Big Move for Nathan Ake

Nathan Ake deserves to be a symbol. In The Netherlands, there has been a lot of criticism on players who left Holland before they made a name for themselves in the first team of their club, and signed for big money clubs abroad… Royston Drenthe, Karim Rekik, Ebicilio, Nazarite, Jeffrey Bruma, we have seen it with so many players who end up being ignored, being loaned out, losing momentum and ending up with mid tier clubs in Greece or warming the bench at Wolfsburg or decided to go back to the amateurs in Holland…

Nathan Ake is the big exception to the rule. He too left Holland when he was 15 years old. The skipper of the Netherlands rep team that made a name for themselves (with some of the players mentioned above) and was considered Feyenoord’s next big thing.

But Chelsea swooped in and sign the introverted Ake for the future… The best thing for Nathan, was the fact that he was with Chelsea for 3 seasons at least, before he turned 21 making him a home grown player, in England. That will have helped his transfer tremendously, as any club needs to have 8 home grown players in their squad.

Last summer, Guardiola was eyeing Ake already, but the transfer didn’t happen, for different reasons. This season, City has been struggling defensively and needed to get some fresh blood in quick. And City was also limited due to the number of home grown players needed in their squad. Ake was the ideal candidate.

Ake is not just a good fit due to his “English status”, but also because he fits like a glove in Pep’s tactical plans.

He’s not the tallest (180 cm) but he’s a great header of the ball (timing and powerful jumps), both defensively and offensively. He has great feel for space and positioning. He’s very good on the ball and finds footballing solutions easily. He’s quick and has the balls to defend high up the pitch, with space behind him.

A good example below of what Ake can do. In the away match vs Man United, there is pressure on the ball but a confident and composed Nathan Ake dribbles his way to safety.

Recognising when it’s a good moment to push forward is a key strength for players in Guardiola’s teams. John Stones is hailed for this quality, but his defensive work is highly criticised. Those qualities are better balanced out with Ake. See below.



On top of that, Bournemouth got relegated, meaning that the club will most likely be happy to off load Ake for a good price. Bournemouth’s former coach – and the man who signed Ake – can fully understand Pep’s crush: “Nathan is a symbol of consistency. He has performed really well for us over a long period of time. And not just on the pitch, he is just a top notch professional. He can play on different positions. We have seen him play left full back, defensive mid and centre back. He needed to get used to it a bit, but he’s really brilliant in that role.”

Ake is seen as one of the best CBs in the EPL but in the Dutch NT, he’s fourth choice, behind Van Dijk, De Vrij and De Ligt. Potentially also because Ake never played Eredivisie football and isn’t that well known in Holland. He started with ADO Den Haag, where Feyenoord picked him up really early on. He never made the first team but enjoyed playing in a team with his mates and a move to England wasn’t part of the plan. Chelsea came and Nathan said no. His dad changed his mind, by saying: “If you wanted to study somewhere, and Harvard accepts you, you’d take it! You learn a lot and should you fail you can always go to a lesser school.” Nathan decided to go and check it out and loved it.

He won’t be able to get a starting birth though, but he did develop well in London, playing with the likes of Terry and Lampard. Frank Arnesen is Chelsea’s TD and loves for the youngster to move to the first team squad, but Mourinho is the Chelsea coach and he is not the guy to help young talents. He’s about winning, like most coaches in the EPL. Ake still enjoyed working with Mourinho: ” I liked him a lot. I worked with him for two years and he can really touch you, motivate you. You’ll go to war for him, and he demands 100% every training again. He wants to see that fighting spirit. At that age, it was really important for me to work with him and experience that.”

Later, Ake was less positive about Mourinho, claiming he was dropped by Mourinho after having had a good spell of starting berths under Benitez. “At one point he humiliated me in training, when I made a mistake. He threw his pad on the ground and yelled: “do you want me to buy a real defender for 50 million euros”. He dropped me from the squad and left me broken. I never understood why, as I was voted young player of the year and had some good games for Chelsea.”

