Manchester City's Unsung Hero Nathan Ake Is A Worthy Team Of The Season Contender

Ake was not selected by either Gary Neville or Jamie Carragher for their respective teams of the season
17:00, 23 May 2023

On Monday Night Football, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher handed out their end of season Premier League awards, while also naming their individual teams of the season. Both their XIs were respectable but one player who was overlooked by both pundits was Manchester City’s defender Nathan Ake.

The Netherlands international has been a consistent performer for the Premier League champions and can count himself unlucky to not have been included in either Neville or Carragher’s teams of the season.

While former City defender Oleksandr Zinchenko (named in Carragher’s XI) has been impressive for Arsenal, he has made two crucial mistakes in matches, whereas Ake has made none that have led to goals. Neville opted for Brighton & Hove Albion’s Pervis Estupinan and he has also enjoyed an incredible season, but it reflects just how undervalued Ake’s contributions have been, even if his manager appreciates him.


After City were crowned as the champions of England for the third successive year on Sunday, Pep Guardiola paid the Dutchman some huge compliments. “He has been fundamental,” the City boss told Sky Sports.

“I learned this season when you play against Bukayo [Saka], Vinicius [Junior], [Gabriel] Martinelli and [Mohamed] Salah or [Sadio] Mane in the past, you need a proper defender to win duels one v one. 

“Or, in the Champions League, at that level, they need one action to beat you and Nathan gave us that boost that I didn’t have in the past.”

Ake has been part of the Spaniard’s ranks during this incredible three-year period and it wasn’t until this season that he stepped up to become a valuable member of the team. He has made 21 starts in the Premier League this term, the most he has made for City since joining from AFC Bournemouth for around £41 million.

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola

Jack Grealish told Sky that this title meant more because he had played a greater part, and Ake will no doubt feel the same as his teammate, particularly as he has largely been the team’s unsung hero this year. Across all competitions, the Chelsea academy graduate has made 38 appearances, just shy of his combined total from his first two years in sky blue.

The 28-year-old has been out of action for the past four games and Guardiola will be hoping that he can return to fitness in time for their FA Cup final clash with Manchester United and their Champions League final battle with Inter Milan as they chase an immortalising treble.

It would be a great shame for Ake to miss the chance to play a part in these two massive fixtures coming up to end a magnificent season. He has really come into his own this campaign and his progress has been exceptional. Being asked to play at centre-half or left-back hasn’t fazed him, which epitomises a high-level performance player under Guardiola. We’ve seen John Stones operate as a right-back who steps into midfield in possession, and he has even started games in midfield which has been described as a masterstroke. 

There is such a great understanding between the coach and his players, and amongst the players themselves, that the transition between different positions comes with ease and no player is fazed when deployed in a different or unfamiliar role. It has brought great success to the team and, for Ake personally, it has seen him reach a new level on the pitch. He is now a key member of the squad and if he doesn’t recuperate in time for the two finals next month, he will be a huge loss.

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