Thanks to some mind-boggling TV revenues this season, Premier League clubs are in a transfer record smashing mode. Every club is being linked to a variety of stars and almost every club is willing to pay a high premium to ensure that they get their desired players for the start of the next season.
Liverpool narrowly missed the transfer record in case of Mohamed Salah, although if the bonuses are included, it might still be their current record transfer. But they are already trying to smash that record as well for Naby Keita. Similarly, Arsenal will be dabbling in record transfer territory if they submit a bid for Kylian Mbappe, and even for the seemingly plausible Lacazette deal they will not be too far from their record. Everton have also been on a signing spree.
Other big clubs such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City are also just waiting for the right opportunity before they mAké their big money moves. But this is a story that is repeated every season for these big clubs. This transfer window however, we are seeing the smaller Premier League clubs also mAké big moves (by their standards). One such club is Bournemouth, who have already splashed close to £30 million for a goal keeper and a defender, while they have signed a striker (Defoe) on a free.
Bournemouth have reportedly broken their transfer record and signed Nathan Aké from Chelsea for £20 million. As per Transfermarkt.com, this price is three times the value for Aké. Eddie Howe is clearly hoping from some big things from the 22-year old defender. But does the player have it in him to justify this premium? Let us tAké a look.
Aké is a centre back, who can play left-back, as well as in the defensive midfield. He joined Chelsea’s youth system at the age of 16 in 2011 from Feyenoord. He got his Premier League debut in December 2012 as he was subbed in for Juan Mata in a 1-0 victory against Norwich City. After that various Chelsea managers gave him sporadic chances and he made debuts in Champions League, FA Cup, and the League Cup. In his first season with Chelsea, he was also voted as Chelsea’s Young Player of the Year.
His five-year contract extension in 2013 was followed by three loan spells, the first was a one-month loan to Reading towards the end of the 2014-15 season. This was followed by a season-long loan at Watford, where he made 24 league appearances and played 1,873 minutes. The highlight of this season for him must have been his only goal of the 2015-16 season, against Liverpool at Vicarage Road.
This loan was followed by another loan, this time to Bournemouth at the start of the 2016-17 season. He made only 10 league appearances for Bournemouth but was very impressive in them. His loan spell was cut short when Antonio Conte recalled him in January earlier this year, possibly as a cover for his three-men defense in the busy second half of the season. The highlight of his loan to Bournemouth was also a goal against Liverpool, the winner in the 4-3 thriller that was sealed in injury time.
Internationally, Aké has captained the U-17 and U-19 Netherlands sides and made two appearances for the Dutch senior side.
Aké has been the most impressive in his 10 appearances for Bournemouth and his loan was last season, for which we have some detailed stats. So let us tAké a look at them.
Although he made only 10 appearances in the league for Bournemouth (and two in the League Cup), WhoScored rates him as the best player for them last season, with a rating of 7.20. This is no doubt a result of the low number of matches and perhaps the rating would have been diluted a bit, had he stayed on at the Vitality Stadium. According to WhoScored, he is good at interceptions, blocking and tackling, while not that great at passing and crossing.
Indeed, if we look at his stats in detail, he proved to be good at blocking (1 block per 90 minutes), as he put in 25% of the blocks Bournemouth put in. Fair share of blocks, we can say. In tackling he is even better, as he put in 2.2 tackles per 90 minutes, with a 78% success rate. But perhaps considering Bournemouth’s deep defending and counter attacking style last season, the number that strikes me as Aké’s best is the number of clearances. He put in 9 clearances per 90 minutes last season, as compared to 29.5 for his entire team. Even if we assume that clearing is a defender’s duty, he did more than his share there.
Although WhoScored say that his passing is weak, he had the second-best passing success rate (87.9%) at Bournemouth last season and provided 0.4 shot assists per 90 minutes, which is a pretty good number for a central defender. Going forward also he remained a consistent threat with 0.7 shots per 90 minutes, with 0.5 shots on target per 90 minutes, i.e. he had a shot on target every 2 games. From those he managed to score 3 goals for Bournemouth, which is indeed exceptional.
Overall, I feel that Eddie Howe knows that in Aké he has a young (only 22) fast defender with close to 3,000 minutes of Premier League experience, who can play multiple positions, who knows and fits very well into Bournemouth’s style of play, and can contribute significantly while building up plays and while going forward. Considering the package that Aké represents, and considering the premium clubs are willing to pay for Premier League defenders, Howe and Bournemouth should feel that the £20 million they have paid for Aké is a great deal.