Ultimately, Daniel Farke’s men fell short by some margin, and were immediately relegated back to the Championship after finishing 14 points from safety.
Their five wins and six draws saw them claim just 21 points from their 38 matches, with the club’s disappointing season epitomised by the fact they recorded more losses (27) than scored goals (26). Just one win away from home is another statistic that the German boss won’t want to hear again.
But with every cloud there is a silver lining, with Norwich’s coming in the form of 23-year-old attacker Emiliano Buendia.
The Argentine made an immediate impact upon his arrival on English soil in June 2018, playing a key role with eight goals and 12 assists to ensure his side clinched the Championship title and promotion to the Premier League.
As a reward for all their hard work the previous season, the Canaries were thrown in at the deep end with an opening day meeting at eventual champions Liverpool.
For Buendia, it was a chance to show what he was all about. An inch-perfect assist and a customary yellow card for the youngster proved he was ready to mix it with the very best, despite the Reds coming out on top as 4-1 winners.
Another assist followed in the 3-2 loss to Chelsea at Carrow Road, with two more arriving in their next home encounter, a stunning 3-2 victory over Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Four assists in Buendia’s first five games in the Premier League was some introduction.
That creativity did dry up as Norwich went through a rough patch right up to the festive period. But the winger once again chose the toughest fixtures to work his magic around Christmas, recording crucial assists in draws against Leicester, Tottenham and Crystal Palace.
For various reasons, however, the club’s demise grew heavily from March onwards. The winger’s minutes were staggered as Farke tried all he could to rectify the situation, but it was too little too late and, in a totally forgettable period for all involved with the Canaries, not a single point was picked up from the final 10 games post-lockdown.
Buendia's style of play
Cutting inside and laying team-mates in from his attacking midfield right role in Norwich’s 4-2-3-1 formation is a common theme, with an average of 3.5 completed dribbles P90 conveying his desire to take players on. A 31% involvement in his side’s 26 league goals is no mean feat, but being dispossessed an average of 2.2 times and recording 2.3 unsuccessful touches per game suggests there is room for improvement.
His 11 shots on target from 40 efforts represent an accuracy of 28%, meaning his single goal from 36 league appearances also requires refinement. At least some of that ineffectiveness in front of goal can, however, be put down to a lack of service, given that Buendia himself was providing much of the creativity in an underwhelming squad.
Using both feet, his 2.3 key passes P90 is behind only Jack Grealish, James Maddison and Kevin De Bruyne, with 0.3 through balls P90 second only to the Manchester City playmaker. The Norwich attacker’s seven league assists was on a par with Rashford, Sadio Mane, Bernardo Silva and Willian.
Buendia created 83 chances in the Premier League, behind only De Bruyne (136), Grealish (91) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (87), despite the Norwich man playing fewer minutes than all three and indeed than those occupying the remaining spots in the top 10.
At just 170cm and 65kg, and with similarly tricky feet to Grealish, the forward gets fouled often enough. But he gives as good as he gets, committing 36 fouls throughout the Premier League this season. But his temper often gets the better of him, as evidenced by his early dismissal for an elbow on Burnley’s Ashley Westwood in July.
But cards are a risk with such a selfless attacker, with Buendia’s 82 tackles, 23 interceptions, 13 blocked shots and 24 clearances proving that he is equally adept defensively as he is going forward. A total of 267 duels won and 102 successful 50/50s typify his desire to gain possession for his team across all areas of the pitch.
Buendia's potential destinations
Norwich's relegation could well ignite a mass exodus, with a move for Buendia sure to encourage many of his team-mates to follow suit. Fellow youngsters Todd Cantwell, Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons have all been heavily linked with an exit from Carrow Road in recent weeks.
But where might Buendia end up?
Premier League newcomers Leeds have emerged as an alternative for the winger, with Marcelo Bielsa reportedly keen on improving his attacking options ahead of their long-awaited return. Despite the recent permanent acquisition of Helder Costa, the Yorkshire outfit remain light going forward, with 35-year-old Pablo Hernandez certain to make way in the near future.
The Elland Road faithful have witnessed what the enigmatic boss has done with the likes of Stuart Dallas, with a similar role potentially available for the equally versatile Buendia should a move come to fruition. A £25 million fee is currently dominating the headlines, but Leeds may quickly generate those funds for the 23-year-old if they have true ambitions of remaining in the Premier League for the foreseeable future.
After a disappointing end to an astonishing campaign, the champions may just be considering strengthening in a few areas. The front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane won’t budge for some time, but with Adam Lallana potentially followed by Xherdan Shaqiri out of Anfield, Jurgen Klopp may need some attacking reinforcements.
Technically astute, full of running and unselfish on and off the ball, it’s a match made in heaven, and so the Reds may just turn to Buendia as a suitable backup to their formidable trio.
A return to Spain has also been mentioned, with Atletico Madrid one of a number of clubs reportedly expressing interest. Again, perhaps in more of a supporting role than a starter, but it could be the ideal option from the bench for Diego Simeone’s side.
Despite always remaining comfortable in defence, their 51 league goals was the lowest among the top seven in La Liga this season, meaning he could provide the creative spark that has been missing of late.
Whether he stays or goes, it’s undoubtedly been another impressive campaign for Emi Buendia at Norwich City, but it would be no surprise to see him leave the nest and spread his wings in the near future.