After five years of punching above their weight in England’s top-flight, A.F.C. Bournemouth are seemingly destined to be relegated from the Premier League. The Cherries, under manager Eddie Howe, have been consistently rising in the Premier League table for the past four years and were touted to challenge for a place in next season’s Europa League.
However, injuries to key players, poor return on investment from their signings and the highly competitive nature of the Premier League has meant that bar a miracle on the final day, Bournemouth’s journey in the Premier League will come to a close.
One player who certainly won’t be plying his trade in the Championship next season is their centre-back Nathan Ake, who, as per the recent media reports, is a subject of interest for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who are rumoured to be ready to pay 35 million pounds for the Dutchman.
Ake, who was signed from Chelsea at the start of 2016-17 season on loan before being signed permanently at the end of the campaign, had been rumoured with a return to Stamford Bridge, however, it seems that Chelsea, who were thought to have a buyback clause or first option on the Dutchman, have decided to pass on the chance to sign him, allowing City to swoop in and complete the deal.
With the deal seeming close to conclusion, we try to make sense of why the four-time Premier League champions are looking to sign the 25-year-old:
City’s rearguard revamp
Guardiola has spent heavily on his defence since arriving at the Etihad Stadium in 2016.
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach has bought five defenders that cost 40 million pounds or more, but the departure of Vincent Kompany and the disappointing performances from John Stones and Benjamin Mendy has forced Guardiola to jump back into the market to strengthen his defence.
While Guardiola is aiming to sign a right-footed centre-back to partner Aymeric Laporte in defence and is rumoured to be willing to break the bank for Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, Ake, a left-footed player, could be a shrewd acquisition from Guardiola.
Injury to Laporte early in the season derailed Manchester City’s Premier League campaign, as in the Frenchman’s absence, neither Nicholas Otamendi nor makeshift centre-back Fernandinho could perform at the level Guardiola expects.
Ake, who’s quick, strong in the air and good with the ball at his feet, is a perfect fit for Guardiola’s footballing philosophy. The Dutchman is also a natural in a back three as the left centre-back and is also comfortable filling in at left-back, something he’s done sporadically at Bournemouth.
With Mendy’s constant absenteeism owing to injuries, Guardiola has been forced to use right-footed midfielders Oleksandr Zinchenko and Fabian Delph, before he moved to Everton and Angelino, who wasn’t fancied by Guardiola and was loaned out to RB Leipzig in January.
Mendy’s defensive frailties have cost City this season, particularly against Wolves and Chelsea away, and with Ake at left-back, Guardiola might have to sacrifice some attacking impetus but will get defensive solidarity at the back that the team has severely lacked all season long.
While Ake certainly isn’t a game-changing acquisition and City will most certainly look to sign another centre-back to partner Laporte at the heart of the defence, the Dutchman’s acquisition will provide cover in multiple positions as well as tactical flexibility.
With Bournemouth doomed to be relegated, City might even manage to score a discount on the player. The 25-year-old is a quality defender with attributes that are a perfect fit for Guardiola and his signing is certainly a smart piece of business from the former Premier League champions.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Dave Thompson