Aston Villa are enjoying their best Premier League season for some time. The foundation of their success has been their rock-solid defence which has kept an impressive 13 clean sheets- a record only bettered by Manchester City. The defence has excelled but so has the midfield. One man who is yet to concede this season while playing for Aston Villa is defensive midfielder Marvelous Nakamba.
Used sparingly this season, Nakamba has seized any opportunity given to him by Dean Smith. He’s featured in eight league games, starting four of those. In his 377 minutes of Premier League, Villa haven’t conceded a goal.
An impressive statistic to hold and the Zimbabwe international could be the difference for Villa in the final few months of the season. Villa are very much in the race for the European places and the form of Nakamba could be the ace in the Villa pack.
Marvellous Nakamba: The Ace in Aston Villa’s Midfield Pack
377 Minutes and Counting
The Zimbabwe international, like many Villa arrivals in the summer of 2019, has taken his time to settle. He has been a substitute for much of his time but he is a player Dean Smith can always rely on.
Nakamba provides the ideal protection for the Villa defence. He does the dirty work efficiently and isn’t afraid to put himself about. His record is impressive in terms of Villa not conceding while he is on the pitch. Nakamba put in an outstanding performance against Leeds United on Saturday. The Villa performance was excellent at Elland Road and Nakamba epitomised everything Villa did well.
They stifled Leeds and forced them into very few chances- even restricting them to no second-half shots on target. Nakamba led by example and dominated the midfield. He marshalled Leeds’ creative midfielders and protected Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings brilliantly – Unsurprisingly, his performance got rave reviews from Dean Smith
That Leeds performance summed up what he is all about. It’s not the first and it won’t be the last kind of performance we see from him. In Nakamba’s four starts this season, Villa have collected ten points, scored four times and not conceded. Their draw with Burnley is the only tie Villa haven’t won when he has started.
He has struggled to cement a regular starting place in the Villa side but that performance at Leeds emphasises his consistency when he does play. Nakamba does face stiff competition but he can certainly cement the defensive midfield role.
His importance to the Villa squad is being realised so much that Villa are blocking him from representing Zimbabwe in their African Cup of Nations qualifiers at the end of the month. While this is largely down to the new travel restrictions in the United Kingdom, Nakamba could miss key games against Fulham and Liverpool at the start of April. The new rules would mean a mandatory ten day period of self-isolation after Zimbabwe was added to the red list in the UK.
Villa blocking Nakamba emphasises his growing importance to the team and the significant part he will play for the rest of this season.
Good Problem for Dean Smith to Have
Aston Villa have the luxury of having two quality defensive midfielders in Marvelous Nakamba and Brazilian international Douglas Luiz. Both have demonstrated their qualities and have grown since arriving in the summer of 2019.
Douglas Luiz has been Dean Smith’s preferred choice since Villa returned to the Premier League. Luiz has impressed with a string of consistent performances and quality on the ball. Since joining Villa, he has nailed a place in the Brazilian national side and has grown into a top midfielder.
Smith wants Villa to play exciting, attacking football and, at times, Luiz is central to that. His passing range and skills on the ball are excellent. He links well with the likes of John McGinn, Jack Grealish and Ollie Watkins. However, while he does provide good protection to the defence, it’s certainly an area where he can improve. He does do the dirty work but, arguably, Nakamba does it better.
Nakamba is a rock-solid midfielder who stays in the number six role protecting the defence. He tackles well and tries to bring a calm, assuring presence. However, he differs from Luiz in terms of quality on the ball. His passing and dribbling isn’t as strong as the Brazilians.
Both bring different qualities to the side and both do their jobs well in the side. What is interesting to note is the pair very rarely play together. Dean Smith has occasionally rotated them in certain matches as well as swapping them during matches.
There is definitely a case for both to start together in midfield. They did briefly play together when John McGinn missed three months with injury last season but, since the Scotland international returned, that hasn’t been the case. It’s a great problem for Dean Smith to have with both his defensive midfielders having excellent seasons.
Marvelous Nakamba Can Nail Down Number Six Role in Coming Matches
Aston Villa will face a busy end to the season with 14 Premier League games to play in the final three months of the season. His performance at Leeds has certainly put him in Dean Smith’s thinking for their trip to Sheffield United tomorrow.
While the Blades haven’t been free-scoring, Smith will want his defence to keep their guard up and performance levels strong. That will certainly come into his thinking and Nakamba should keep his place in the side.
The trip to Bramall Lane is followed by a crucial West Midlands derby with Wolverhampton Wanderers. The reverse fixture went Villa’s way but they gave Wolves plenty of opportunities to score. Douglas Luiz was sent off in that tie for two rash challenges so the pace of the game may suit Nakamba as opposed to Luiz.
A trip to Newcastle United follows the Wolves match- another game where Villa will fancy their chances of securing victory. With Newcastle likely to set up to be robust and hard to beat, Nakamba could provide the protection Villa need when Newcastle try to counter-attack.
The next sequence of games offers Nakamba a great chance to maintain his place in the Villa side as well as maintain his impressive record.
Nakamba: The Key Player From the Villa Bench
With Villa having their best chance of playing European football for some time, the performances of Marvelous Nakamba could be the difference between a top ten finish and a top-six finish.
Villa currently have a top-six finish in their own hands with Dean Smith’s side having two games in hand. Their games in hand are against direct rivals in Everton and Tottenham Hotspur. Villa will end up playing both sides twice in their remaining 14 matches. Nakamba’s starts this campaign have largely come against sides who like to play attacking football. He was integral against Leeds and Arsenal as Villa won both matches.
Aston Villa will face plenty of their rivals for European football between now and the end of the season. As well as facing Tottenham and Everton twice, Villa have to play Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.
Marvelous Nakamba could well be deputising in the number six role further and should he continue to perform, he could the difference for Villa. He is certainly a quality performer to have when required – the ace in the Villa pack if you will.
It’s a huge credit to Nakamba that he has been performing so well despite featuring quite sparingly. He has certainly emerged as a top defensive midfielder in the Premier League. The midfielder is Marvelous by name and nature.
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