Written by Liam Lam
Emiliano Buendia is spending his third seasons in England with Norwich, playing under Daniel Farke. Despite the devastating campaign Norwich had last season in the Premier League, Buendia was highly rated as one of the best midfielders who thrived in different passing metrics. Unsurprisingly, he has dominated the lower division, helping Norwich to sit at the top of the Championship with 5 points ahead before Christmas. This report is going to analyse and identify his attributes with his playing style in Norwich.
Buendia is a very versatile player who could operate in the centre or out wide in the pitch. Farke’s Norwich plays with 4-2-3-1 where Buendia is mainly deployed as the right-side attacking midfielder in the setup. In the attacking phase, unlike other right-footed player playing on the right, he would move and stay in the centre of the pitch rather than just hugging the sideline. Being comfortable playing with either foot has put him in a huge advantage. Norwich pushes their full-backs upfront to provide options and stretch the opposition’s defensive line.
This playing style allows him to work between the opposition’s line and do what he does best, creating chances for the team. This season, Norwich scored 29 goals in the first 20 games. He directly involved in 41% of Norwich’s goals by scoring 6 goals and providing 6 assists. The heatmap below shows that he operates between the opposition’s line he tends to cut into the centre.
Creating chances with his passing
Buendia is known for his chance creation ability over the past two seasons, so how good is he? According to Wyscout, despite playing for the bottom team in the Premier League last season, Buendia registered 2.58 smart passes per 90 minutes and 0.24 Expected Assist (xA) per 90 minutes, which ranked second and fourth in the League respectively. This season, he registered 3.02 smart passes per 90 minutes and 0.27 xA per 90 minutes, which ranked first and third in the Championship respectively. xA means it values for a pass is a value of expected goals (xG) or the shot that this pass led to. Smart pass is a creative and penetrative pass that attempts to break the opposition’s defensive lines to gain a significant advantage in attack. Buendia performed well in both metrics, which indicates he is good at creating goal-scoring opportunities and gaining advantages for his teammates with his passes. Below are the examples of showing the different types of passing he made and how did he create chances for his team.
The picture below shows that Buendia was moving from the right towards the centre to receive the pass. He made a first touch through ball pass between the two centre backs with his weaker foot. Before making this pass, he shoulder-checked to confirm if there was any opposition player nearby, and he spotted Teemu Pukki had started to run into the channels, thus providing an assist for Pukki.
The below example shows that Buendia controlled the ball from behind to forward with his chest by one touch. He found Pukki on the left running forward while controlling the ball. He immediately made a long through ball with his second touch on the ball. The through ball went past the two centre-backs towards the left for Pukki to chase.
The below example shows that he made a one-two pass with the full-back and ran all the way to the byline. After dribbled past the defender, he cut in and made a pass towards the centre of the box aiming at Pukki.
The above three examples show that Buendia has exceptional technique, ball control, and passing ability. He could make passes accurately with both feet. He constantly adjusts his body posture to face the correct directions. He could spot his teammates out in a split second while controlling the ball.
Dribbling to create chances
Buendia has demonstrated his ability to dribble and create goalscoring opportunities. Last season he performed quite well under the 1v1 dribbling metrics, according to Wyscout, he registered 5.93 1v1 dribbles per 90 minutes which ranked top 20 in the Premier League. However, the success rate is only 52%. This season the number went down to 2.95 1v1 dribbles per 90 minutes but the success rate went up to 65%. A downward changing in a particular statistic does not mean he fall off over the year. We could find out the reason by observing the change of playing style of Norwich.
Last season, Norwich were defending near the defensive third while they tried to attack via quick and direct counter-attack. Such playing style would leave a lot of space behind the opposition’s back, but Norwich own half would be congested. Buendia would receive the ball mostly out wide where he could either make a through ball to Pukki or dribble his way out since the only spaces for him to exploit were in front of him. Making sideway or backward pass would be unwise since it was congested in the middle and it would slow down the attack.
