Emiliano Buendía Confirmed for Villa
By Calum Slater
The first piece of business has been completed before the window has even opened – bienvenidos Emiliano Buendía!
After being linked with Aston Villa for seemingly decades, Dean Smith and Christian Purslow have acted incredibly quickly to get the jump on Arsenal for his signature. It is a move that reveals a lot about the immediate future for Smith and his Villa side – with Ross Barkley returning to Chelsea, Buendía will fill the role of the second playmaker in Smith’s attacking quartet.
“He is equally capable as a wide attacker or as a number 10 and is a great addition to our attacking options,” said Dean Smith, on Buendía. “We are delighted to have made such an exciting signing so early in the summer.”
It is an exciting prospect for fans soon to be returning to Villa Park in greater numbers to B6. We will soon see a link up between the Argentine and Jack Grealish. With Grealish’s stock about to potentially rise further in the Euros for England, the Villa captain is achieving his personal goals whilst still at his boyhood club. For now, the media circus recycling rumours of a move to Manchester, should leave town.
The capture of Buendía is key to fulfilling the promises made to Grealish by the club, both at the start of Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris’ tenure as owner and during his most recent contract negotiations.
At the time of those contract negotiations, CEO Christian Purslow stated that the aim was “to build a top team around (Grealish)”, with Dean Smith adding that the aim is to “bring in another four or five quality players that only makes the squad better.”; Jack has bought into this.
Buendía has been signed to hopefully both combine with Grealish and take the creative burden in his absence.
Following a disappointing second half to the season, Ross Barkley’s stellar start in a Villa shirt fizzled out. However, his early performances will not be forgotten, particularly regarding how he linked up with and elevated the performances of Grealish. By acting as an attacking pivot, he provided an option for quick interchanges as Grealish roamed inside, whilst also posing an attacking threat himself.
Buendía will be expected to fulfil a similarly facilitating role, and his success at Villa Park will be dependent on the relationship he strikes with the captain. It is likely that he will start centrally but drift wide, most likely to switch with Jack and cater for marauding runs inside. The attacking unit will become more fluid, posing different types of threat to defenses throughout games with direct running as well as the ability to play a killer pass. The new recruit will also be expected to provide a consistent threat and attacking outlet, nullifying the idea that Villa can be stopped by targeting Grealish alone.
This suits Buendía, as he fits the mould of the true playmaker that fans have been eager to see. He has provided more league assists since his debut than any other player in English football and registered the most chances ever recorded in the Premier League in a calendar month (29 in December 2019). He will hopefully provide the consistent creativity that the incumbent wingers (El Ghazi, Trézéguet and Traoré) have been guilty of lacking.
Alongside carrying attacking responsibility, his ability to form partnerships is promising too.
During Norwich’s condemned 2019/20 Premier League season, Buendía’s link up with Teemu Pukki was surprisingly unrivaled, creating a league-high 23 chances for the Finn to finish. This contributed to his seven assists, impressive for a then 22-year-old in a struggling side.
As last season’s Championship Player of the Season, with 15 goals, 16 assists and 14 Man of the Match awards in 39 games, it’s clear the boy has potential. Villa will have two attacking midfielders with the ability to influence games.
The second tier has been a successful harvesting ground under Smith, with Konsa, Cash and Watkins all making the jump to top flight football with relative ease. Buendía looks set to follow suit and has that season in the Premier League already in the bank.
With two consistent playmakers in support, Ollie Watkins will also be relishing the thought of the upcoming season. So often cutting a frustrated, isolated figure in the absence of Grealish, the new signing will allow Watkins to continue with his current style of play but with the expectation of more chances. The Argentine’s passing ability and reading of his teammates movements should bring out the best in the England striker.
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Speed is Key
The speed at which the club acted to sign Buendía was impressive and almost unprecedented – beyond pre-contract deals, the June 7th announcement of the signing by the club before the window opened (June 9th) was rare.
This speed is not just impressive but important for two reasons.
Firstly, any early movement in the window is the sign of an organised team with a clear vision of where they want the squad to be. After he returns from his first senior international duty, Buendía will have a full pre-season with the squad, which is key to avoiding a false start at the beginning of the upcoming campaign. This also prevents panic buying, with no need for any extortionate, last minute, high risk – low reward deals.
Smith now has the rest of the summer to strengthen other areas and ignore phone calls from Ed Woodward, safe in the knowledge that a high priority target has been acquired.
The second reason is that it is a clear sign that Europe is the end-game for this season. For Grealish to stay beyond the end of 2021/22 may be reliant on this and so investment early in the market is promising, building the foundation of a team that can challenge for the top six.
Villa’s slump in form last season coincided with Grealish’s injury, and as he is still to 100% recover from it, the Buendía signing will hopefully mitigate such an impact if it is to occur again next year. Lessons are being learnt and plans are being put in place.
Whereas rivals for those European positions look as if they may falter in the pre-season period (Everton losing Ancelotti, Kane openly requesting a move from Spurs, Arsenal in a general flux), Villa have swiftly assembled a dangerous attacking line up, while others are in transition.
Reinforcements in other areas may certainly help Villa’s European dream become a reality.