Unai Emery forced to rip up Aston Villa playbook for Newcastle clash after Emi Buendia development
Emi Buendia’s knee ligament injury represents a huge blow for Aston Villa and Unai Emery may well have been forced to rip up his plans for their Premier League opening day clash against Newcastle.
The BBC reported on 10 August that the injury will keep him out of action for eight months, with the new campaign arguably supposed to be Buendia’s biggest yet in the West Midlands.
News of Buendia’s injury surprisingly broke via Aston Villa’s official website, and the likely replacements to fill Buendia’s void include Leon Bailey, Cameron Archer and youngster Jaden Philogene, with all three capable of filling the inverted wide role in the Argentine’s absence or even at number 10.
The Argentinian proved a crucial component in Villa’s progression throughout pre-season, starting and featuring in all of their pre-season games which hinted at Emery’s plans for him for their fixture against Newcastle and the rest of the campaign as his leading creative outlet, before his disastrous new injury.
And Buendia’s blow wasn’t the first in fact, with Villa Park wonder Jacob Ramsey suffering a broken metatarsal injury [The Athletic, 7 July] against Portugal after a nasty tackle which left him out of the rest of England’s triumphant Under-21 European Championship campaign.
It’s uncertain when Ramsey will return for Villa but his creative edge will also be cruelly missed too, which may leave room for exit-linked Philippe Coutinho to return to Emry’s thinking.
It is abundantly clear that Buendia would be sorely missed at Villa Park after emerging last season as one of their most decisive and gifted creative weapons last season, whether playing through the middle at no.10 or wide on the left.
In terms of his final third influence this season, the 26-year-old playmaker has grabbed all the headlines and the stats have proved as much. Buendia ranked third in the Villa team for key passes (41), second for shot-creating actions (90), and fourth for goal-creating actions (10), as per FBRef last season, showcasing his tremendous exploits when trying to create chances for his teammates.
He also ranks in the 93rd percentile of forwards in Europe’s top-five leagues for through balls per 90 [FBRef], and in fact provided considerably more of those than any of his Villa teammates [WhoScored], proving just how crucial he is and will continue to be in the final third.
Such a decisive component will be sorely missed, but certainly forces Emery’s thinking again for the clash at St James’ Park on Saturday evening.
Will the Spaniard go with a 4-3-3 setup with Moussa Diaby and Leon Bailey as the wingers on either side of Watkins, with Kamara at the base of the midfield triumvirate alongside John McGinn and Douglas Luiz?
Having both Bailey and Diaby could certainly upset Villa’s attacking balance and control with the Spaniard throughout his time in West Midlands utilising the ingenuity of Buendia and Ramsey as his unfamiliar wide components to offer more creative freedom within a rigid tactical framework.
Villa will certainly need to be conservative at St James’ Park against an aggressive and rampant Eddie Howe side, which may mean more defensive work for Bailey and Diaby. Buendia and Ramsey are known to thrive when fulfilling both defensive and attacking responsibilities.
Buendia ranked in the 86th percentile for tackles, averaging 1.98 per game from his advanced midfield position, while he is also in the 81st percentile for interceptions with 0.76 per game [FBref], displaying his eagerness to track back and help out his team, which has been a major factor in Villa’s defensive stability under Emery but that cutting edge won’t be present for much of the campaign now.
It’s a new territory for Diaby after his summer arrival which means he may not be thrown in immediately, while Bailey has failed to live up to the Aston Villa billing consistently.
Or does Emery choose to start McGinn as a wide outlet in place of Diaby or Bailey as he so often did to great effect last season?
Whatever the former Villarreal boss decides to do in the lead-up to the game will be incredibly intriguing as he has been known to adapt tactically throughout his glittering managerial career but one thing is for certain, the Spaniard has certainly been forced to rip up his playbook after Buendia’s injury blow.