Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola views the contribution of Nathan Ake as ‘fundamental’ to this season’s success.
City lifted the Premier League trophy for the fifth time under Guardiola, last weekend, following victory over Chelsea. An incredible second half to the season saw City leapfrog Arsenal and storm to another league title. They have won 12 Premier League matches on the bounce and are unbeaten in their last 15 league outings.
And for all the goals City have scored this year, it is the defensive displays which have satisfied Guardiola as much as anything. The versatility and consistency provided by Nathan Ake came in for particular praise from the City chief – who discussed the necessity to nullify top quality opposition wingers.
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“It has been fundamental for us,” Guardiola told Sky Sports. “Earlier this season, when you play against Saka or Vinicius – this type of winger – or Martinelli, Salah, Mane in the past, you need a proper, proper, proper defender to win duels one-against-one. Otherwise, in this competition or the Champions League – those levels, they need one action to beat you.
“And Nathan gave us that boost that we didn’t have in the past. I think the biggest step this year, in the back four, was the real, real, proper defenders – who win their duels and in the box, win their duels. In the past, we didn’t have it and Nathan, like Manuel Akanji and Kyle Walker, he can do it and everyone took a step forward in that sense.”