Chelsea’s Rafael Benitez, Nathan Ake during a training session at the Cobham Training Ground on 15th March 2013 in Cobham, England. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Chelsea agrees to do a loan deal with Watford for Ake and here he gets the first heads being turned. He plays left back, he scores important goals and keeps Watford in the EPL and reaches the semi finals of the FA Cup with Watford. When Chelsea wants to loan him out again in the next season, Ake prefers to go to Bournemouth. “I played against them a couple of times and they play good football. Pass and move, careful build up… Their coach Eddie Howe wanted me and I felt like he had a plan with me. He initially wanted me to play defensive mid, as I played there under Benitez at Chelsea for a bit. But the manager already told me he also saw a centre back in me.” Ake impresses in the role and becomes a key player. When he returns to Chelsea, it is because new coach Antonio Conte really wants him back. But Conte doesn’t use Ake that much and he has to watch the FA Cup finals from the stands, while he was in the team in the semi finals against Spurs to deal with Harry Kane. Successfully. When Bournemouth returns to Chelsea to get Ake permanently, the The Hague born mini Gullit jumps to the opportunity. Chelsea sells him for 20 mio euros and negotiates a buy-back clause for 40 million euros.

After a couple of good seasons, Bournemouth ends up being too small to withstand the onslaught from more ambitious clubs, and gets relegated.

Nathan’s rise to the top has gone via a long(er) and winding road, but he does prove that you can reach the summit when you leave the Netherlands so young. It’s a matter of working hard and keeping your head down and prove it week in week out.

At the NT, Ake has the bad luck that he has De Ligt and Van Dijk in front of him, same as Stefan de Vrij. The former Feyenoord defender was voted the best defender in the Serie A recently. What a feat for a lad from Rotterdam.

Ake, the silent power, the unsung hero, might well be Oranje’s secret weapon at next year’s Euros. He keeps on surprising people and seems to be making his way into one of the best footballing teams of the world.

Some Statistics:

Of all the defenders in the EPL today younger than 25, he only has to allow Luke Shaw and Hector Bellerin above him. The 11 times capped Ake played 146 EPL matches

Ake is not a safety before anything player, but his passing accuracy is 87.6%. Only 14 defenders with more than 1000 minutes of EPL football do it better than him.

Ake is only 180 cm tall but scored 6 headers this season in the EPL. Only 12 EPL defenders headed the ball more, defensively.

With Ake, Bournemouth won 29.5% of their games. Without him, it’s a lowly 12,5%.

Ake was taken on successfully in a one v one situation only nine times. Kurt Zouma (Chelsea) and Virgil van Dijk are the only two defenders whom experienced this less times (7 times only).

Like Virgil, Nathan hardly goes to ground. When he did do this, he won the ball 21 times out of 31 attempts.

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  1. May materialize very soon; I just read that De Ligt will be having shoulder surgery and out for months…though Ake normally plays left, De Vrij on the right, and Koeman may prefer a standard right/left pairing,

    1. So, De Vrij is a backup for VVD. He will be placed on the same position as VVD.

      De Ligt will be out until November, so it is still possible Ake will play with VVD in the center back position.

  2. Ake has good awareness and positioning. Believes he will thrive and improve playing with better players.
    Below a good read on Ake’s play.

    On a separate note, I am really hoping Hoever be loaned out for regular playing time. He is 3rd behind Trent and Williams at Liverpool. I see him as a real deal for the RB role.
    Ajax should loan him if Dest is moving on. 😊

    1. it has been highly speculated that after the departure of Dejan Lovern to Zenit Saint Petersburg, Hoever is in line to replace to him as back up to Gomez and Matip. klopp has indicated they need to sign another defender and the young dutchman has the capabilities of filing his shoes.

      im not sure though what the situation will be like if van dijk gets injured. will the backline be able to cope with his absence.

  3. Watched Inter vs Leverkusen. Felt Sinkgraven played well despite the loss. His play reminds me of Philip Lahm. We certainly have good options at LB now. Blind, Van Aanholt, Wijndal, Mitchell Bakker, Sinkgraven. 😊

      1. bakker and wijndal should be injected now at LB given Van annholt is out injured and Blind is not consistent enough at LB. bakker cannot be overlooked now that he is playing and training with same of the best players that are out there .

        sinkgraven, light weight is what makes him vulnerable. sometimes he easily gets out muscled. he needs to put on some weight to balance his defensive play.offensively he is up there.

        Ian Maatsen if lampard gives him the big break come the new season.

    1. deRoon and Hateboer were solid as rock for Atalanta. What a pity they couldn’t resist a couple more minutes. It reminded of last year’s Ajax heartbreak.
      Is Gosens dutch or german? I can’t find a good answer on the internet. Good player too.

