Gerrard insists super substitute Buendía will ‘start games’ for Aston Villa this season

Gerrard insists super substitute Buendía will ‘start games’ for Aston Villa this season

‘No one is a bigger fan of Emi Buendia than I am’: Steven Gerrard insists Aston Villa’s £40m star will ‘start games’ this season after coming off the bench to score the crucial goal against Everton

  • Steven Gerrard promised to solve Aston Villa’s riddle in attacking midfield
  • He has been choosing between midfielders Emi Buendia and Philippe Coutinho
  • Villa spent £40m on Buendia before Coutinho signed for £17m this summer
  • Gerrard insisted Buendia ‘will start matches’ alongside or instead of Coutinho
  • Buendía came off the bench to score the winning goal as Villa beat Everton 2-1

When you’ve already spent around £40m on an attacking midfielder, spending an extra £17m to get the best out of him might seem a bit excessive.

However, the prospect of losing his place in the Aston Villa squad to Philippe Coutinho seems to have galvanized Emiliano Buendía.

The Argentine, who was Villa’s record signing when he arrived from Norwich last summer and took the number 10 shirt of the late Jack Grealish, is a racy, spiky character. You often have to tell him to cool down in training sessions, such is his determination to win small games.

Steven Gerrard has promised Emiliano Buendía will 'start games' for Aston Villa this season

Steven Gerrard has promised Emiliano Buendía will ‘start games’ for Aston Villa this season

Before matches at Villa Park, he can be seen on the pitch with Villa’s other South Americans as they share a cup of yerba mate, an herbal tea popular across the continent.

At first glance, Buendía is as confident as he seems, but even his self-confidence would have been affected by Villa manager Steven Gerrard’s desperation to sign his former Liverpool team-mate Coutinho. Both are at their best in the No 10 role behind the strikers in the 4-3-1-2 system.

So when Villa decided to remove Coutinho from Barcelona permanently following a mixed five-month loan spell, there were questions about where Buendia would fit in. Two games into the season, Buendía has given Gerrard a puzzle to solve. Where Coutinho has worked through the first two games, Buendía has looked fresh and creative.

He came off the bench to score the winner and help Villa beat Everton 2-1 on Saturday.

He came off the bench to score the winner and help Villa beat Everton 2-1 on Saturday.

When he replaced the Brazilian, who was suffering from muscle strains, after an hour against Everton, Buendía immediately set up John McGinn for a long shot. He then had a clear effort from the line before playing on Danny Ings and finally scoring Villa’s second, completing a clever combination with Ollie Watkins.

Having bet so much on Coutinho, Gerrard is hardly going to give him up now. So how do you get both the Brazilian and Buendia on his best team? If you play both, it means changing the system or team balance, and probably leaving out Ings or Watkins.

Ings scored against Everton and Watkins set up both goals so that doesn’t make sense.

Playmaker Philippe Coutinho moved to Aston Villa permanently from Barcelona for £17m

Playmaker Philippe Coutinho moved to Aston Villa permanently from Barcelona for £17m

You don’t choose the team, do you? was Gerrard’s sharp response when he was asked why Buendía was not a self-starter. ‘Yes, so I make those decisions. We have very good options in the last third. Emi Buendía will start in the matches of this team. He was winning the race for a starting job in the opening game of the season.

“But he injured a muscle in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Fulham and missed nearly a week. Then his training performance was slightly below what it had been before the injury, so we’ve been patient with him.

“We put him against Everton when the team needed energy and quality and he delivered. Nobody is a bigger fan of Emi Buendía than me.’

Gerrard's first meeting with Frank Lampard on the touchline ended in a 2-1 victory over Everton

Gerrard’s first meeting with Frank Lampard on the touchline ended in a 2-1 victory over Everton

Everton manager Frank Lampard must want Gerrard’s attacking potential. With Dominic Calvert-Lewin out injured and Salomon Rondon still not fully fit, Lampard doesn’t have an orthodox centre-forward and it showed. With his team yet to get on the board after two games, Lampard is keen to solve the striker’s problem quickly.

He said: ‘Dominic has been out injured for two weeks and it’s a five-six week injury, so we need to get some perspective.

‘We are not going to be fools. We are going to try to find the right player who can help us in the short term but complement Dominic in the long term. We have to evaluate all those things.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.