The star of Norwich City: Emi Buendia
Photo by James Chance via Getty Images

When Emi Buendia arrived at Norwich City from Getafe ahead the 2018/2019 Championship season, success was was by no means guaranteed.

England's second tier is a strange beast that throws up all kinds of shocks on a weekly basis and numerous players of an international calibre have struggled to adapt to its unique rhythm.

While some sink, others become stuck in the Dwight Gayle paradox where they become unable to thrive anywhere else, such is its bizarre nature.

However, in the case of Buendia, he has proven to be a player that could harness his quality in the unique environment of the Championship, before displaying it on an even more regular basis in the Premier League.

Taking centre stage

For Buendia, a 22-year-old with limited experience of first team football, becoming a regular at Norwich has enabled his game to move to a new level.

While showing evident talent in Spain, the Argentine spent his most recent season fighting relegation from the Segunda Division with Cultural Leonesa.

Despite managing six goals from 40 league appearances, he had not done enough to impress parent club Getafe and he was signed by Norwich on a four-year deal in June 2018.

Buendia arrived at Norwich in a period of flux for the club, with Daniel Farke having overseen huge squad turnover in his first season.

Many of the under-performing and overpaid players from the previous Premier League campaign were sold, with the German scouring the European market to replace them.

Norwich were also placing a greater emphasis on their youth prospects, and the season in which Buendia emerged also saw Jamal Lewis, Max Aarons and Ben Godfrey fully establish themselves.

The losses of James Maddison to Leicester City and Josh Murphy to Cardiff City were a blow though and Norwich started the season slowly, with Buendia not making his first start until the East Anglian Derby in September.

However, the Argentine then began to establish himself and Norwich won 13 of their next 17 Championship matches.

With Teemu Pukki finding his goal scoring touch through the middle, Buendia and Onel Hernandez were used to flank him and their ball carrying ability made Norwich a very potent attacking side.

With Farke keen on possession and Moritz Leitner very capable of circulating the ball from his deep midfield role, Buendia saw plenty of the ball and was encouraged to drive at defenders and utilise his overlapping full-back.

By the end of the season, Buendia had registered eight goals and 12 assists, as well as 2.4 key passes and 1.4 dribbles per game.

Following promotion Farke brought in Patrick Roberts and it was looking as though Buendia, Roberts, Todd Cantwell and Hernandez would be battling for two spots.

However, while Roberts and Hernandez have struggled to adapt, Buendia and Cantwell have flourished and have become two of the club's most valuable players.

Not only has Buendia made the step up though, but his game has adapted, with the Argentine taking on more responsibility in Norwich's build up.

Firstly, he is taking fewer shots this season and has returned no goals compared to his eight last season.

He has failed to score from his 29 shots, but he is a far less frequent shooter than both Cantwell and Pukki, on whom the main goal scoring burden has fallen.

Secondly, Buendia is dribbling and creating more often than he did in the Championship.

From 23 appearances, he is averaging 3.4 completed dribbles per 90 and 3 key passes per 90, which ranks him fourth and second respectively across the entire Premier League.

He has also registered seven assists, which tie him for joint-third in the division.

Overall, these statistics speak of a player that has not only managed the step up, but has also improved and taken on more of an important role within the squad.

Watching Norwich, Buendia is so vital in terms of ball progression and retention, while his security in possession has allowed Cantwell to dovetail with him so effectively.

If Buendia could re-find his aim in front of goal, he has only hit the target eight times this season, Norwich still have hope of staying up this season.

Where next?

With relegation a risk for the Canaries, Buendia should definitely be under consideration by a number of the Premier League's elite.

Wilfried Zaha has been rumoured to be of interest to Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton, but aged 27 and valued at upwards of £60m, Buendia would be a far better option.

The Argentine has shown himself to be almost as good a dribbler as Zaha and a better passer and creator.

Meanwhile, he is four years younger and would cost significantly less.

Buendia may not be as familiar a name to Premier League fans, but given his output since he arrived at Norwich last season there should be little doubt he can step up once again.