When Steven Gerrard was appointed as Aston Villa boss many fans and pundits anticipated a positive impact on the midfielders already at the club. None of which felt the benefit of having Gerrard’s expertise in charge more than Marvelous Nakamba.
Nakamba started every single game for Villa until suffering a severe knee injury in the fixture against Liverpool at Anfield, and in his absence Villa have looked increasingly more vulnerable defensively.
Speaking on the impact of Nakamba in the early stages of his tenure, Gerrard stated this: “We knew he was a good player, but we’re really pleased with how he’s gone about it in the past couple of weeks.”
Nakamba was a key component in the opening games of the Gerrard era and his impact was felt right from the start. In the first two games against Brighton and Crystal Palace Nakamba recorded seven tackles, two blocks, two interceptions and a 92% pass accuracy.
In these two fixtures, Villa limited their opponents to seven shots per game, a 0.65 expected goals (xG) value and 12 shot creating actions. However, in the last five games opponents have averaged just under 17 shots, 1.2 xG and 21 shot creating actions.
The absence of Marvelous Nakamba has been felt dramatically as Villa look easier to pick apart and create against. Douglas Luiz has attempted to fill the void the Zimbabwean has left, but sadly does not offer the same defensive cover when operating as the holding midfielder.
Villa have shown their resilience at times, as outlined in their second half defensive performance in the 1-0 win against Everton prior to the winter break. However, given the volume of shots and chances they are now allowing, performances similar to the Leeds United one seem inevitable at times.
It is early days in the Gerrard era and it would be unfair to expect all aspects of the team to be coming together at once so soon. Nevertheless, in the opening games a common theme throughout was how organised and secure Villa looked. Sadly, in Nakamba’s absence Villa have struggled to replicate this.