Villa feel Nakamba’s absence

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Marvelous Nakamba

BY TERRY MADYAUTA
ASTON Villa are struggling to fill the void left by the injured Marvellous Nakamba, with Brazilian Douglas Luiz on the verge as he struggles for form.

The Warriors star picked a knee injury on December 11 when they played against Liverpool and has been recovering from a successful surgery.

That injury also ruled him out of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals that were staged in Cameroon last month.

In his absence, the Warriors failed to leave a lasting impression and while that is a closed chapter for now, it seems his unavailability has left Aston Villa manager Stephen Gerrard struggling to find a perfect holding midfielder, at least until Nakamba’s expected return in May.

At this point, Villa’s wretched run reads one win in seven matches.

On Sunday, a furious Gerrard labelled his team’s defeat to Newcastle as the worst performance since he took the job back in November, with Luiz one of the fall guys following a lackadaisical performance in the midfield.

As a result, the former Liverpool captain hinted that he would make wholesale changes in their next match in six days’ time, with Luiz among other players likely to be benched.

Gerrard said. “I believe there will be changes to the team. That is only normal after a performance like that and everyone needs to be ready next week.”

In truth, their number six position, where Nakamba had been sterling before the injury, remains their main sticking point.

Nakamba’s position is arguably their most-important in the favoured 4-3-2-1 formation and that they did not acquire a back-up defensive linkman during the transfer window looks set to hurt them from now until May when he is expected to return.

“With Nakamba, he will be back fit soon so we will assess it as we go along. He was outstanding for us in the early weeks of our arrival,” Gerrard said.

Meanwhile, the long-term injury spell means Nakamba will again miss the 2023 Afcon qualifiers that are earmarked for March.

The qualifiers for the tournament to be held in Ivory Coast are set to run from March to September.

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