Phillip Zulu in LEEDS, England
MARVELOUS NAKAMBA’S disciplined defensive midfield display against Arsenal at Villa Park was a fine example of how it should be done in the tough English Premiership.
This is a league that is awash with top foreign talent, who commanded huge transfer fees, to bring them here.
Villa’s midfield had John McGinn and Ross Barkley, in a more central roles, Nakamba, as the defensive anchor, and Jack Grealish unleashing incessant offensive attacks on the Arsenal defence.
An early goal, which came after just 74 seconds, sealed the three points for the home side.
Calamity defending, by Arsenal’s Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Cedric Soares and Brazilian centreback Gabriel, whose reading of the game, positioning and decision-making is in contrast to the admirable George Graham’s popular solid back four of Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn.
The chaotic display by the Arsenal defence left Mikel Arteta shell-shocked, his touchline antics should be a watershed moment for him to realise how he has speedily sunk this glamorous club into the murky waters of mid-table mediocrity. The fact that Nakamba is so underrated, his display as an anchorman sniffing at all build-ups from a one-dimensional attack led by Bukayo Saka, sums up the faulty lines in the Arsenal’s defeat.
What made the former Arsenal boss (Arsene Wenger) a genius is what has exposed Arteta as a pretender who makes the Gunners fans explode with anger and despondency.
I have always followed Aston Villa’s fixtures with a passion, since Nakamba’s arrival, and I have been steadily analysing their ascendancy since surviving relegation last season.
And, few people believed our Warrior had the pedigree to play at this level.
I have argued that the English Premiership is a tough call, it’s the height of modern professional football.
And, indeed, Nakamba is steadily improving with each step.
To some, it was an average show but, to the Villa boss, Dean Smith, and the fans at the club, it was a fine individual show and great victory.
Full credit to Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa, Taggart and Matty Cash as they stubbornly defended their goal with both courage and concentration.
The fact that Arsenal were facing their former goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez, the decision to offload him for £20m, when none of their current goalkeepers, including Bernd Leno and Matty Ryan, are at the same wave length with him, made it more interesting.
And that the Villa ‘keeper was one of his club’s best performers on the day was a mockery to Arteta’s decision making.
The great news from Villa’s victory, and Nakamba’s measured solid defensive duties, is that it’s likely to raise the temperatures at the Emirates.
The failure of some of the high-profile players, including Granit Xhaka, Willian and, even Thomas Partey, to influence the game, shows how difficult it is to play in the Premiership.
It also shows that Nakamba, even though he still struggles to convince some of his countrymen of his quality, is doing a really good job.