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Could Aston Villa's Nakamba be the best African signing of the season?

01:28 WAT 01/12/2019
Marvelous Nakamba, Aston Villa 2019-20
The Zimbabwe international midfielder is steadily establishing himself as a vital cog at the Premier League club, and is proving to be a fine signing

Arriving at Aston Villa as they were wrapping up their pre-season in August, Marvelous Nakamba took his time to break into the starting line-up, but the Midlanders' new boy has gone on to prove why he ought to be considered one of the finest African signings of the season so far.

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 last season.

He 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 in mid-September.

That time out of the team while settling in included being excused from national team duty with Zimbabwe, but after lasting the entire match in the Carabao Cup second round against Crewe Alexandra on August 27, Nakamba did enough to convince Villa manager Dean Smith that he deserved to start in the Prem.

"Marvelous has been knocking on the door, he’s been playing well," Smith told journalists, as per the Birmingham Mail, just before Nakamba's league debut. "He fits the style that we play very well."

Then came the West Ham match, and the Zimbabwean has since become a regular, starting eight league games so far, incuding lasting the entire matches against Manchester City and Liverpool. 

He missed last Monday's clash with Newcastle United, with his latest exploits coming during Villa's 2-1 defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers before the international break, where he stats caught the eye, completing five tackles and 

He now has 685 Premier League minutes of action under his belt, and unlike other players being asked to make the step up from the Belgian league to the English top flight, has required relatively little time to adapt to the demands of the division.

To further show that Nakamba has made an immediate impact at Villa Park as a defensive linkman, his interceptions rate per match averages 1.8, while he's clocking in at 3.9 tackles per match.

While Jean Seri, for example, was a diminutive central midfielder who struggled to make his mark in England at a newly promoted club - Fulham - last term, Nakamba has hit the ground running to establish himself as a key asset at Villa Park.

In contrast to the likes of Nicolas Pepe, who has struggled to adapt to the Premier League albeit at a transitional club, or Jean-Philippe Gbamin, who has struggled with injury, Nakamba has immediately become an asset at Villa.

Not only has he excelled in his defensive duties, but he's also proved himself as an effective distributor as well. So far, his average pass success rate is 83.3, and that should only improve as he and his teammates further settle into life in the top tier.

The midfielder himself feels his best is yet to come and has a lot more to give Villa fans.

"It's been a case of so far, so good. It’s been fantastic," he told the club's website. “Everyone is helping me to settle, I’m pushing myself as well. My teammates have done everything to make me feel good, too. There is always room for improvement and it can get better. 

"Given the opportunity, I will tell myself to give everything every time, in football there are no limits, There is always room for improvement. You can always get better and better and better. Compared to other leagues, the Premier League is different level. Now I want to improve."

On Sunday, Nakamba is expected to start against Manchester United at Old Trafford, a match to begin a hectic festive period in which Villa will also face Chelsea and Leicester City.

The tests are coming thick and fast, but each match represents a further opportunity for the Zimbabwean to prove his worth.

It remains to be seen whether he can see off the challenge of the likes of Jordan Ayew or Moussa Djenepo, two other African summer signings who have excelled in recent months, to establish himself among the top African talents to be enjoying new starts in the division.

Certainly, as we approach the most intense part of the season, Nakamba is proving himself to be up to the task of competing in the greatest league in the world.