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Is Nathan Ake what Manchester City Needs?

Manchester City has secured the signature of Bournemouth center-back Nathan Ake for 41 million pounds. The former Premier League champions often struggled defensively in the just ended Premier League campaign. To make matters worse, Man City was joint-second with Southampton for the most individual mistakes leading to opponent’s shot, 18 in total. Man City’s 18 point deficit to Liverpool last season clearly shows the weaknesses at their back. Guardiola’s men shipped almost one goal per game after failing to replace long-time captain Vincent Kompany following his departure from the club.

However, the severe injury Aymeric Laporte sustained at the beginning of the season exposed the cracks. Despite his return from injury in the latter part of the season, City still struggled as Laporte didn’t have a natural defensive partner playing alongside him. Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, and Eric Garcia knocked on the doors of the manager a few times. However, Guardiola has still preferred Fernandinho, who is a midfielder at the heart of the defense. There were clear indications that Pep Guardiola must strengthen his defense, and it comes as no surprise that they have signed Nathan Ake to help fill the defensive void left by Vincent Kompany. Ake has been a consistent performer in the Bournemouth team following his move to the club on loan from Chelsea in 2016. Despite his talent, a section of the fans has raised questions on the signing of Ake, and concerns remain that he was at the heart of a defense, which conceded goals too often and too easily. That porous defense ultimately cost Bournemouth their Premier League status as they shipped 65 goals from the 38 games they played last season, the third-worst in the division. There is a reason to suggest Ake was more a victim of circumstance at Bournemouth than a mistake-ridden defender. The impressive aspect of Ake’s career so far is that he never made an error leading to an opposition goal at Bournemouth. Another underrated aspect of Ake’s career is his fitness. At Bournemouth, he rarely got injured. Ake will also fill a homegrown spot in Man City’s Premier League squad, and he is better than Bournemouth’s final position suggest.

 

Can Ake solve Man City’s defensive woes?

Nathan Ake is reaching a prime age in his development as a central defender. His performances over the season at Bournemouth have shown just how much he has grown in confidence. In the 2019/20 season, Ake made an average of 5.1 clearances per game. Only six players made more clearances per game than Ake. This stat indicates how vital he was for Bournemouth whenever the team was under pressure from the opposition attack.

In comparison to the other Man City defenders, Ake averaged two more clearances per game than Otamendi, Laporte, Stones, and Garcia. Ake has an excellent positional sense and anticipation for where forwards will send the ball. In the absence of Laporte, that kind of awareness lacked at times, and it cost Man City plenty of points. Ake is also one of the quickest central defenders in the Premier League currently. His speed could be beneficial for Man City, who typically holds

a high defensive line. Man City have a significant weakness when their opponents counter-attack them at pace or press them to make mistakes.

Having Ake as the last line of defense ahead of Ederson, the Man City goalkeeper would allow Man City to hold an even higher line.

Ake will also assure that he, as well as his colleagues at full-back, can trackback to avert danger in a way Laporte, Stones, and Otamendi can’t. Since Ake is not a world-class defender yet, he has some weakness in his game, and that is his poor ability in the air. At 5ft 11, Ake would be Man City’s shortest central defender. He doesn’t have the height to compete with his opponents in comfortably win aerial duels. Despite his height disadvantage, he has chipped in six goals with his head in his Premier League career. It’s starting to become clear that Man City’s search for an idle partner for Laporte is over with Ake’s arrival.

 

Will Ake excel under Guardiola?

Ake has nine years of Premier League experience since moving to Chelsea from Feyenoord in the summer of 2011. Ake is an experienced Premier League defender, who would have little trouble adapting to Guardiola’s tactical demands. Guardiola requires his players to possess the ability to move the ball into advanced areas, which will ideally suit Ake.

Ake’s playing attributes are common to all Dutch defenders. He is incredibly useful on the ball, comfortable in possession under pressure, and an astute passer with both feet. Ball playing defenders are the requirement for Guardiola’s center-backs. Last season, Ake averaged 42.6 passes per game with an 88% success rate. Ake is a left-footed defender, an asset that would provide a perfect balance for Guardiola.

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