Marvelous Nakamba has been at Aston Villa for over a year now but a long and illustrious future ahead in Birmingham still seems far from certain at this stage. The 26-year-old’s playing time has been limited to just two Premier League appearances this season, totalling a mere 13 minutes, which suggests that he is some way down the pecking order at Villa Park.
Of course, it was never going to be easy to immediately hold down a starting position in the Premier League after arriving from Club Brugge in Belgium in 2019. The pace of play in the Belgian First Division A is some way off that of the Premier League and for Nakamba, who is a defensive midfielder, it really was the proverbial baptism of fire trying to break up attacks and keep the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane in check.
Marvelous Nakamba is going to Wembley!!! Drop an emoji and celebrate with us! #AlwaysFootballTime #ZimExcellence pic.twitter.com/PkCjWPB6cx
— DStvZimbabwe (@DStvZimbabwe) January 31, 2020
Villa’s turbulent 2019/2020 season
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With that said, Villa boss Dean Smith showed a great deal of faith in the Zimbabwean and used him 29 times in the Premier League in his first season. All things told, it was a campaign that many Villa fans were relieved to have behind them after avoiding relegation on the last day of the season.
To say that it was touch and go would be an understatement of some proportion, given that if it wasn’t for a freak occlusion from hawk-eye in the first half of a crucial match against Sheffield United, Aston Villa would have been relegated.
Needless to say, the 2019/2020 season brought with it a lot more trauma than it did celebration. This is perhaps where Nakamba is a victim of the circumstances by being part of the lasting image of that taxing campaign. Indeed, given just how close Villa came to returning to the Championship after just one season of Premier League football, the groundswell of opinion in the Aston Villa boardroom was that they needed a fresh start. This approach was centred around a change of tack in the transfer market with the onus now on recruiting players who had a proven track record in England’s top-flight.
A new broom sweeps clean
With Villa having played eight games already this season, you might be tempted to say that this new way of doing things has already paid dividends, as Dean Smith’s men have already accumulated 15 points and sit in seventh place. And, as for the prospect of relegation, which loomed so large last season, as of the 26th of November, Betway have priced Villa at 20/1 to go down. That’s further confirmation that the new approach taken by the Villans is proving to be successful.
Where this leaves Nakamba, however, is a question that is hard to answer but his stats for this season speak for themselves in terms of his absence in the starting line-ups.
In reality, the less the midfielder has to do with Villa’s recovery and subsequent surge up the Premier League table, the more he will be associated with the failed summer signings of 2019. Indeed, sitting idly by and playing no part in nights like the one that Villa enjoyed in North London at the Emirates stadium, where they demolished Arsenal to win 3-0, will do nothing for the Zimbabwean’s long-term Villa cause.
Arsenal's defenders will be having nightmares about Ollie Watkins 😨pic.twitter.com/TdLvfa0Z5g
— Goal (@goal) November 10, 2020
Naturally, he would have hoped to play a bigger part in the season so far, but with Smith using him as sparingly as he is doing, there won’t be the chance to carry on the impressive form he showed in previous years. That’s form which even had Liverpool eyeing the defensive midfielder at one stage.
Indeed, even looking back at some of his displays last season, you can comfortably say that it was far from a wasted campaign for Nakamba personally, who memorably scooped the man of the match gong against West Ham in a 0-0 performance at Villa Park. But to remember that, Villa fans would have to cast their minds back to that agonizing season, something they won’t be willing to do in a hurry.
Don’t decrease the GOAL, Increase the EFFORT ⚽️💜 pic.twitter.com/RskvFrPDpp
— Marvelous Nakamba (@Nakamba_11) August 22, 2020
Nakamba needs to be marvellous when the time comes
All the 26-year-old can do is wait his turn and be ready when called upon which will surely happen over the gruelling winter months ahead in the Premier League. Fellow countryman Benjani believes that when Smith does slot Nakamba back into the Villa midfield, he will prove his critics wrong.
Time will tell and Benjani’s backing will do Marvelous Nakamba the world of good but, ultimately, the Zimbabwean needs fate to intervene somewhere in order for him to state his claim at Villa.