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Transfer Rumor: Arsenal pursuing Emi Buendia

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But Aston Villa have emerged as frontrunners to sign the Norwich midfielder.

Barnsley v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Norwich star Emi Buendia is one of Arsenal’s top targets this summer transfer window, but it looks as if Aston Villa might pip the Gunners to sign the center attacking midfielder. The 24-year old Argentine international was linked with a move to North London in the January window, and there were even whispers last summer that the then-relegated Norwich would be open to moving their creative maestro for the right price.

UPDATE: Norwich beat reporters Paddy Davitt and Michael Bailey have tweeted confirmation that Buendia to Villa is set to be announced in the coming days.

Price appears to be the sticking point for Arsenal, with Villa apparently more willing to come closer to Norwich’s £40M valuation. There were reports earlier this week that both clubs had made offers around £30M, although whether the Gunners made a formal bid is in dispute. As I was writing, Chris Weatley confirmed that Arsenal did make an official bid and that the club are “very interested” in buying Buendia.

Not in dispute is that Villa have come back with a second bid, thought to be around £35M. The Canaries can afford to be patient with Buendia because of the financial security afforded by being re-promoted to the Premier League this season. They’ve also reportedly purchased his 20% sell-on clause from Getafe, meaning they’ll get the full amount of the transfer price to reinvest in the squad.

Buendia is a good player, and he’s a creative attacker, something in short supply in North London right now. His 2019-2020 stats, when Norwich were last (and came in last, FWIW) in the Premier League, compare favorably with those from players on Arsenal’s squad this season — he’d be top 3 or 4 in most assist-based categories. He lit up the Championship this season, scoring 15 goals and adding 17 assists. He would definitely improve the attack.

But Arsenal are also interested in securing another loan or permanent move for Martin Ødegaard, and those two guys aren’t the only creative attackers who’ll be on the move this summer. It may be an unpopular take, but I’m alright with Arsenal missing out on Buendia. If the price isn’t right, it isn’t right. The Gunners have several needs this summer, and even though a creative attacker is high on the list, the club does not need to get into a bidding war. And today’s buzz, which originates partly from reports out of Buendia’s native Argentina, feels designed to do just that.

Who stands to gain from increasing Buendia’s transfer fee? His agency, TwentyTwo Sports Management that represents almost exclusively Argentina, Chilean, and Peruvian players, and Norwich. And what sparked today’s flurry? Reports from an Argentine outlet. I hope y’all see the flashing neon lights connecting the dots.

The optics of losing out on a player to Aston Villa aren’t great, but I doubt anybody at Arsenal actually cares about that. And honestly, we shouldn’t care about that either. Nor should we care about the actual price Arsenal end up paying for Buendia or anybody else. The important thing is whether Edu and company, come next fall, have appropriately strengthened the squad to compete for a Champions League place. How they get there is largely irrelevant.

It’s fun to play armchair director of football and think about what would be a good deal or a deal breaker, but that’s all it is — fun. Arsenal know their transfer budget. They’ve got their list of needs, have identified players to fill those slots, and have roughly allocated what they want to spend on each opening. So whether it’s Buendia, Ødegaard, Houssem Aouar, or another player doesn’t much matter to me as long as Arsenal bring in somebody in that spot this summer.

The elephant that will be hanging out in the transfer rumor room all summer (and perhaps beyond) is whether Edu, Mikel Arteta, and the recruitment team at Arsenal will make smart moves for good players, and more fundamentally, whether they’re the right bunch to have in charge at all. At the moment, there’s a massive disconnect between the public confidence in the Arsenal brain-trust and the internal confidence in that same group. The club feel that they’ve got the right people in place. We’re not nearly as convinced.

This summer’s business will tell the tale.