Yesterday we looked at a pair of Chelsea prospects that just missed out on our top ten in Jeffrey Bruma and Thorgan Hazard, today we're going to take a look at the first Chelsea player to accumulate the votes requires to make the final list. Checking in at number ten:
Ake made several writers ballots, but was the only member of our top ten that didn't appear in the list we came up with by compiling just the votes of our readers. He joined the Chelsea academy in 2010, a move that probably didn't make the club any friends in the Netherlands. He was the second highly touted defender Chelsea poached from the Feyenoord academy in the space of several seasons, with Jeffrey Bruma having also departed the Eredivisie side to make his way to London.
The young defender became a regular in the U18 and U21 sides last season (then U18 and reserve), starting out at left back and in the midfield before eventually finding a regular role in the center of the defense. Anyone who watched Chelsea's U18 side win the FA Youth Cup would have been impressed with his play in that tournament, especially considering he was still young for the level. He made his first Chelsea senior bench when Chelsea defeated Leeds, but Rafa Benitez opted not to give him his debut in the 5-1 victory.
Ake has also been a regular for the youth ranks of the Netherlands. He's currently the captain of the U19 side, lining up in defense or in the midfield as needed. Before making the leap to the U19 level, Ake was a key part of the Netherlands team winning back to back UEFA U17 titles.
Thus far in the 2012/13 season, Ake has been a regular starter for Chelsea's U21 side. He has started 11 of the side's 12 games, chipping in with one goal. He has also made one start for the U18 side, and has started two of the five group stage games for the NextGen Series.
The young Dutchman has been a real bright spot in what has been a relatively disappointing U21 campaign. He's good on the ball, and does a solid job of positioning himself for such a young player. He's also looked quite decent in the air this season, though it's hard to say how that would translate to the much more physical level awaiting him.
It's a bit hard to dissect what he needs to work on, as he plays at the lowest level of any of the dozen players I'll be writing up. He's a long way from being a Chelsea regular, and he's yet to play at a level where he's not one of the elite talents in the competition. There's also the fact that Chelsea TV has done an absolutely terrible job of covering the U18, U19, and U21 games this season, meaning the bulk of what we've seen of Ake was 6 months ago or longer.
Ake will be a name to watch in the January window, as he's clearly been good enough that he should be able to earn some significant minutes on loan. Chelsea will not be playing in the elite group of the U21 league, so that move would seem more likely than had they been included in the elite group. There has been talk of several more Chelsea players joining Vitesse Arnhem, and Ake would seem to be one of those that would make sense. His ability to play both in defense and in the midfield would add to his chance of getting regular minutes, and everything I've seen of him would convince me that he's ready.
Ake is under contract until July of 2015, so I'd have to assume that we'll be talking about an extension before he ever becomes a Chelsea regular. He's one of the more exciting products to come through the academy though, so there is plenty of reason to believe that eventually could do just that. Nathan Ake is certainly a name that could rocket up this list by next year with an impressive spell on loan, and I'm really hoping he gets that opportunity in January.