Mike Arteta’s Arsenal have already been showing signs of promise. There seems to be a direction and tactical identity to take the team forward. The Spaniard, who is in his first job as manager, knows where the problems lie at the club. As time goes on, he will fix them and try to get the Gunners back to the very top. But he can’t get the side to come closer to it without improving the backline.
It has been a perennial problem for the club in recent years. Their soft underbelly gets exposed time and time again in big games- like it did against Chelsea recently. And that’s why recent links with Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake make sense.
Ake is more than just a Chelsea youth product. Since he came to Bournemouth in the summer of 2017, he has become a regular for the club in the centre of their defence. He has been that consistent figure that the Cherries can rely on, alongside the experienced Steve Cook.
This season, Bournemouth have had a stumble and find themselves struggling near the bottom. That is unnatural for a club that has been an established midtable club ever it came to the top-flight in the summer of 2015.
But Ake has made 16 appearances this season, being one of their better players. He may have won 1.2 tackles per game and has made 1.4 interceptions per game, his passing stats always stand out. He has played 47.7 passes per game- the second-best in the side. He has had a passing accuracy of 89.6 percent- the highest in the side.
That is the sort of style Ake has always had. He likes to get on the ball and dictate play. Even last season, he had a tally of 44.4 passes per game, with his accuracy at 86 percent-the highest in the side.
Last season, he got dribbled past 0.3 times per game only. This season, that number stands at 0.2 this season. It shows that while he doesn’t tackle in prolific fashion, he is accurate more often than not. He doesn’t fly into them and uses a calm head to judge. It indicates a sound reading of the game.
The Dutchman is adept at left-back too and his technical ability helps him in that. He can be a ball-player, even if he isn’t as quick as a regulation left-back.
Eddie Howe recently praised Ake for how he’s been improving since the day he came to the Vitality Stadium. The Englishman said: “We love working with him, we think he’s got outstanding attributes, he’s getting better and better in his position.”
That is why a move for Ake makes sense for the Gunners. Kieran Tierney is out for a long while, with Sead Kolasinac also constantly facing niggles. The Bosnian’s issues have seen Arteta use young winger Bukayo Saka at left-back for attacking impetus. But it is a case of not using a young player in the right position.
As for the central defenders, it was a mess under Unai Emery. David Luiz and Sokratis have become infamous for backing away from opposition forwards. They were short-term recruitments just to plug the hole on a temporary basis. Sokratis has been dribbled past 0.6 times, with Luiz’s number at 0.4. Both get dribbled past more than Ake.
The Dutchman would add not just the defensive ability though. Arteta’s focus on building from the back suits him right to the ground. He can take the ball forward from the defence and play it to midfield, helping the Gunners keep a highline. Being young, he has the pace to track back- something Luiz and Sokratis lack.
Arsenal seem unlikely to pry Dayot Upamecano this month. Ake could be a young, cheap and suitable option for the Gunners.