Nakamba in check. . . as Villa sign former England international

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© WARRIORS midfielder Marvelous Nakamba will need to improve his performances for Aston Villa after the English Premiership club signed Danny Drinkwater from Chelsea yesterday.

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Drinkwater joins Villa on loan for the rest of the season after finishing his unsuccessful spell with Burnley where he has played only twice, in the past 18 months.

While Drinkwater is expected to provide the much-needed cover for John McGinn, who is out until March after suffering an ankle injury in the defeat to Southampton last month, there is no doubt his arrival will also put Nakamba in check.

Nakamba has seen his form drop in the past few matches which saw him being benched by manager Dean Smith.

Drinkwater, who just like Nakamba can play in a holding role or a more advanced position in midfield, has plenty of experience in the English game after doing his apprentice at Manchester United.

While there was limited first team opportunities at Old Trafford, the 29-year-old burst onto the scene when he joined Leicester City in 2012.

Drinkwater helped the Foxes win back promotion into the Premier League and was a constant feature during the 2015-16 season in which they achieved the impossible by winning the title.

As a result, the midfielder broke into the England national team and has been capped three times by the Three Lions.
Smith was full of praise for Drinkwater when Villa announced his arrival in Birmingham.

“Danny was a key member of Leicester City’s title winning team and has represented England so he is a vastly experienced player. He will strengthen our squad significantly,” Smith told the Villans website.

This should be a wake-up call for Nakamba since Drinkwater arrives as a direct competitor for a starting place in the Villa central midfield.

Arriving at Aston Villa as they were wrapping up their pre-season in August, Nakamba took his time to break into the starting line-up, but went on to prove his mettle after being given the nod.

The 25-year-old defensive midfielder spent the better-part of pre-season injured and inactive while pushing for a move to the Premier League from Club Brugge, with whom he played Champions League football.

The Hwange-born player then missed Villa’s first four Premier League games as he worked on his fitness, before finally making his debut at home against West Ham United.

Until recently, Nakamba had been getting regular football for Villa but the period has seen the team’s form plummet.

Villa have just won three of their last 10 matches in all competitions which has seen them drop to 17th place on the log 21 points from 21 games.

Smith’s team is just a single point above the relegation zone and at the weekend, they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Championship side Fulham after a 2-1 loss at Craven Cottage.
During a recent 1-0 win over Norwich in the league, Smith hurled Nakamba off after just 56 minutes and replaced him with Conor Hourihane.

Speaking to the press after the game, Smith said: “I felt that Naka (Nakamba) gave the ball away a few too many times, and I knew Conor could protect the ball.

“He’s a very good technician. Conor showed a lot of know-how on the ball, and he does what he does best, which is score goals.”
Possession is sacred for most teams and this tendency of losing the ball will not be any good for Nakamba going forward.

In 16 matches thus far in all competitions for Villa, Nakamba has completed 594 passes but is yet to make any assists or create any key chances.

Defensively, the Zimbabwean has won 50 percent of his tackles while he has made at least 36 interceptions.

There is no doubt that he needs to improve both offensively and defensively if he is to keep his place in Smith’s starting line-up.

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