This season, Norwich are pressing and defending high the pitch where they could win the ball in a higher up the pitch, a position which has less spaces in the front for Buendia to dribble. And Norwich are the dominating side in the Championship where they would have more control of the ball, thus they have to pass more instead of dribble to tear the opposition’s defence.
Below is an example of Buendia’s dribbling from last season. Buendia received the ball under pressure in his own half surrounded by three defenders. He dribbled past the nearest defender and went towards the centre away from the remaining two defenders. Once he got through, he initiated a counter-attack by making a long ball pass to the left, where they had a numerical advantage.
The second example shows that Buendia was dribbling to the right while facing two defenders in front of him. He made a shape change of direction to create spaces in front of him. Jordan Hugill made a run into the and created a passing lane into the box.
How Norwich Press and how Buendia fits in
This season Norwich set their defensive line and pressing higher up in the pitch. When the press got beaten, they would drop back to create a middle and low block in their own half as 4-5-1. They may even drop one side of the midfield five as a wing-back to cope with the width of the opponent and avoid being overloaded on one side. Buendia plays a huge part in this defending system as he has a lot of defensive responsibility and he is usually assigned on the right side when pressing. Norwich pressing contains a varies types of pressing method, traps or triggers like a bad touch from the opposition’s player.
When they are pressing near the attacking third, they tend to use a man-oriented pressing to man-mark the oppositions as per the picture below.
Once they managed to man-mark the oppositions in a certain area, the pressing intensity will increase, and the player will become more aggressive which they will commit into a tackle on the ball holder. Below example shows that Buendia successfully tackled the ball by achieving this method.
When Norwich is defending deep, if the oppositions make a negative pass, the whole team will start to push forward. The player up front, usually Pukki, will start pressing with his nearby teammates to force them to make mistake, clear the ball or continue to make a negative pass to the back. The below example shows that the opposition made a negative pass to the back which the ball was lack of speed and power. Buendia ran out with full speed to press the ball receiver and successfully dispossessed him to start a counter-attack with Pukki.
We could see Buendia is aggressive, quick with his run and at the same time smart to read the situation which allows him to press efficiently and effectively. His commitment and work ethic are immense in the pitch. He registered 4.4 interceptions per 90 minutes, top 10 in the league.
Such energetic runs and presses from Buendia could bring downfall to the team defence. He would over-commit to a tackle which let the opponent to dribble past him. This would put the team into a disadvantage as his teammates might not be close enough to cover him which put them into a dilemma. He could have slowed down and utilise his cover-shadow to cut out the opposition’s options in order to create a pressing trap. This will help maintaining the defending shape of the team.
Below is an example showing Buendia had over-committed to try to intercept a pass. This resulted in opening up spaces behind him to be exploited. He should have stay in the centre, shoulder-checking the spaces behind him to make sure he could cover it and gradually close the ball-holder down. This could force the opponent to pass to the side where the team could press easier.
When it comes to defending and making challenges, Buendia is brave and aggressive as he brings in a lot of energy to close down the oppositions. However, since his arrival at the Carrow Road two and a half years ago, he has been sent off for 3 times. One of his major issues is being impulsive and reckless. He has to control his temper as it may affect the team atmosphere.
Buendia has continued his impressive performance to dominate the Championship this season. No doubt he is a technically gifted player who has an exceptional vision in the pitch. The commitment and work ethic he showed in the pitch was immense. Throughout the time playing under Farke, Norwich has been changing their playing style and approach towards different games which Buendia had no issue adapting to. This has improved his tactical awareness and shaped him to become a more versatile player. However, his defending position and body orientation like utilising his cover-shadow to block the passing lane still have room for improvement.
Halfway through the season, the dominating performance from Norwich could once again win them the promotion. Whether he will fight his way back to the Premier League with Norwich or not, it seems he is destined to play in the top tier as teams were started to lay their eyes on him. He is capable of playing at almost any position up front in the midfield, staying wide or centre. He has the ability to be a no.8 to connect the team by dropping deep and bring the ball forward. He has the tools to develop and play in a different position depends on how the manager would like to structure the team with him. It will be pleasant to see him shine at the highest level.