      1. My understanding is that Gosens’ background makes him eligible to play for either The Netherlands or Germany, (per Wilipedia, German Mother/Dutch Father and passports from both countries), and as he hasn’t been called up by either side yet, his options remain open…might come down to who offers him an opportunity.

        1. looking at Hateboer outings vs England where he looked shaky I think both him and gosens will have be prove that they can transition smoothly from wing back to fullback. you have take note here this guys having been playing as wingback for the last two seasons and when switching to fullback system puts added workload which they are relived off in the wing back system. this could be one factor why they have been overlooked thus far.

  4. Hertha won their first preseason match 2-0, beating third-division side Viktoria Köln on Friday afternoon. Dodi Lukébakio and Daishawn Redan scored the goals for the capital city club.

    Hertha Berlin, first-half team: Jarstein – Zeefuik, Boyata, Torunarigha, M. Dárdai – Lukébakio, Ascacibar, Maier, Ngankam – Cunha, Piątek

    Hertha Berlin, second-half team: Schwolow, Pekarik, Klünter, Rekik, Plattenhardt – Tousart, Stark – Dilrosun, Duda, Leckie – Redan

    Goals: 1-0 Lukébakio (41’), 2-0 Redan (79’)

    the dutch quintet featured in the game with zeefuik already sounding the warning in the game with his penerating runs. Not sure how they will fair with the big guns but this is a very good hertha contingent after summer signings.

  5. Hey guys,
    just watched friendly between AZ and Monaco where my team lost 0:2 in Alkmaar. What can I say. AZ was VERY poor: slow, heavy, lack of creativity, three shotw on target with one disallowed goal (offside). Individually, Bizot and Koopmeiners were the only two players who played at 70% of their last season performance. Remaining team were at their 40%, The worst line was midfield with De Witt, Clasie, and Midtsjø. The latter was the worst one, I have never seen Midtsjø being so slow and awkward. The guy is completely out of shape. Second worst was attack: Iddrissi’s passes were mostly misplaced, Boadu was heavy as a bag of crap, and I do not know what Alber Gudmunddson was doing in the field as AZ attack was never built through right flank. Defensively AZ was OK. Bizot saved several times and in my opinion was the best player from Alkmaar’s side.
    There are only 11 days before AZ starts in CL. Arne Slot needs to do a lot of work to increase the fitness of his team. I do not know in which form Victoria Plzen is, but I personally very doubtful that AZ will pass Czech team. Based on my estimate. mid-November is going to be time when AZ will start playing at 80% capacity of the last season.

    1. One thing to note. Although I said that back line played relatively well, I did not see any contribution of the central defenders in the build up of attack. Last season Vlaar and Hadzitiakos were very good tandem in building AZ attack. Unfortunately, Koopmeiners and particularly Leeuwin are not good at it….It is understandable as Teun is not a central defender. Since we have not heard any progress in bringing Kongolo or Hoedt to Alkmaar, I assume that both attempts failed. Vlaar cold be available for the game with Czechs but Hadzi will be available only in October….

  6. Also, Dutch media talks about Stengs’ return as a panacea against everything. First of all even if he plays he will not turn things 100% back to normal. Secondly, there is a chance that he will get seriously injured and get lost for entire season.

  7. Happy to see depay back on the field and getting into the quarter finals . Sadly he didn’t score any goals agains Man City which I was really hoping to see . Did any of you watch the game how did you think he played ?

    Do you think his coach took him off because he didn’t play good enough or just to protect him because after all he still just came back of a big injury ? Is it just me I Kind of feel he got “ heavy legs “?

  8. @Yan, Yes I saw the game. Agree, he didn’t look as as active as he was in the Juventus match. Hope that you are right, that it was just heavy legs.

    OT. Admittedly, I haven’t seen Barcelona play all that much this year, but I did see both the Napoli and Bayern matches, so I am going from a small sample, but if that is how De Jong has been all year, I’d say it was just a waste of his talent. He didn’t play badly, but he was not put in a position to make best use of his talent. Read that Koeman is a top candidate to replace Septien, and was seen in Barcelona recently; that would be good for FDJ, maybe not so good for the NT.

    1. I just wanna put a spotlight on that depay sub scenario and how having a good backup can win you games especially when have to go pound for pound till the end. City kept sniffing after the equalizer and even though sterling and Jesus missed what should have been sure goals, dembele changed the complex of the game when he came on. He simply added the spark which was fading with depay and when you are playing with a team like city you have to maintain that till the very end and more importantly if you want to win.

