Nathan Ake: A player Manchester City must keep at all cost

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By Arnav Deshpande
11 Min Read
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Nathan Ake had a good season in 2021-22 as compared to his first season with Manchester City. After suffering from an injury-ridden first season, the Dutch international finally had his feet together and silenced his critics by delivering strong performances. This ultimately attracted rival teams’ attention towards Ake and now, Man City’s Premier League rival Chelsea are after the Dutchman’s signature. While many people may think Manchester City can afford to let go of their 4th choice center-back but, these factors must be considered before Txiki makes a decision about Ake’s future.

WHY ARE CHELSEA AFTER NATHAN AKE’S SIGNATURE?

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Chelsea’s manager prefers 3 at the back system and has already lost 2 of his starting defenders in Christensen and Rudiger. Tuchel wants a reliable first-team signing to pick up the defensive duties at Chelsea. With his plans to continue with 3 at the back and occasionally switch to back 4 make Ake an interesting option.

Having a fair amount of PL experience under his belt, Ake is a versatile option for any manager as he can be used at center-back as well as left-back giving managers a tactical edge and fluidity for improvisation.

With Thiago Silva ageing, Chelsea will need a player who can lead the backline in the coming years. Ake also has captained Bournemouth which makes him a qualified target for Tuchel at Chelsea.

FINALLY SETTLED AT MAN CITY

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When Man City signed Nathan Ake for £40 million, sure raised eyebrows from all over the football fraternity. Some pundits even termed this move as a ‘panic buy’ due to City losing Kompany and Garcia. A hefty price tag and a move from a relegated Bournemouth to the top of the league Manchester City was not going to be an easy task for Ake to settle down quickly.

Although it looked like City finally had 4 credible defending options in Stones, Laporte, Ake and Dias; Nathan Ake turned out to be a disappointment due to his continuous injuries making just 13 appearances for the club.

Fast forward to the next season, Ake started to grow game by game and provided his manager with an utility to play him at numerous positions. Having played 27 times last season, Ake kept 13 clean sheets and scored 3 goals for his club.

Guardiola trusted Ake at left-back in Cancelo’s absence and also played him in his favoured center-back position. In both roles, Ake turned out to be a reliable option and his defensive cameo against Atletico Madrid is the finest example of his abilities.

While the number of games is way less than Ruben Dias’ 40 and Laporte’s 44, he had the same appearances as John Stones and contributed more than the England international.

PREMIER LEAGUE PEDIGREE

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Nathan Ake is short with regards to average Centre halves’ height and despite his short stature, he has survived the Premier League. Ake has been a PL regular since his move to Watford on loan from Chelsea. Since then he has experience of 169 PL games making him 3rd most experienced defender at Manchester City. All at the age of just 27. He is still in his prime and has a lot to offer than just some meagre pounds.

Did I tell you his homegrown status? This is an underrated advantage that Ake holds over all the available left-footed CBs in the market. His presence in the squad helps Manchester City to include him as a homegrown player (due to him being at Chelsea for 3 years before turning 18).

If City loses Ake to Chelsea, they will not only lose a reliable defender but also end up losing a homegrown name. Then replacing him will be an uphill task for Manchester City. As there are no credible options for Manchester City in the market who tick all the boxes that Ake does, they will require a new transfer strategy to replace Ake.

With Taylor Harwood-Bellis already out on loan, and other youngsters being below 21 (too young to be named as a senior player) City will have to sign 2 players to properly replace Ake which seems a really hectic process for a club who wants to focus on addition while maintaining the balance in the squad.

YOUTH NOT READY

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One more reason why Pep must stick with Ake for at least a couple of seasons more is the City’s academy. City currently holds the status of one of the best academies in the UK. While they have incredible youngsters in Palmer, Delap and McAtee but all of them being attackers, their EDS simply don’t have a reliable defender to stand a chance of playing regularly in the senior squad just yet.

Although Harwood-Bellis would’ve made his case but, City loaning him out speaks a lot about the level Pep Guardiola demands his first-team players to be at. While many City fans may argue that Luke Mbete can be used as a 4th choice center-half and Cucurella coming in will ease Ake’s absence but, Mbete can’t straight out replace Ake or any first-team player just yet. Egan-Riley who captained City’s EDS to their PL-2 title left for Burnley means Pep Guardiola demands unrealistically high standards from his defenders and youths simply can’t match those.
Whereas Ake has been proving himself in the Premier League since a very young age. Helping clubs like Watford and captaining Bournemouth to save them from relegation for numerous seasons, Ake is one of the best utility defender a PL club could ask for.

WORLD CUP SEASON

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This is a World Cup season and the players with countries playing in will be fighting for their spots. A move at such a crucial time is not advised in the football world. If Ake ends up at Chelsea, he will require some time to adjust to Tuchel’s system. If we take a look back at Tuchel’s signings since last season; they all have struggled in their first season.

Romelu Lukaku’s arrival was celebrated at the beginning of the season but, neither he nor Tuchel were able to adjust to each other’s requirements. Similarly, Saul absolutely failed to earn his manager’s trust.

Speaking of the Dutch team’s set-up, apart from van Dijk and de Ligt, all of the other defenders will have to earn their spots. Ake will have to compete with Koopmeiners, Blind, Vrij, Timbers, Malacia, Boatman and Wijndal. Although Ake is more experienced and senior than some of the names here but, managers prefer the best players for the world cup and if Ake finds it tough to settle at Chelsea quickly; he may lose a spot in Netherlands’ world cup squad.

If Ake stays at City, he will have more chances of making it to the World Cup as now he finally has adjusted to life at Etihad and knows his manager’s tactics clearly. While also being termed as an influential figure in the locker room, Nathan Ake is familiar to the City squad. Having a clear idea of roles and responsibilities, Nathan Ake has a chance to climb the pecking order at Manchester City at center-back as well as at left-back.

Earlier this month, Ake was quoted saying, “Last season was very unhappy due to injuries, I don’t really count that year, This season I was really 100 percent present and I played more. You notice an improvement in yourself, how you play. I felt good.”

When asked if he is aiming for a starting berth next season, Ake said: “I will go into the season with that intention. I will do everything I can to play even more.”

Ake is also reported to have told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf (via Sport Witness): “I am going to show myself even more next season. In principle, I just want to continue at City.”

This pretty much clears Ake’s desire for next season as the Dutch international is aiming for the starting spot in Guardiola’s lineup and has intentions to continue at Manchester City.

It also makes sense for City to keep Ake as they have already splashed a big sum on him and are looking to strengthen other areas for next season. Having a PL proven, experienced, versatile and homegrown player in Ake is a boon for Manchester City because the player works hard for the spot instead of demanding it. Keeping Ake will also maintain the harmony in the locker room and save Man City’s time and money to let them focus on required areas.

READ MORE: Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal: A chance to redeem himself?

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