Norwich dominated possession in the Championship, and regularly faced sides who would sit very deep and be hard to break down; many of the league’s experts deemed him the best player in the division that campaign.
You also may question Buendia’s defensive attributes, and whether they are sufficient enough for him to slot in as one of these eight’s in a flat midfield three, as well as being part of a cohesive pressing system. Well, according to his statsbomb radar for this season, Buendia has made 4.3 pressure regains (the number of times a player’s team won the ball back within five seconds of the player pressuring an opponent) per 90 minutes. He is perfectly suited to this role.
With the likes of Jack Grealish, James Maddison and Cantwell being linked to the club, I can’t help but think what an enormous waste of our limited resources signing one of those players would be when there is a cheaper and better option sitting right there in Emiliano Buendia. Get it done Arsenal.
P.S editing this and forgot to mention he’s only 23 as well. Surely, surely we’ve got to do it.