IT’S something that will not make headlines but Marvelous Nakamba finished among the Top Five ball-winning midfielders in the English Premiership last season.
Only Declan Rice, Phillip Billing, N’Golo Kante and Wilfred Ndidi did better than the Zimbabwean among the players who played, at least, 1 500 minutes.
That’s according to defensive data collected by the authoritative sources at Breaking The Lines.
So, in simple terms, Nakamba, for a player in his first season in the Premiership, played very well.
His role is to win the ball and play it out — not gain the headlines.
But, in the post-season breakdown of Aston Villa players, Nakamba is someone who flies under the radar a little bit — despite his general importance to the team.
He didn’t score important goals, he wasn’t a regular starter post-lockdown, and he wasn’t involved in many critical moments.
He’s been linked to a few moves away — but do Villa really want to see the back of Nakamba?
Was it a bad season for Nakamba then?
By no means.
The tough-tackling midfielder emerged as an early star during the tough first portion of the season, and even earned a spot on some highlight reels thanks to a crunching challenge in the League Cup final, against Manchester City.
He’s rather unique in this Villa side as well.
The early stages of the season saw Nakamba singled out as a top performer and crucial to the side.
According to Statsbomb, Villa had given “Nakamba a thankless job, and he’s doing it admirably’’.
With Dean Smith admittedly going “gung ho’’ — Villa’s defence was exposed and Nakamba flourished in doing his best to fight fires.
Villa didn’t always win, or draw, but Nakamba did a good job.
What was that job?
To sit back and break up play.
It was very clear the midfielder was doing the heavy lifting for the side’s defence and midfield — something which likely made him a focus of opposition analysis briefings.
Any praise of Nakamba is met by valid criticism — a yin/yang balance.
While Nakamba is good at winning the ball, there are questions about his ability to keep the ball safe, and provide the same support as Douglas Luiz.
There are plenty of caveats that we need to place in mind when we consider passing success.
For instance, it’s easier for some players in certain positions, and certain roles, to complete passes as their passing may be less risky than other positions.
For example, recycling possession, bypassing sideways to build pressure, should in theory be easier, and less of a risk, than trying to angle a through ball in to a rushing attacking player.
More often than not, certain roles — your defensive midfielder — will be attempting much more of the former, and perhaps fewer, of the latter.
How well did Nakamba perform with his passes, then?
Short passes, as defined by FBref via Statsbomb, are passes of under five yards — so think more of your quick combinations in-and-around the box to fashion a chance in tighter areas, and less of passing back and around the defence.
Villa’s leaders in short passing attempts — Grealish and El Ghazi — lead in high areas of the pitch, and don’t complete a great deal of short passes (well under half — 37.6% for Grealish and 26.8% for El Ghazi).
Nakamba and Hourihane lead Villa’s short passing completion percentages with 46% each.
Medium passing is defined as above five yards and up to twenty five yards, so it does cover (literally) a lot of ground and is clearly the most common pass type.
When we think of short, medium as defined by FBref does a good job of highlighting what we assumed to be “short’’ passes, as well as a few longer passes. Nakamba still ranks high here, with 88% of his passes completed.
He’s not a long passer, but he still managed to complete 77% of his longer attempts.
Nakamba’s overall percentage of 84.5 percent pass completions compares well enough with Kante’s 85.5 percent, Ndidi’s 85.9 percent and Rice’s 86 percent.
On average, he’s a good-enough passer.
We can say that due to the crystal-clear numbers.
On average, he’d still be fine, perhaps not as fine as the eye test demands, but good enough to include in a team due to the upside that his ball-winning abilities bring.
The criticism of Nakamba isn’t truly about just his passing, it’s about his passing under pressure.
That’s also a critique of his role itself though — one that perhaps tactically invites opposition pressure due to it’s nature as a holding point of the midfield.
Break Nakamba, perhaps, and you break Villa.
That should perhaps invite conversation that the midfielder’s passing failings are not necessarily down to him, but also down to a tactical success of smart pressure by the opposition.
If Nakamba is the man doing a lot of work, why would you not target him?
Reflecting back on the Statsbomb analysis above, it was very clear that if you beat Nakamba, you beat Villa.
Of course, a breakdown in passing can occur without pressure as well, and that shouldn’t avoid criticism.
Nakamba hasn’t bailed out Villa well in some situations, when he could’ve done better.
Analysis by VenkyReddevil on Breaking the Lines shows Nakamba is much in the same boat as Ndidi and Rice in terms of both his defensive strengths and weaknesses.
There are situations where Nakamba should be utilised and those should be games were Villa do not expect to have the ball.
While Douglas Luiz is certainly gifted, he is an asset when carrying and using the ball.
Marvelous is the opposite side of the coin. He is an asset without the ball. There is room for them both, but perhaps more so for Luiz.— BirminghamLive/Sports Reporter.
Zimbabwean Liverpool Star, Isaac Mabaya Makes Under-21 Debut
ISAAC Mabaya, a Zimbabwean 17-year-old, made his debut for the Liverpool Under-21 side last night but it may not be one he would want to remember.
His young Reds’ team lost 1-4 defeat to Bolton Wanderers in the English Football League Trophy, also known as the Papa John Trophy.
