ZIMBABWE international midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, who has been subject of intense speculations during the current transfer window, has proved why he is still key for English Premiership football side Aston Villa.
The 27-year-old put up a blinding performance in midfield as aDean Smith’s men defeated Newcastle 2-0 at Villa Park on Saturday night.
Nakamba had largely played cameo roles this term but he returned to the starting line-up after he was slotted in as replacement for suspended Scottish international, John McGinn.
The midfielder has apparently been struggling for minutes and this has led to many theories about his future at the English Premiership club. The Zimbabwe international has for a long time been linked strongly with a move away to Turkish Super League giants, Galatasaray, where many critics have suggested he could get more game-time.
But the former Bantu Rovers man proved he is still a reliable player in the tough English Premier League and was in fine top form alongside Brazilian David Luiz in only his second full game for this season.
SkySports gave him a rating of 7/10 while Villa special correspondent at Birmingham Mail, Ashley Preece, felt the Zimbabwean midfielder deserved a 7.5 rating. Only Ezri Konsa (8.5), Bertrand Traore (8) and skipper Jack Grealish (8) were rated higher.
“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,” observed Preece in his review for the Birmingham Mail yesterday.
“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,” he added.
Nakamba, who cost Villa £11 million from Club Brugge and is earning £32 500-a-week at Villa Park, had last played a league game more than five weeks back when he featured in the goalless draw against Burnley.
But he did not look out of place in Saturday night’s game against Newcastle, probably to remind Villa manager Smith of how much he can still offer to the side.
The Zimbabwe international was brilliant with possession and, according to unofficial statistics, he completed 64 of his 65 passes. He also made more ball recoveries than any other Aston Villa player after he was involved in eight successful interceptions.
Villa had gone three games without a victory prior but were impressive against Newcastle. The win lifted them to eighth position on the log standings. They play Burnley next tomorrow before Southampton away next week.
The debate about Nakamba being able to survive the January transfer window was revived last week with news that Villa were chasing after Olympique Marseille midfielder Morgan Sanson.
Already, the side has a glut of midfielders and they have since given one of the linkmen, Conor Hourihane, the blessings to join Championship side Swansea on loan.
Villa have hinted they want to retain their squad although there is possibility for a few alterations. The club’s manager, Smith, has always played his cards close to his chest.
“I think I’ve always said that this is going to be a quiet window for us. Our plans are already looking forward to the summer window and what we’re going to do there.
“But we’re never going to turn our noses up at a good value deal to bring a player in. There’s the possibility of some outs as well,” Smith was recently quoted by the Birmingham Mail.
When asked if he is currently short in midfield given Hourihane’s exit, Smith said: “It was a calculated risk but I also feel that young Jacob Ramsey now has stepped up to the plate and is ready for Premier League action.
“He was unlucky that he didn’t score against Man City when he came on in the week. We’ve got Douglas Luiz, Marvelous Nakamba, Ross Barkley and John McGinn. Conor was frustrated that he wasn’t getting minutes and he’s a player that wants to play. I’ve said before that’s what I admire about him.
“Sometimes you have to take the players’ view on board as well and it was a good decision for both Conor and the football club because he goes out and gets games and comes back to Aston Villa in the summer.”
Another Zimbabwean international, Alec Mudimu, who recently moved from Moldova to Turkey in search of game-time, marked his debut for the Turkish Lig 1 side Ankaraspor with a goalless draw against Eskisehirspor on Saturday.
According to football website Sofascore, the 25-year-old had 77 percent pass accuracy, won four tackles, had four interceptions and won the ball nine out of 10 times. He had an overall rating of 7.8 out of 10, which was higher than any other player on the field.
“Delighted, and very honoured to make my debut today,” he said on his twitter account on Saturday night.
Ankaraspor are currently at the bottom of the log with 10 points from 18 games. They are hoping to maintain the momentum and move away from the relegation zone.
“A point away from home and a clean sheet which is important to build from. We deserved all three points and the team worked unbelievably hard, unfortunately it was not meant to be, plenty of positives build momentum into next week,” said Mudimu.