Aston Villa manager Dean Smith says Marvelous Nakamba has become a reliable member of the squad and is now earning his stripes.
The Zimbabwean put up a solid performance as Villa won at Leeds United to move within six points of the top four.
Nakamba provided an impenetrable barrier to the front four to deny Leeds back-to-back wins, having won against Southampton in their previous match.
And in his post-match interview, Smith said the 27-year-old has never let them down when given the opportunity.
“Positionally, I thought he got in good areas. He broke things up when he needed to. He could have been a bit tidier on the ball at times but it was a tough surface out there to play on.
“A lot of players slipped but, defensively, he was really good with and without the ball. That’s what you need from him when he comes in.
“He’s certainly not letting us down. At the moment he’s certainly earning his stripes,” said Smith. Smith admits it has been a difficult season for Nakamba to get game time, but he is a player to trust when other players are not performing.
“He’s never let us down when he’s come in. We’ve had a decent season and it’s been hard for him to get minutes but he’s one who’s certainly trained very well and, when players aren’t performing, I know I can put him in.
“He’s never let us down when he’s come in and today (Saturday) was another example of that,” he said. Smith also reminded fans that they have not conceded in all the Premier League games Nakamba has played, statistics that saw the Zimbabwean trending in the media.
“It’s four or five games now and we’ve not conceded a goal with him in our team,” said Smith. “Aston Villa have not conceded a Premier League goal this season while Marvelous Nakamba has been on the pitch,” wrote Goal.
The Warriors star was rated among the best performing players on the pitch with 52.9 passing accuracy, according to Sky Sports.
He earned a rating of seven and above across British media with fans arguing that he should keep his position going forward. . . The plucky African plugged gaps incredibly well throughout as Leeds struggled to get past him on the counter.
Nakamba was like an octopus, his legs (or tentacles!) just kept appearing from everywhere as he won back possession, much to the annoyance of Bielsa’s men.
Top, top work,” reported the Birmingham Mail on the Zimbabwean. Meanwhile, another Zimbabwe international in the same country, Tendayi Darikwa, played the whole match as Wigan Athletic’s lost 24 defeat to Peterborough in a League One encounter.
Wigan’s struggles in the third tier of English football continue and they remain deep in the relegation zone.