Transfers

City's Aké pursuit will once again leave United red-faced

 • by Sam McGuire
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Manchester City don’t get enough credit for how they operate in the transfer market.

They very rarely get held to ransom and they’ll walk away from deals if they feel there’s no value for money. They identify targets early on and seemingly have their finger on the pulse so are able to react to the market, too. 

Over recent weeks, the Premier League champions have been linked with a move for Harry Maguire

However, with the fee to land him expected to surpass the £75million mark, Pep Guardiola and the recruitment team at the Etihad have left him for neighbours Manchester United, just as they did with Fred last summer. 

And, according to L’Equipe, Bournemouth’s Nathan Aké is now the man they want to bolster their defence, and at nearly half the price quoted for Maguire. 

Chelsea have a first-option clause but with their transfer ban they’re unable to make a move to bring the Dutchman back to Stamford Bridge this summer. It effectively gives City a free run at the 24-year-old. 

But is he really ready to make a step up to a team who are expected to retain their Premier League crown for a third successive year? 

Aké was part of a Bournemouth side that conceded 70 goals last season, a total only surpassed by Huddersfield (76) and Fulham (81).

Of course, the former Chelsea youngster wasn’t directly responsible for all 70 but the step up from a busy defence to one that was breached on just 23 occasions last term is a significant one. 

The Netherlands international would go from being fairly busy to only being called upon occasionally. For starters, it’s a test of concentration. It may seem like a minor thing but it’s a difficult adjustment period and one certain players struggle with. 

Last season, Aké won more aerial duels than Aymeric Laporte, he won more defensive duels, attempted more headed clearances and made three times the number of clearances in general, too. 

A comparison between the two would suggest Aké was better purely because he was busier. 

Another way to look at it would be to look at fouls committed and the number of occasions they lost the ball.

Aké comes out trumps in both of those areas as well which then paints a picture of someone who is reckless and loose in possession. But, again, when context is taken into account all it says is he’s the busier of the two. 

The truth is, when comparing players from two completely different systems you have to look at the constants. In this case, it’s Aké’s use of the ball.

Unlike many other mid-table teams, Bournemouth like to play football on the deck. Their centre-backs see a lot of the ball, with their No.5 averaging 44 attempted passes per 90. It’s nowhere near Laporte’s 88 but it shows he is used to seeing a substantial amount of possession.

Aké would have to get used to seeing double that average but he’s not like others in the league who struggle to break the 30 pass barrier. There’s enough there to suggest he’d adapt to playing in a team that dominates possession.

With an 86 per cent pass accuracy average, Aké uses the ball well but doesn’t waste it. He recycles it and keeps it moving, key to the way City play. One area he may have to tweak is just how progressive he is.

Whereas Guardiola’s team show a lot of patience to keep the ball and move it into areas they want to control, Bournemouth look to get going and make the most of the pace Callum Wilson, Josh King and David Brooks possess.

Aké plays a little over 40 per cent of his passes forward, six per cent more than Laporte who is City’s most adventurous defensive ball-player.

Under Guardiola, he could be crafted into Laporte’s ideal understudy both as a centre-back and as a left-back. The link to Aké makes much more sense than the Maguire links ever did.

For a second successive summer, City might have forced United into overpaying for a player they didn’t need all while strengthing their squad without competition from others.

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