After a difficult run of form saw them go win-less in their last four games in all competitions, Aston Villa got back on track with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Newcastle United on Saturday night.
Dean Smith’s side returned to winning ways in the Premier League thanks to goals from Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traore, but amid John McGinn’s suspension against the Magpies, Marvelous Nakamba stepped up to the plate big-time.
With reports linking the Zimbabwe international with a move away in the January transfer window, the game against Newcastle seemed to have echoes of the midfielder entering last chance saloon at Villa Park.
And boy did he take his opportunity.
Partnering Douglas Luiz in the middle of the park, Nakamba was a snarling presence in front of the back four, always making sure that Newcastle couldn’t get in between the lines – he made two tackles and two interceptions a piece, both of which were triple his season average (0.6).
The Zimbabwean also kept things ticking over, winning back the ball and then just playing it simple to the likes of Luiz and Jack Grealish further forward. It was no surprise that he boasted a quite incredible 99% pass accuracy and completed the most amount of passes of any player on the pitch, dictating the tempo for Smith’s side.
The Birmingham Mail’s Ashley Preece gave him a 7.5, saying: “Back in for his first start and first taste of match action since Burnley in mid-December, some five games ago. Kept possession really well in the heart of Villa’s midfield. Always offered short from goal kicks and looked unflustered against Newcastle’s midfield.
“A much welcome 90 minutes for Nakamba who proved his worth to Villa’s squad with a good performance as he broke up play whenever he could. Did well on his return.”
Nakamba sent a huge message to his boss that he can still be a key member of this squad, and it now remains to be seen whether he’s done enough to convince Smith that it would be far better for the club for him to stay put in this January transfer window.
Morgan Sanson may be arriving, but Nakamba isn’t ready to say goodbye just yet.
Meanwhile, Villa must land this Scandinavian starlet…