Nakamba thriving after Gerrard’s arrival as he emerges as fixture of Villa XI

While Steven Gerrard’s arrival has resulted in an upturn in form for Aston Villa, Marvelous Nakamba has been one of the players to benefit the most from the managerial change.

The 27-year-old was a key part of the squad under Dean Smith, the man who brought him to Villa, but he had always struggled to cement his place in his starting XI.

READ MORE: Five big talking points as Villa overcome Leicester through Konsa brace

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Competition for places in midfield is still fierce at Villa, with the likes of Carney Chukwuemeka and Morgan Sanson having to settle for roles off the bench in recent weeks as Nakamba, John McGinn and Douglas Luiz sit ahead of them in the pecking order.

While he hasn’t always been considered a permanent starter, Nakamba has been nothing but that since Gerrard took over, and his impressive form is repaying that faith shown in him.

Nakamba steps up to play key Villa role

One of the points that Gerrard emphasised after arriving at Villa was that we needed to become hard to beat again and stop conceding so many goals, having let in 13 during our recent five-game losing streak.

That has been addressed immediately as we’ve conceded four goals in four games since, and while Emiliano Martinez and the back four have naturally played a major part in that improvement, our midfield has also added more solidity and presence to our game on and off the ball.

Nakamba has been instrumental in ensuring that we’re not being overrun, as he not only sweeps up danger in front of the backline, but he has shown aggression and intent with his pressing to snap into tackles and interceptions, which in turn breaks up the opposition’s play and their attacking rhythm.

Further, he’s also stepping up his game in the attacking phase of our play too. His quick passing into the feet of either the midfielders or front three is breaking the lines and allowing us to get into a dangerous situation in the final third without allowing our opponents to get back into shape and an organised defensive unit.

Nakamba was excellent against Leicester at the weekend, as the statistics below would suggest, and it’s great to see him take his game to the next level and be a fundamental part of Gerrard’s plans and early success.

The real test comes now though. Can the Zimbabwean international do it consistently week after week and not allow his standards to drop? He’ll face a stern test this weekend against Liverpool, as will all of his teammates too, but if he can maintain the level that he’s been performing at recently, he will certainly help us secure many more positive results between now and the end of the season.

Gerrard will no doubt want to stamp his mark on the squad in January and improve where needed. The midfield seemed like the most obvious area during Smith’s final few games, but Nakamba has provided him with an incredibly useful solution in the short-term, and possibly even in the bigger picture too.