After an excellent team performance, it’s difficult to pick any stand-out player from Aston Villa’s win over Brentford, but Emiliano Buendia showed exactly why he should be a regular starter.
The 25-year-old struggled to cement his place in the Villa XI under Steven Gerrard, as he made just three starts this season under the former boss while totalling just under 450 minutes of football.
Having made a positive impact whenever introduced into games, it was one of the big frustrations with Gerrard during his time in charge in terms of not utilising the quality at his disposal, particularly those in the final third.
While he often went with his preference of playing Philippe Coutinho, it led to a malaise for Villa in front of goal with others struggling too. As we saw this past weekend though, interim boss Aaron Danks gave more freedom to Buendia, Leon Bailey, Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings while playing them in roles better suited to them, and it led to an electric performance.
As mentioned above, the likes of Ings, Watkins, Bailey, Douglas Luiz and Leander Dendoncker all deserve praise too, but Buendia also showcased so much on and off the ball to hopefully solidify his place in the side moving forward.
Buendia excels in 4-2-3-1, heartbeat of Villa side
With the formation tweak to a 4-2-3-1, Villa had genuine width with Bailey and Watkins on the flanks, and their pace, movement and directness caused Brentford real problems throughout as we played to their strengths and maximised their threat.
What their play also did though was to stretch the Brentford defence and their shape and organisation off the ball, allowing Buendia to find pockets of space in more central areas where he had time on the ball to influence our play.
The Argentine playmaker is constantly probing and on the move, has the vision to pick out players with killer passes and has the technical quality to link play up, string things together and create openings for both himself and his teammates.
In 71 minutes on Sunday, he had 47 touches and played two key passes while having a couple of attempts on goal himself while being involved in the earlier build-up play which led to some of our goals.
It isn’t just what he does in possession though. Buendia also registered four tackles, he won nine of 14 duels and covered a significant amount of ground as he helped set the tone in the opposition half with his aggressive and intense pressing.
Naturally, he’ll be disappointed he didn’t make a more decisive contribution in the form of goals and assists in such a big win, but the hug from Danks after he was substituted said it all as he had provided an all-action, committed and tireless performance which included sacrificing himself for the team by doing the dirty work to go with the attacking flair.
If we stick with this system and continue to deploy Buendia through the middle, it’s going to produce results. With runners all around him and the defensive protection that the midfield pivot offers behind him, he has the license to express himself.
Importantly though, instead of chopping and changing and constantly taking him out of the Villa XI after just one game, which was the case under the previous boss more often than not, he needs a run in the side now to showcase his best work.
Buendia has all the characteristics to be a fundamental figure in this Villa side, the heartbeat of our attacking play as well as the defensive tone setter with his work off the ball. It’s hoped Danks, and whoever is named the long-term successor, see that and make him a focal point in the team.