Manchester City are wasting little time in their close-season rebuild after a bid for Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake was reportedly accepted on Thursday.
A deal worth an initial £40million is said to have been agreed with the relegated Cherries as City reinforce options in a defence that drew criticism during Liverpool’s march to the 2019-20 Premier League title.
But just what will City be adding to their central defensive options if a deal for Ake goes through?
With some help from Opta, we took a look at the data comparing the Dutch centre-back to Aymeric Laporte, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi and Eric Garcia, going back to when Ake joined Bournemouth on a permanent deal ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.
CASE FOR THE DEFENCE?
Scoring goals was, unsurprisingly, not a problem for City this season as they racked up a mightily impressive 102 in the Premier League.
Indeed, the 35 they conceded was the second-best record in the division – Ederson claimed the Golden Glove thanks to 16 clean sheets – but represented a dip against the respective 27 and 23 they shipped in the previous two campaigns.
So, will Ake help Pep Guardiola’s side improve at the back? There are certainly positive signs.
For instance, Ake has won more tackles (88) and duels (469) than any of Laporte (33 and 226), Stones (32 and 208), Otamendi (71 and 325) or Garcia (1 and 25) in our timeframe.
But, as the more astute among you will recognise, this does not nearly paint a full picture, not least because Ake has comfortably the most appearances with 105, compared to Otamendi (76), Laporte (59), Stones (58) and Garcia (13).
A more useful indicator could be a tackle success rate of 58.67, which ranks third behind Stones (68.09) and Otamendi (64.55). When it comes to duel success percentage, Ake’s 58.12 is higher only than Garcia’s (42.37).
9270 – Since joining @afcbournemouth in 2017, Nathan Aké played 9270 minutes of Premier League football, more than any other Bournemouth player and the seventh-highest for a Premier League outfield player in that period. Reliable. pic.twitter.com/3buvblQLYR
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) July 30, 2020
Indeed, when looking at the data for averages per 90 minutes Ake still performs reasonably well. Only Otamendi (1.08) performs better in terms of tackles won (0.85 for Ake), while the Argentine is the only man to come out on top on average in more duels (4.95 to 4.55).
For aerial balls won, Ake’s 2.48 on average per game fairs pretty well compared to Stones (2.92) and Otamendi (2.77) and is better than Laporte’s (2.3) and Garcia’s (1.25) – albeit the latter has played in far fewer games.
One area on the face of it where Ake excels is blocks and interceptions, where his 88 and 115 are higher than Otamendi’s 22 and 99 – the next best of the five for those metrics.
But again there are caveats. When assessing the data on average per 90 minutes, both Otamendi (1.51) and Laporte (1.27) average more than Ake (1.12).
With blocks it appears simply a case of workload. Ake has faced 14.31 shots per 90 minutes. By contrast, Garcia (7.63), Stones (7.03), Otamendi (6.41) and Laporte (6.16) face significantly fewer.
KEEP THE BALL, PASS THE BALL
If you’re a defender playing under Guardiola, you need to be as comfortable on the ball as you are off it.
Initial analysis on this department suggests Ake has work to do, although the amount of time City spend in possession certainly should help.
Ake’s 3,853 successful passes is lower than Otamendi (5,393) and Laporte (4,580) despite having played the most games, while he ranks second behind the former in terms of successful passes in his own half (2,803) and only ahead of Garcia for successful passes in the opposition half (1,050) –
where City defenders spend a lot of their time camped.
His passing accuracy of 85.7 is comfortably the worst, with Stones (94.69) leading the way.
Again, what is important to note here is that it should be expected City’s defenders perform better with this measurement, given the amount of time they spend on the ball.
Indeed, City’s possession average of 68.89 per cent far outweighs the 45.67 Bournemouth enjoy.
It stands to reason that Ake’s numbers could easily improve in this regard when part of a team that, more often than not, will beat their opponents in the possession stats.
Devastated.. Love this club no matter what! Thank you for all the support this year and sorry we couldn’t make it in the end. pic.twitter.com/UAzadx4JPa
— Nathan Aké (@NathanAke) July 26, 2020
Okay, admittedly this section is a little mischievous…
You see, under Guardiola, City have earned a reputation (rightly or wrongly, we’ll let you be the judge) for being somewhat adept at tactical fouls.
Over our time period, Ake has committed 64 fouls, more than Otamendi (57), Laporte (40), Stones (17) and Garcia (9).
When looking at the same factor over 90 minutes per game, Ake’s 0.62 is lower than Garcia (1.03), Otamendi (0.87) and Laporte (0.72).
So, maybe there is a little bit of work to be done with that one…
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