Men's Team

Nathan Ake: Champions in focus

In the latest edition of our series, the spotlight is shone upon Nathan Ake.

In celebration of another memorable campaign, which yielded our sixth Premier League trophy, we take a closer look at the contributions of our City stars.

It was a true team effort with every player producing a significant impact. Today, we analyse the influence of our Dutch defender…

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Season stats

Total appearances (all competitions): 27

Total goals: 3

Premier League appearances: 14

Total cumulative minutes: 1,739

Season highlight

While goals typically spring to mind when referring to memorable moments of a campaign, especially for a defender, Ake’s finest moment occurred at a more familiar end of the pitch.

Though his first Champions League strike – fittingly scored on the night his father sadly passed away – and two efforts against Leeds United were certainly moments to remember, his incredible goalline clearance away at Arsenal definitely proved his most crucial contribution.

It was a major turning point in the New Year’s Day game in North London. City had not long equalised from the penalty spot through Riyad Mahrez when Aymeric Laporte inadvertently headed the ball over the onrushing Ederson. Anticipating the danger, the alert Ake sprinted back as the ball bounced towards the goalline and slid in to clear in the nick of time with Gabriel Martinelli unable to convert the rebound.

Minutes later, the Gunners were sent down to ten men as the pendulum swung in the away side’s favour and though Pep Guardiola’s men left it late, the visitors managed to snatch a vital three points with Rodrigo’s injury-time effort – one of the most celebrated and important goals of the season.

Were it not for Ake’s quick-thinking, speed and agility, it could have been a very different story.

Overview

In an interview with mancity.com in April, Ake declared he feels fully settled into City life and 'more like himself' this season.

Having endured a difficult debut campaign hampered by injury, the defender has increased his minutes this term and impressed with a string of solid performances.

The centre-back, who joined from Bournemouth in the summer of 2020, has truly shown his worth at both ends of the pitch and his versatility has proven a key attribute.

He has earned deserved praise from his manager and peers for his character and the way he conducts himself with the utmost professionalism, particularly when playing in an alternate position or even when not selected.

Though a knock affected his playing time towards the end of the season, he pushed through the pain barrier to aid City’s Premier League title charge where possible.

He is regarded as a leader – reliable, selfless and highly intelligent – and is thriving under the stewardship of Guardiola, as well as the world-class talent around him.

Calm and composed, Ake is a ball-playing defender, perfectly suited to the Champions’ playing style. He made 850 passes in the Premier League campaign, earning an excellent pass completion rate of 90.82%, while his strength and commanding presence also ensure he is also an aerial threat – evident with his three goals this season.

What they said

Pep Guardiola: “He is so reliable. Especially when you behave in your life like he does, always you will play well.

“In the bad phases, he is always helping. When he doesn’t get the minutes he deserves and then gets the minutes, he's thinking about the other ones and has done well.

“He is an exceptional person. His mother and father, who passed away, should be so proud.

“The older I get, the more aware of this kind of behaviour I am. Your life is better when you behave like this.

“He is so focused, so concentrated. He is an intelligent guy. It’s a joy to have him – Nathan is a great guy.

“He always trains well and is loved by the team. This type of person, when I can give them minutes, I am really pleased for them.”

Paul Dickov: “Nathan Ake doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s done.

“He’s not always playing but whenever he comes in – whether it be centre-half or at left-back when it’s not his natural position... It must be difficult to do that but he has been outstanding, it says a lot about him as a professional.”

Joleon Lescott: “His versatility helps, which I’m sure was part of the recruitment of him. He covers a lot of bases but whenever he plays, he performs well.

“He goes under the radar but he’ll be so important to the squad and they will appreciate what he contributes.

“Nathan doesn’t play every week but I’m sure his standards are so high in training and he is a leader in the group with regards to making sure the lads are on it every day. Those players are so important to a squad.”

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