Nathan Ake 2019/20: What would he bring to Arsenal – Scout Report
Following on from my scout report on Merit Demiral and Dayot Upamecano, I have chosen to take a look at Nathan Ake. The Bournemouth man has put in consistent performances for Bournemouth these last couple of seasons and with Callum Chambers’ recent injury, centre-back becomes even more of a priority for Mikel Arteta.
This scout report will analyse what Ake can bring to Arsenal, how he compares to Merih Demiral and whether he can make the step up from Bournemouth.
Since Ake left Chelsea permanently in 2017, he has become one of the premier leagues leading defenders for a non-top six side. Despite an underwhelming campaign thus far for Bournemouth, Ake has still maintained his performance levels. In the 16 premier league games Ake has appeared in for Bournemouth, he has amassed 6.39 interceptions per game. To put this in perspective, Ake has made 2.1 more interceptions per game than Merih Demiral.
Context must be given to this in that Ake has played 11 more games than Demiral. Ake is also playing for a team who comes under more pressure defensively. This, therefore, means that the likelihood of Ake needing to make more interceptions and consequently having the opportunity to increase his numbers is more prevalent, however, both are being quoted at a similar price, which makes them a good comparison.
Ake stands at a relatively low (for premier league defenders) 5ft 11in and this can make him susceptible when under aerial pressure. Ake records 4.74 aerial battles per game, winning just 50% of thems. Demiral at 6ft 3in obviously has a major advantage over Ake and wins 75% of his 5.23 aerial battles per game. Given that Arsenal’s aerial ability is not the greatest at present, Ake won’t particularly improve this.
Reading of the game
Where Arteta would look for Ake to succeed given his aerial weaknesses, is in his reading of the game. His previously mentioned interception rate is very impressive and in terms of sliding tackles, his 0.87 per game is far greater than Demiral’s 0.56. Ake records 6.86 defensive duels per game and wins 68.8% of them. For a player who is at a team that is under a lot of defensive pressure and isn’t performing the best, this is a very strong number.
Passing is where Nathan Ake really thrives. Obviously Bournemouth are not in their greatest moment and are struggling defensively and offensively. This, therefore, limits the time and confidence Bournemouth’s players have on the ball. Despite this, Ake still completes 86% of his 39 passes per game. Ake’s confidence and ability on the ball allow him to play 4.3 passes to the final third of the pitch and he has an accuracy of 73%. During a Premier League match, Ake plays on average 17 forward passes with an 80% success rate.
He is very comfortable on the ball and only looks to play backwards if he has to. His three back passes this season show this as does his 26 received passes per game. His teammates clearly trust him on the ball. Nathan is very similar to Merih in that he prefers to play shorter passes than long balls. His 3.6 per game come with 52% accuracy rate. Whether this is tactical and Eddie Howe prefers for his ball-playing defender to play the ball short, or whether it’s just a preference from Ake is unknown.
Nathan Ake is naturally a centre-back, however, he is adept at playing left-back and in defensive midfield. With Arsenal’s current injury crisis in defence, Ake could provide both a solid first choice option and very capable cover in other positions. The Dutchman could also offer Arteta tactical flexibility with his left foot. In many an occasion, Bournemouth have deployed Ake as a left-sided centre back in a three. This is something which for a right-footer may seem problematic and uncomfortable. As well as in a back three, Ake can help offer balance and greater distribution in a two/back four.
Nathan Ake is certainly a player who seemingly fits what Arteta wants from his defenders. The reported £30 – £40 million is a snip at what the price could have been had Bournemouth been in their finest form. For the same price however, Merih Demiral is available. He is three years Ake’s junior and is at a bigger club and has played Champions League matches, albeit not too many. Whilst Demiral has only played five matches this season, he has shown real promise and talent.
Ake, on the other hand, could offer more balance to the squad with his left foot and positional cover. He is of course also the cliche – Premier League proven. Ake would defiantly improve Arsenal defensively in all areas bar heading, however with Manchester City struggling defensively and a whole host of other clubs being interested, just like with Demiral, it could become a bidding war. Given Arsenal’s defensive woes, Ake would be the better choice. This is largely down to his flexibility and that he wouldn’t need too big of a transitional period.
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