Football Features

“The real heartbeat of Aston Villa’s new attacking unit” – Buendia shines as Gerrard beats Everton yet again

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:38, 22 January 2022

Emi Buendia was the match-winner as Aston Villa beat Everton at Goodison Park.

Steven Gerrard’s first return to the home of his former rivals as a manager went his way as Villa picked up their first win in over a month. And the game-winner and best player wasn’t his new star man Philippe Coutinho nor former Everton player Lucas Digne but the summer’s big signing that Gerrard has finally gotten firing.

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Emi Buendia joined Villa in the summer for £30m and looked well placed to replace Jack Grealish when the Englishman departed to Manchester City for £100m. But Buendia never really got going under Dean Smith, and it’s taken Steven Gerrard and amusingly enough the arrival of Coutinho to bring the best out of Buendia.

By shaping his team to accommodate the Brazilian, Gerrard has necessarily had to facilitate a kind of football and shape that plays into Buendia’s strengths as an associative attacking player. We saw it in both games against Manchester United, where the Argentine’s movement was sharp, he carried the ball well and he kept Villa on the offensive.

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That dominance continued at Goodison, especially in the first-half. Buendia was impossible to contain, even with Everton getting the new manager bounce from Duncan Ferguson. The Argentina completed 3/4 dribbles, took 4 shots with 2 on target (both game-highs) and made 3 tackles as well as he truly pushed the tempo for Villa.

And, of course, he scored the goal. With the first-half winding down Lucas Digne whipped a corner in to the near-post and despite standing 5’6, Buendia rose highest at the near-post and got a wonderfully deft connection on the ball, flicking it up and goalward, so high that Jordan Pickford with arms outstretched could only get a fingertip to it, which was not enough to deflect it over (only over the head of Andros Townsend on the goal-line, who may have cleared it).

While Coutinho has taken the glory, to watch Buendia is to see the key playmaker for Villa. Obviously Gerrard’s side are a great unit, with everyone contributing (with 6 tackles John McGinn was a ceaseless dynamo in the middle, Watkins completed 4/6 take-ons, etc.) but Buendia is the creative spark and hub of the team. All of Villa’s good play flows through him.

The win makes it 10 defeats in 13 for Everton, and for Villa it lifts them up to 10th in the top-half of the table. Coutinho has taken the headlines, but Emi Buendia is the real heartbeat of Aston Villa’s new attacking unit.