Mabaya was introduced in the 25th minute as a replacement for injured Matteo Ritaccio.
The young Reds gave a good account of themselves in the Group D contest but fell short against the League One side at the University of Bolton Stadium.
Nathan Delfouneso opened the scoring for the hosts in the 27th minute, with Amadou Bakayoko’s brace and a Jarell Quansah own goal adding to the scoreline in the second half.
The Liverpool Under-21 side fought until the end and pulled one back courtesy of Elijah Dixon-Bonner’s fine finish with 72 minutes on the clock.
Despite the defeat, Mabaya, who can play either in midfield or at full-back, enjoyed the midfield tussles alongside Tyler Morton.
Before last night’s dance with the Under-21s Mabaya, a key member of the Liverpool Under-18s, had made two appearances for the Under-18 side this season.
He last featured in the 2-5 defeat at Leeds where he was given a straight red card in the 24th minute for a foul challenge on an opponent.
He then missed last weekend 3-0 win over Sunderland due to the red card suspension and only to turn up on the bench for the Under-21 side last night.
Mabaya, who was born in Preston to Zimbabwean parents, signed his first professional contract with Liverpool last month.
He first attended the Reds Academy at the age of six and broke into the Liverpool Under-18s side as an Under-16 player last season. He featured 17 times and ended the league season with four goals and five assists.
The highly rated fullback is touted among the bright prospects at the Liverpool Academy, having also received call-ups for the England national youth teams.
Kaizer Chiefs fires coach Middendorp
ABSA Premiership runners up Kaizer Chiefs on Wednesday parted ways with head coach Ernst Middendorp.
The German mentor, who had a year left on his contract, was shown the exit door four days after Amakhosi failed to clinch the league title despite being on top for most on the season.
In delivering the news, club founder and chairman Kaizer Motaung said: “We deliberated and considered many aspects related to the team, including our way of playing, our performances and the results before coming to the decision,” confirms Motaung.
“We truly believed and hoped that our 50th anniversary year would be better, and it indeed looked promising. The decision taken is part of a strategy to have the team win trophies again and to make our supporters happy because they deserve better.
“After giving the coach and the technical team the ammunition required to compete in the new season,” Motaung adds, “there were some improvements, and this was evident during the first seven months of this 2019/2020 season.
“However, when the league restarted post-lockdown, things changed, and we looked a totally different side in our last eight league matches.
We witnessed some heart-stopping performances and we were overtaken on the log in the last game of the season, which truly broke our hearts. We have to take responsibility – we can’t wait and allow this situation to continue.”
On the way forward, the chairman said: “The squad has been given time off after a grueling completion of the season and will return before the end of September to start preparing for the 2020/21 season.
“We will announce the new coach before the team returns for pre-season training.-Soccer 24
Rampant Celtic spoil Billiat’s party
Zimbabwe international forward, Khama Billiat, saw his 30th birthday anniversary spoiled by Kaizer Chiefs’ 1-3 defeat at the hands of a rampant Bloemfontein Celtic yesterday.
The Warriors talisman turned 30 yesterday.
But, his Amakhosi were humbled by the impressive Celtic at Tuks Stadium.
In the fourth minute, Celtic midfielder Wandisile Letlabika tried to catch Chiefs goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi off his line with a cheeky long-range lob, forcing the Nigerian to backpedal and tip the ball over his bar.
With 10 minutes gone, Victor Letsoalo got in to a pocket of space between the Chiefs defence and midfield before firing away a shot which was tipped around the post by a diving Akpeyi.
Nine minutes later, Celtic switched play well as Andile Fikizolo found Letsoalo, who in turn found Ndumiso Mabena and the talismanic striker turned well before firing away a shot which Erick Mathoho did well to block.
Chiefs were showing their aerial prowess, putting plenty of balls into the Celtic box.
A Billiat corner on the hour mark found Leonardo Castro at the back post, whose powerful header forced Chaine into a good save.
Shortly afterwards, Mathoho broke the deadlock with his fifth goal of the season when he towered above the Celtic defence and headed home powerfully from a Parker corner.
However, Phunya Sele Sele equalised on the stroke of half-time. Lantshene Phalane’s slide-rule pass released Sifiso Ngobeni, whose left-footed cross-cum-shot from the left-hand byline was tapped home by Sera Motebang.
Celtic took the lead slightly fortuitously shortly after the interval when Lantshene Phalane’s deflected shot found its way to an unmarked Motebang Sera in the box, who stroked the ball past Akpeyi and into the back of the net with ease.
Soon after, Nurkovic hit the crossbar with a shot that caught Chaine off his line as Celtic survived a scare to see their lead remain intact while Willard Katsande’s attempted long-range piledriver was straight at Chaine in the 53rd minute.
There was no goalmouth action until the 75th minute when Celtic scored their third.
Letsoalo did brilliantly to run onto the second ball and control it at at pace before firing past Akpeyi into the bottom right-hand corner.
Billiat had a golden opportunity to pull a goal back for the Glamour Boys in the 89th minute.
Cardoso dinked the ball into the box and the Zimbabwean was unmarked in the box but couldn’t control the header as it sailed over the bar, with the Soweto giants failing to extend their lead over second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns. — Kick-Off.