Manchester City’s need for a central defender has become evident over the course of the season. The recent loss to Manchester United was another reflection of that need and so were their losses to Liverpool and Wolves over the last few weeks. Keeping that in mind, the links with Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake aren’t a surprise at all.
The Dutchman is no stranger to playing for a big club. A product of the Chelsea youth academy, Ake grew up the pecking order until finally moving permanently to the Cherries in the summer of 2017. For what was a club-record fee of £20million, he was being expected to make a big impact.
Fast forward to now, many consider Ake to be one of the best defenders for clubs outside the top-six. Fans of many top-six clubs are no strangers to the wavy-haired 24-year-old win headers and make tackles. They’re left to watch it with envious eyes.
So far this season, Ake has 16 Premier League appearances to his name. He has won 1.2 tackles per game, making 1.4 interceptions per game too. The defender has won 1.7 aerial duels too. But he has come up with 4.4 clearances per game.
What would raise the eyes of many at Man City is his passing. A technical player by trade, Ake has the best passing accuracy at Bournemouth with 89.6 percent. He has also played more passes per game than anyone in that side too- 47.9.
These numbers show how cultured a defender Ake is. Even last season, Ake’s passing stats were impressive. Out of the regular first-team players, Ake had the best passing accuracy at 86 percent. He had the third-best passing numbers too, playing 44.6 passes per game too.
Last season, Ake was the attraction for Virgil van Dijk himself. His compatriot told the Daily Echo (via Goal.com):
“Nathan is a great player and a great guy and I like him a lot. It is difficult to play against our attack but I know how good he can be. He is still young and can learn a lot.”
He was good in the 2017-18 campaign, having the best passing accuracy out of regular players. He played a total of 42.3 passes per game too- another sign of what sort of player he is.
In the 2015-16 campaign, Ake was on a loan deal at Watford. He had played a few games under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, but he got regular football at Hertfordshire.
In that season, Ake’s technical abilities were put to good use. The Dutchman would play as a left-back. He played only one game as a centre-back. For Chelsea, Ake was often used as a defensive midfielder by Mourinho, making five senior-team appearances in the 2014-15 campaign.
During his spell in the Championship with Reading in that very season, Ake was used in every possible position he can play in. He was a defensive midfielder, a left-back or a centre-back, playing a total of five Championship games.
Since the very beginning of his career, Ake has clearly been a gifted player on the ball. Pep Guardiola would know that and that’s why the interest has come up.
As things stand, City are without Aymeric Laporte. This has left them without a consistent left-sided centre-back. Guardiola’s trust in John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi has been running out, leading him to always start Fernandinho at the back in recent months.
Fernandinho has brought that calm and ability on the ball that City need at the back. But a natural defender would do City a lot of good.
After 16 games last season, City had let in only 9 goals. This season, that number stands at 19- more than double of last season. It shows the impact Laporte carries for the club. And having a defender like Ake till Laporte returns would be massive for City.
As soon as Laporte does return, Ake can play second-fiddle to the Frenchman. Guardiola’s approach to the FA Cup over the last to seasons shows that City will take it seriously. They are in the knockout stages of the Champions League. The games will surely be there for them to rotate at the back.