Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard has received ‘a boost’ over the fitness of midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, according to journalist Pete O’Rourke.
The 28-year-old is currently sidelined after picking up a knee injury in a 1-0 defeat against Liverpool in December, but he’s returned to training much sooner than expected.
Nakamba had established himself as one of the first names on the team sheet following Gerrard’s arrival, starting the first five games of the English tactician’s reign, who labelled him “outstanding”.
After being named as Villa’s Player of the Month for November, the 26-cap Zimbabwe international was forced to undergo surgery and was ruled out of action for up to four months.
However, Gerrard revealed that the tough-tackling dynamo could be set to make his comeback in just three weeks after a successful operation and rehabilitation period.
“Obviously Nakamba is going to be another three to four weeks, hopefully it will be three,” said the former Rangers boss in his pre-match press conference ahead of Villa’s victory over Southampton.
The Midlands outfit have steadied the ship with back-to-back victories in recent weeks after initially struggling with Nakamba’s enforced absence, yet his progress will still be warmly welcomed.
What has O’Rourke said about Nakamba?
Villa are currently sitting in 11th position in the Premier League table and will have aspirations of a top-half finish as the current campaign enters its final few months.
And O’Rourke believes Gerrard’s charges will be buoyed by Nakamba closing in on a return to first-team action, while the player will have a point to prove.
He told GiveMeSport: “Gerrard getting all his best players back fit and back available will come as a boost as we go into the final few months of the season, and Nakamba will be desperate to prove a point and prove that he should be part of Gerrard’s plans going forward.”
Marvelous Nakamba is the only current injury absentee… The midfielder could return after the international break having been sidelined since December.
— Injury Expert (@PremierInjuries) March 9, 2022
How big a miss has Nakamba?
Villa have won four, drawn two and lost five of their 11 fixtures in all competitions since Nakamba picked up his knee problem.
And the African star’s underlying numbers indicate that his absence could have been a sizeable factor in their indifferent form.
As per FBref, Nakamba has ranked in the 93rd percentile for blocks, 85th for pressures and 82nd for tackles amongst players in his position over the last year.
His replacement Douglas Luiz, on the other hand, ranks in the 57th, 71st and 52nd, highlighting the drop-off in defensive output between the two teammates.