A strong overall performance yielded a 2-1 victory for Aston Villa at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon.
Matt Targett and John McGinn provided the goals for a Villa side that toppled Crystal Palace for its second victory under new manager Steven Gerrard.
Villa become the first team to beat Palace at home this season and did so in style. With strong performances throughout the starting XI, the squad has quickly found their stride under Gerrard.
At the match’s conclusion, Villa sat in 12th place in the Premier League table with 16 points. Palace, also with 16 points, were 11th on goal differential.
Here are some of the key takeaways from an impressive road victory.
Gerrard’s plan taking shape
We saw glimpses of more positive football in last week’s win at home to Brighton, but the squad moved leaps and bounds forward in London on Saturday.
At times seemingly knocking the ball around for fun, Villa were comfortable in possession but also had intent to their passing plays. What we saw wasn’t just possession for the sake of it, but a side wanting to move the ball quickly up the field.
McGinn and Jacob Ramsey were sensational in advanced midfield roles, linking up the defense with the attackers, and Marvelous Nakamba played quite possibly his best game in claret and blue. His strong defensive presence in the base of midfield allowed McGinn and Ramsey to push on, and his 100% dribbling success rate was notable given his past struggles in possession.
Full-backs Matty Cash and Targett provided width and helped progress the ball in build-ups, while Ollie Watkins did what he does best up top: pressure the defense and exploit space in the channels.
It feels like ages since we’ve seen such cohesion in possession from Aston Villa. The players hear Gerrard’s message loud and clear.
Marvelous Nakamba: ready made No. 6?
Villa’s most glaring need over the summer was a staunch defensive midfielder strong on the ball. Nakamba was written off last season as not good enough in possession and therefore not an ideal option every week.
In two matches under Gerrard, Nakamaba has started twice and provided exactly what the squad has been missing.
The side has conceded just once since Gerrard’s appointment, and its overall shape has improved markedly. Nakamba has played a significant role in turning Villa’s defensive fortunes around, but his exploits in possession have supporters believing they have a ready-made No. 6 in their ranks.
As per @pgr_analytics on Twitter, Nakamba, in addition to accumulating 52 touches, one key pass, and a 100% dribbling success rate, was credited with four tackles, five ground duels victories, and two clearances.
He’s no Andrea Prilo in possession, but if the Zimbabwean can maintain that level of performance, he’ll be one of the first names on Gerrard’s team sheet every week.