Next we will be looking at some Nathan Ake news from the summer. With opportunities limited at Stamford Bridge and Ake impressing in his short spell on loan at Bournemouth last season, the Cherries moved to complete a record transfer for the young Dutch international. We’ll have a look at why he left and who are the winners and losers from this deal.
Nationality: 2 caps
Position: centre back, can play left back, left wing back and defensive midfield
Transfer Fee: £20mil
Contract Length: 5 years
2016/17 League Stats: 9 starts (3 sub appearances) 3 goals (1 assist) Bournemouth loan and Chelsea stats combined.
Verdict: Nathan Ake has followed a number of youngsters out of Stamford Bridge this summer. As with most of them, Ake was becoming disillusioned at Chelsea and wanted more first-team opportunities. It’s not hard to understand why Ake’s felt that way.
He got a taste of first-team action at Watford the season before last. Whilst after a slow start at Bournemouth last season, he eventually got a run in the team, making quite an impression. Bournemouth failed to sign him in January as Conte also took note of his performances and reintroduced him into the Chelsea fold but he spent the second half of the season largely on the bench due to strong competition.
Even with Terry leaving in the summer, it was predictable that Ake’s route to the first-team wasn’t going to get any easier. Chelsea were always likely to make additions at centre back and did just that with the purchase of German international Rudiger. Another highly regarded prospect, Christensen, also returned from a two year loan spell with Gladbach in Germany. For three centre back positions, Ake would have likely found himself 6th choice, possibly 5th.
Marcos Alonso has very much made the left wing back role his own but it would have been possible Ake may have been seen as his potential back-up.
Bournemouth’s interest in bringing Ake back started in January, so it came as no surprise that they made a move again in the summer but I must admit I’m surprised by their success in signing Ake on a permanent basis. He has been highly regarded as a top prospect since his days in the Feyenoord youth system so part of the surprise relates to Chelsea’s willingness to sell.
Chelsea deserve a certain amount of praise for not standing in the way of so many young players who want game-time. By agreeing to sell them they give the players every chance to find the stability to help them develop. However you can’t help but think they are either losing a player who could develop into something special and/or for well under what their potential worth could one day be. Ake is no exception.
That is why Bournemouth were comfortable breaking their transfer record. There is a strong possibility they are going to make a good profit on Ake in future. Even if a big club doesn’t come calling though £20mil isn’t much for a Premiership centre back these days and it’s a bargain for one so young no matter how you look at it.
The other aspect of this deal that I find slightly surprising, I must confess, is that Bournemouth were successful in signing Ake and Ake was so keen to rejoin. As well as the impression Ake left on the club, the club must have left an impression on him. I expect their attractive style of play, his familiarity with the club and Eddie Howe’s management were factors.
Despite interest from Newcastle and West Ham, at no stage did it really feel Ake would be heading anywhere other than the South coast. I would have thought some larger clubs might have shown some interest too but Chelsea probably wouldn’t have been so keen to do business.
Ake has slotted right into the first-team picture this season, starting every game. It looks like Howe’s preferred combination at the back will be Cook and Ake. Tyrone Mings has come in when Bournemouth have changed to a back three. Ake therefore looks like he’s re-established himself already, as you would expect for a record signing.
However given Bournemouth’s approach I do slightly fear for Ake’s development. Bournemouth are known to play quite open with minimal regard for quickly returning into defensive shapes. Defensively they have been one of the poorest in the league for sometime. It has been their attacking flair which has helped them avoid closer relegation scraps.
Individually their defenders aren’t bad but they are often made to look worst than they actually are by the lack of support they are given. Despite his history as a defender, I’m not convinced Eddie Howe is the man to help develop Ake into a top class player given the way he approaches games and his record with good young players.
Some top quality youngsters have come to Bournemouth and very few have actually taken their game on. The likes of Wilshere, Iturbe, Ibe and Lewis Cook in particular have shown little or no benefit from their time at Bournemouth. Questions need to be asked of the individuals of course but it is starting to become a bit of a trend.
The inadequate defensive training and preparation is my main concern. I’m not sure how a defensive player is supposed to improve without the right guidance. Ake is at such an important stage of his career and his development. Part of me does think he would have been better served with someone like Benitez or Pulis who are tactically better.
Bournemouth’s problems have re-emerged this season. Worryingly they aren’t clicking in an attacking sense either. This has resulted in their poor start to the season with four loses on the bounce. Bournemouth could find themselves in a lot of trouble this season if their attack doesn’t start to click soon. A more practical approach to games may also help, leaving themselves less open but I doubt Howe will move away from what has helped lead the club to the greatest period in its history.
Ake is without doubt one of their best defenders at Bournemouth, so they’ve improved their team with his signing. He also has potential to improve further. It’s great business at £20mil by them. I’m just unsure whether Ake will really benefit from the move as much as he thinks.
Chelsea have under-valued Ake so it’s hard to make a case for them being the biggest winners in this deal as something catastrophic would have to happen to Ake’s career for his value not to rise further. I do have my doubts that he will progress to the highest levels though after this move, so Chelsea fans may find some comfort in that. It looks unlikely they have lost a guarantee future starter at the moment.
I’m not completely ruiling Ake out though. If Ake moves on to a club with better tactical coaches sooner rather than later he could fulfill his potential.
— AFC Bournemouth 🍒 (@afcbournemouth) June 30, 2017
Good move for Ake or not? Leave a comment below.