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How does Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake fit in at Manchester City?

It comes as no surprise that Manchester City are looking at Nathan Ake to help fill the defensive void left by Vincent Kompany or simply provide further backup.

Ake, who left Chelsea for Bournemouth in 2017, has over the past three years developed into a reliable and composed central defender who is comfortable with the ball at his feet. 

The 25-year-old is reported to have a £35million price tag, which is a small sum for City, yet how would he fit into Pep Guardiola’s defence? Here, Sportsmail takes a closer at the pros and cons should City make a move for him.

At 25, Ake is reaching a prime age in his development as a central defender. His performances this season at Bournemouth have shown just how much he has grown in confidence. 

He has also learned from Steve Cook alongside him how to become a leader in a team that, until this season, had largely punched above their weight.

Ake’s also rarely injured, with a hamstring injury in 2014 being the only problem he has had in his senior career.

Not that a club with the bank balance the size of City’s will mind, but Ake will also come much cheaper than say Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly because of the predicament Bournemouth find themselves in.

With Bournemouth relegated, Ake will likely be one of the first players out of the door.

A deal worth £35m for Ake would represent fantastic value for any side with Manchester United also said to be in the hunt for the defender. After United beat Bournemouth 5-2 earlier this month at Old Trafford, footage appeared to show Solskjaer rather cheekily telling Ake: ‘We need a left-footed centre-back, keep going.’

But Ake is known to be an admirer of Guardiola so working with him and the promise of competing for top honours would surely be the ideal scenario for the defender.

Ake is technically bright, too. He prefers to pass the ball out to team-mates close to him or in advanced positions rather than boot it as far upfield as possible. Having that ability on the ball would prove hugely valuable in a City side that needs to be able to start attacks from any part of the pitch.

He is also one of the fastest central defenders in the Premier League. That is incredibly helpful with City typically holding a high defensive line. City are often most vulnerable when sides break at pace or press them to make mistakes. 

Having Ake in the side, in the last line of defence ahead of Ederson, would allow City to hold an even higher line with the assurance that he, as well as his colleagues at full-back, can race back to avert danger in a way Aymeric Laporte and John Stones currently can’t.

  

Those critical of a move for Ake will suggest he isn’t one of the world’s best and hasn’t experienced football at the highest level in the Champions League.

It’s easy to look at John Stones as an example of how pushing a player into a side required to defend against the world’s most potent attacks can go wrong at first.

Stones struggled – and still has problems now – when he arrived at the Etihad from Everton four years ago.

There is no guarantee that Ake wouldn’t suffer the same issues when placed under much more scrutiny than that he has experienced at Bournemouth.

It is also likely that Ake wouldn’t be able to partner Aymeric Laporte given both are left-footed. When constructing a defence, a manager’s first task usually is getting the balance right.

That becomes even more of an important requirement when a manager such as Guardiola wants his side to be able to pass the ball out from the back. Having two defenders who play with the same foot also creates problems when put under pressure. 

Central defensive partnerships with balance are better suited to covering each other at critical points than those without.

Some of the great centre-back partnerships have been those that consisted of right and left-footed players.

The great Ajax side of the 90s: Frank de Boer (left) and Danny Blind (right). The pairing that made Italy and Juventus so tough to beat: Giorgio Chiellini (left) and Leonardo Bonucci (right). 

Perhaps that problem means that Ake would only be considered as backup for Laporte. 

Another weakness of Ake’s game is his generally poor ability in the air. At 5ft 11in, Ake would be City’s shortest central defender. And while 5ft 11in certainly isn’t short, he isn’t of the height that allows a defender to comfortably win aerial duels.

That becomes further apparent when you assess Ake’s stats. Out of 58 players who have played at centre half this season in the Premier League, Ake ranks 57th for aerial duel success.

Only Southampton’s Jack Stephens is worse than Ake’s 46.6 per cent return. Indeed, his ability in the air is shown up even more when compared him with the rest of Europe’s top defenders. Ake ranks in the bottom 25 of 282 central defenders for the same stat across the continent’s five top leagues.

That presents quite the problem for City who tend to be targeted with long balls over the top or from set pieces. It is an issue Guardiola has worked hard to combat – Kompany was a blessing in that regard for many years with Laporte helping him towards the end of his City career – and one Ake wouldn’t come necessarily close to solving. 

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