Aston Villa will begin life under Steven Gerrard when they take on Brighton and Hove Albion following the international break, and the new manager faces an extensive list of issues to resolve if he’s to turn things around and steady the ship.
Getting the best out of both Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins, reinstating Douglas Luiz and getting Tyrone Mings back to his best will be high up the 41-year-old’s agenda, but unlocking Emi Buendia’s true potential will surely be his priority.
The 24-year-old arrived at Villa Park for a club-record £33m over the summer and was hailed as a “great addition” by former boss Dean Smith after signing a five-year deal.
“We are delighted to have made such an exciting signing so early in the summer,” said Smith. “Emiliano is equally capable as a wide attacker or as a number 10 and is a great addition to our attacking options.”
It was hoped that Buendia would plug the gap that Jack Grealish left behind went he departed for Manchester City, yet the Argentina international has so far found life tough at the Premier League outfit.
After bagging 15 goals and providing 17 assists in 41 appearances last season as Norwich City cruised to the Championship title, the £18m-rated creative genius was named the Canaries’ player of the season.
However, he’s failed to translate eye-catching exploits at Carrow Road into standout performances at Villa in the early stages of his career with his new club.
Earning around £75k-per-week at Villa Park, Buendia has only completed the full 90 minutes on one occasion after making seven top-flight starts throughout 2021/22, highlighting his peripheral role within the squad, and when looking at his underlying numbers, it’s easy to understand why.
As per SofaScore, the versatile attacker created just two big chances in his 546 minutes of Premier League action, has averaged just 1.1 dribbles per game, 35.7 touches and has provided a single goal and one assist.
With Grealish gone, the player who was lauded as a “special talent” by former teammate Ben Gibson and a “game-changer” by ex-boss Daniel Farke must now step up and showcase his truly top-class potential on the biggest stage of all.
It will be up to Gerrard to devise a system, style and set of tactics that allow the Argentine to shine, and if the young tactician can do so, he could revive Buendia’s career and continue his progression as a manager in the process.