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Why Nathan Ake is a January target for Chelsea and Manchester City
Ake is reported January transfer window target for several top Premier League clubs
Last Updated: 12/12/19 2:54pm
Nathan Ake is a transfer target for Chelsea and Manchester City. So why are the top clubs chasing his signature?
Despite being only 24 years old, Ake has more than eight years' experience in England, having moved to Chelsea from Feyenoord in the summer of 2011.
Of current Premier League defenders aged 25 or under, only Hector Bellerin and John Stones have racked up more top-flight minutes.
The Netherlands international's journey to regular football was lengthy, making only five appearances with the Blues as a defensive midfielder across three seasons after joining the senior squad in 2012.
Ake underwent a positional transformation during the following campaign, making 23 appearances as a left-back on loan at Watford, along with a solitary start at centre-back.
He made a loan move to Bournemouth for the start of 2016/17, where Eddie Howe primarily started him as a central defender, and returned to Chelsea for the remainder of the season during the winter window.
But the Cherries signed Ake on a permanent deal in the summer of 2017 for £20m and, since then, Ake has started 91 out of 92 league games - 86 of those at centre-back.
The graph below shows his five-game average form in the Power Rankings and clearly shows the slumps at Chelsea, resulting from limited game time.
He achieved spikes in form with regular appearances during the loan periods at Watford and Bournemouth, before a three-year run of relative consistency since his permanent move to the south coast.
The chart below shows Ake's positional development, revealing a versatility which would appeal to the likes of Pep Guardiola, who has moved defensive midfielder Fernandinho into central defence to cover the injured Aymeric Laporte.
Speaking after scoring his first goal in the Premier League with Bournemouth back in 2016, Ake said: "I can't complain playing at centre-back. If you play, you play. I'm delighted to be able to come in and score straight away."
It would appear the Dutchman still fancies a midfield role, having scored the winner from that position against Tottenham in May this year.
Nathan enjoyed the midfield role, it's one that is natural to him and I think he likes the idea of playing there.
Eddie Howe on Nathan Ake
After that game, Howe said: "Nathan enjoyed the midfield role, it's one that is natural to him and I think he likes the idea of playing there. The beauty of a player like Nathan is his versatility. I think he would play wherever we wanted him to."
Ake has also changed his passing style this term, attempting less distribution directly upfield and increasingly combining with impressive left-back Diego Rico.
As a result, Ake has a 90 per cent passing accuracy in the Premier League this season, his highest in any season when he has started a game - that ranks eighth this term among defenders that have played 300 minutes or more.
Despite being only 5ft 11in, Ake ranks impressively for headed clearances and has also chipped in with 11 goals during his Premier League career, of which six have been headers.
He ranks modestly for tackles, but the graphic below shows how Ake has made five crucial interventions in his penalty area this season, in an area typically marshalled by Steve Cook.
Most crucially, Bournemouth are better with Ake than without him. Since his initial loan move in 2016, the Cherries' win percentage jumps three per cent with him in the team and they concede fewer goals, too.
Chelsea want to activate a £40m buy-back clause in Ake's contract in January after the club had their transfer ban overturned on appeal, while Manchester City are also likely suitors with their current defensive issues.
The Dutch international would be a solid addition to either club and offer versatility, consistency and experience at just 24 years old.