      If you compared this to the PSG and Atantala game, it backfired on Atalanta . They took the lead and in the second half went into defense mode which psg captiziled on and punished them for it. Atalanta were good team and overall played better than was that mistake that came to bite them.

      I would say the same is needed in NT especially given Depay is not a true no 9. You cant expect him to be consistent through out a tournment. When other teams will bring on their super subs, what do you expect to happen here when Koeman resorts to players like luuk de jong to add more spark when trailing in the game.( nations league final).like I said in big games if you wanna win you need to go pound for pound and you need players who can match the opposition in any circumstances whether its a super sub or during red card situation where you need to sacrifice somebody.the only way forward for NT and koeman is through good rotation. The idea of building the team around a handful of players like frenkie, memphis needs to be thrown out of the it is and with the nations league coming up next, boadu and malen should be roated with depay to increase more depth upfront and build on different I said depay is not a true no 9 and looking at how things have unfolded, NT needs more strikers who can challenge depay.this has to be the feature in the upcoimg internationals and nations league.

  9. Richairo Zivkovic is also reported to be heading back to Groningen as shieffied United have confirmed they wont be making his loan deal permanent.could form a good partnership up front.

    1. That’s good for him . Back to ground zero hopefully he’ll get his form back in Holland . Btw lucky him hopefully he will get something from robben

  10. Luuk became hero last night or Sevilla and dumped Man Utd our of the europa league . . It was until he scored I suddenly remember he was playing for Sevilla haha

    I’m sure koeman was watching it

  11. My cousins from Holland said they heard chances are night for de boer

    de Boer is a failure in all his jobs and completely hasn’t got what the job needs . It would be a complete disaster for oranje and ruined all our current talent for the new few years

  12. My first preference is Dick Advocaat but im not sure whats his contract agreement with feyenoord. his assistant off course Guilt.

    second would be, continue with Kees Van Wonderen who is the current assistant of Koeman.

  13. Best for both Holland and Barca would have been Wenger going to Barca and Koeman staying put. Koeman will be just another disaster at the worst managed club in the world. I do not want a foreign coach leading NT. But if it means that Advocaat is an option I will take Sarri or anyone else over him over him 🙂 NT just got into another mess. This year keeps getting worse. Picking de Boer will be another spectacular horror.

    1. Yes, I think Koeman is not so good in handling club. Barcelona is a top club, they only want thropy or title (La Liga, Copa del Rey, or Champions League). If you fail to win something, you will be considered a failure.

  14. Everything happens for a good reason. Koeman always wanted to be Barcelona coach and with corona uncertainty he can not wait any longer. I honestly was under the impression that Koeman had reached his peak in the Oranje and no more progress would have been made. I hope that rumors of Wenger coming to Oranje are true. I am very intrigued by this.

  15. All other candidates and my opinion.
    Frank de Boer – disaster
    Peter Bosz – will not leave his job at Bayer
    Mark van Bommel – disaster
    Henk ten Cate – nothing special

  16. Jan, do you have a subscription for is a good article in talking about five Dutch and five foreign coach candidates for Oranje. If you do have, can you post the article here? Thank you

  17. Saw some brief items:

    1. Dwight Lodeweges will be the interim HC for the Europa League matches in Sept.

    2. There is a rumor that Van Gaal could be asked to take over the team through the Euros.

    1. I really dont wanna see van Gaal. he will just oversee potential players who should be going to euros and go with his own bullshit. first one will be daley Blind.

      if the KNVB was confident enough with Danny Blind then Wenger shouldnt be a problem.get bergkamp and Wim Jonk to be his assistant.

      1. I agree that if Van Gaal took over, his plan would be to try to win now, based on his own vision. He wouldn’t view it as a stepping stone to the WC…unless he decided that he might like to stick around another year.

        I don’t, however, think that this necessarily means that he wouldn’t take and insert younger, unproven at the NT level, players. The Ajax team he built in the early/mid 90’s was made up primarily of kids. The WC team he put together in 2014 had a number of younger players who were in key roles. (Blind, Wijnaldum, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Cillesen; De Pay, and Vlaar was a reclamation project.) If he thinks a player can give him what he wants/needs, he’ll play him.

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