Zimbabwe international midfielder, Marvelous Nakamba, returned to training at English Premiership side, Aston Villa, yesterday at Bodymoor Heath which now has a brand new US$8,3 million gym.
And, the football writers at Birmingham Live believe the new season could be a defining one for the Warriors’ star, who ended the previous season strongly, as he forced his way into the starting XI.
Nakamba is expected to feature in Villa’s opening league match because Brazilian midfielder, Douglas Luiz, could be given more time to rest, after featuring for his country at the Olympic Games.
Luiz is with the Samba Boys at the Copa America, which is being held in Brazil.
‘‘Now, one face Villa supporters know all too well is that of Nakamba,’’ Birmingham Live reported yesterday after they covered the club’s return to training.
‘‘The 27-year-old enjoyed a solid return to Smith’s starting XI in the victories over Spurs and Chelsea last season while, next term, he’ll be favourite to start at Watford, given Douglas’s involvement at the Olympics, in Tokyo.
‘‘Nakamba’s Zimbabwe are in COSAFA Cup action over the next two weeks — a low-scale tournament for nations in Southern Africa — with group matches against Mozambique, Namibia and Senegal.
‘‘Nakamba, meanwhile, has opted to stay and prove his fitness to Smith and to Villa ahead of what could be a defining season for the boy from Bulawayo.’’
The midfielder was part of the Villa players at Bodymoor Heath yesterday, who emerged for their first day at work, donning the club’s new Kappa training gear of claret shirts and black shorts and, with it, new numbers, which have been dished out.
Matt Targett has been given No 3, following Neil Taylor’s exit last month. Targett was Villa’s No 18 last season, with that number now on new signing Ashley Young’s training gear.
Villa are staggering the return of their squad, with those not involved in international games this summer returning today (July 5).
There was a fresh face, among the group yesterday, though, and that’s Finnish goalkeeper Viljami Sinisalo.
The 19-year-old spent last season on loan at Ayr United in Scotland and impressed before an injury curtailed his 29-appearance season for the Scottish club.
The Finland Under-21 stopper did return in Villa’s final few matches of last season while, looking ahead to 2021/22, it’s well-known that head of goalkeeping Neil Cutler, rates him highly.
It’ll be an intriguing couple of weeks then to see if Sinisalo will feature in pre-season knowing Emi Martinez will be going on holiday after the Copa America.
Matty Cash has kept his No. 2 shirt. Anwar El Ghazi (21), Konsa (4), Hause (30), Jacob Ramsey (41), Nakamba (19), Frederic Guilbert (24) and Jed Steer (12) all appear to have kept their numbers from last season, too.
There has been another change, though, and that involves Carney Chukwuemeka, who looks to have taken No. 31, which was vacant last term. The 17-year-old had the No. 60 shirt in his breakthrough campaign of 2020/21.
Yesterday’s session saw all four of Villa’s full-backs — Targett, Young, Cash and Guilbert — take part in a bleep test.
The rivalry between the four will intensify over the coming weeks as each of them will fancy themselves to be in the driving seat to start for the opening match of the season against Watford on August 14.
Frenchman Guilbert is back and raring to go after an impressive loan stint at Strasbourg, while Young, 36 on Friday, has already outlined his intentions at becoming a massive part of Villa’s success this upcoming season.
There must have been an added spice between the quartet this morning as they all looked to out-do each other during the running drills. It’s fair to say both Targett and Cash have a fight on their hands to keep their shirts this season. — The Herald/Birmingham Live