Last week I wrote a piece on the positions and players that Steven Gerrard may target in the upcoming January transfer window. To nobody's surprise one of the positions I focused on the most was the midfield, more specifically, a defensive midfielder.
At the time I mentioned Marvelous Nakamba's resurgence under Gerrard as if it might be temporary, however two games later and the little Zimbabwean has not only continued his incredible run of form but also claimed numerous man of the match shouts from many of the Villa fanbase, myself included, and even been voted the Aston Villa player of the month. If you'd have told me two months ago that Nakamba would not only be starting every game but has also become arguably the first name on the team sheet, I'd have slapped you. I think it's fair to say that our very own Claude Makélélé 2.0 feels like a brand new signing under Steven Gerrard.
So I can't help but ask, do Villa still urgently need a new defensive midfielder? Well clearly the answer is no if you look at that word 'urgently'. Saying we urgently need a new midfielder would suggest that what we currently have isn't good enough, and that's clearly not the case here. I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the improvement of Douglas Luiz, Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn in this conversation. Come to think of it, every midfield player who's had minutes under Gerrard has seen a marked improvement, it's just that Nakamba feels like the biggest of the bunch. Our midfield feels like it's gone from our biggest concern to our least within four games, arguably it's Gerrard's biggest achievement since taking charge. So no, there is no urgency to go out and spend big on a midfielder, not yet anyway..
It would be extremely short sighted of me to just wave away any talk of bolstering the squad in any position however. If we seriously want to challenge for European places again then squad depth will be key, as will competition for places. The point I'm trying to get to here is that the recent great form in midfield has given Villa the luxury of time more than anything else. It gives the club time to find the right players at the right price rather than desperately scrambling around in January because what we have isn't up to scratch. It's also worth remembering that many opposition clubs will still have Jack Grealish's £100m transfer at the forefront of their minds so we could see owners asking for way over a player's usual market value just because it's Aston Villa knocking on the door.
Marvelous Nakamba and his midfield teammates are in a rich vein of form and are far from being dropped right now, so with that in mind, I don't think we need to go all out on a midfielder this January. Now I'm not saying the club shouldn't still shop around because if the right deal happens to manifest itself then Villa should undoubtedly still go for it. For example, if James Ward-Prowse suddenly decides he wants out of Southampton (let me dream dammit!), then I still think we do whatever it takes to make a deal like that happen. Yes it would be harsh on the players who are currently performing well but competition for places is the norm for teams challenging for Europe. It's not as if Chelsea turned down Kovacic because they already had Kante and Jorginho..
There's of course always the risk that the players mentioned pick up injuries, especially during this busy winter period so extra bodies are never a bad thing! There's also the upcoming African Cup of Nations to consider which starts January 9th and runs for around a month. Zimbabwe have qualified for the competition so depending how well they do, we could be looking at losing our new star boy for up to four weeks, maybe even six weeks depending on Covid restrictions. This would result in Nakamba missing our first FA Cup clash, home games to Manchester United and Leeds as well as a trip to Goodison Park, all vital fixtures. For this reason I can see the club going for maybe one midfield player but again it won't be a panic buy like it might have been before this recent midfield resurgence. Unless that perfect deal becomes a reality then it will more than likely be a carefully considered squad player who can move aside once Marvelous Nakamba returns from international duty. Only time will tell though and I for one look forward to seeing how this all plays out!
Make sure to let us know what you think we'll do about the midfield this January and to keep up with everything Villa make sure you're follow @AVFCFaithful_ and for more goofy takes, make sure to follow me @MikeyGalaszia. UTV!