Nathan Ak Is a Good Signing - But Man City Must Continue to Reinforce Defensively

Aymeric Laporte may have been striking a relaxed pose while being stretchered off against Brighton in late August - with his interlocked fingers propping up his head.


But the centre-back's subsequent lengthy absence was one of the decisive factors in Manchester City's stuttering title challenge.


Aymeric Laporte was stretchered off against Brighton in the first half after damaging his knee in an innocuous collision

The collision with Brighton's Adam Webster forced the Frenchman off in the first half of City's 4-0 win on that balmy afternoon, but the arrival of another centre-back to have plied their trade on the south coast should prevent quite the same drop off in Laporte's future absences.


Manchester City have all but completed the £41m signing of Bournemouth's Nathan Aké for next season. Despite the fact that Eddie Howe's side suffered relegation with the Premier League's third-worst defensive record this season, the 25-year-old centre-back has garnered plaudits for his impressive performances across multiple campaigns.


Aké may have been the first name on the team-sheet at Bournemouth, but the Dutch international will, in all likelihood, be an alternative to Laporte - a position City desperately needed reinforcement within.


Nathan Aké in action against his future Manchester City teammate Bernardo Silva

Until that brutal knee injury, Laporte had been one of the few Manchester City players exempt from Pep Guardiola's unpredictable squad rotations.


In his first full season at City - 2018/19 - Laporte was only willingly rested by Guardiola in the Premier League for what proved to be a less than comfortable 2-1 away win against Watford. Even then, the 26-year-old was brought on for striker Gabriel Jesus in the final few minutes to waste time.


Laporte boasts many admirable qualities as a centre-back in a Guardiola side, but the Spanish coach himself highlighted that there is one simple - biological - trait which he so values, the fact that he is left-footed. "He gives us an alternative for the build-up, quicker and faster than the other ones who are right-footed," Guardiola explained in 2018, as quoted by Goal.


"When you receive to go to the right, you have to go inside, because you want to go to the right foot. In the left, you go to that side, so it helps us to create this build-up [to the left, and to the right with a diagonal pass]. With the right foot, it is a little bit more complicated."


Laporte and Aké share many positive qualities, but chief among them is the fact that both are left-footed

As you've no doubt surmised, Aké is also left-footed.


Along with his favoured boot, Aké has demonstrated a comfort on the ball a player for Manchester City would need - although not to the same remarkable standards of Laporte. The fact that he has spent part of his career playing further up the park will no doubt help him adapt to Guardiola's style of play.


It's no secret that the Catalan coach favours a team packed with midfielders. Whether it means playing them up front - as Cesc Fàbregas was often deployed at Barcelona - or in defence with Fernandinho the latest to have been shifted back by Guardiola.


Aké initially arrived at Bournemouth as a defensive midfielder and the experience of that position will certainly shorten the learning period all new signings undergo with Guardiola.


Aké has also thrived with a new sense of leadership while at Bournemouth

The 5'11 Netherlands international also wins an above average number of aerial duels for a centre-back. However, the number of opportunities he would have to challenge for the ball in the air playing for Championship-bound Bournemouth, inflates that particular figure. Coupled with his low win rate of 52% and there are certainly questions as to how good he actually is in the air.


When the ball is kept on the ground, Aké is adept at anticipating the play and stepping in to intercept. The 25-year-old is also rarely forced to resort to fouling his man and is quick across the ground.


However, while Aké represents a decent addition to the squad, Manchester City would again be leaving themselves short-staffed if they don't dip back into the market.


Eric García has done well in his recent outings but is still very inexperienced at senior level

Eric García has been quietly impressive during his burst of opportunities post-lockdown. But, given the utter lack of confidence inspired by the likes of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, City need cover for the right-sided centre-back slot.


Whether the dethroned Premier League champions will opt for a more experience name to challenge the 19-year-old García (who has made just 13 top flight appearances in his embryonic career) remains to be seen.


But first, City can be content with the swift capture of Aké. The Dutchman is far from the complete package, but his arrival has plugged a gap which desperately needed filling.



Source : 90min