After last season’s ninth-place finish, AFC Bournemouth invested heavily over the summer to bring in new players to help them solidify and even improve no that finish in the future. One of their biggest transfers, a club record in fact, was £20m for Chelsea prospect Nathan Aké, who had spent the first half of the season there on loan already.
However, Bournemouth have fared well below what was expected of them so far. Second from the bottom may not be an accurate reflection of their true quality, but it does precisely reflect their decidedly poor results thus far in the campaign. While Chelsea’s season has hardly been faultless so far, the Cherries are on a whole other level. Despite those drastic swings in (mis)fortune, Aké does not have any regrets about his choice.
“I have no regrets, no way. I am still 100 per cent happy with my decision. It is still early in the season. We didn’t start the season well, but the quality of our football is coming back, we are scoring good goals. The defending is getting better too. It’s just about picking up more points and we will do that with the quality we have in the squad.”
It all looked very different just a few months ago, when Aké was recalled to Chelsea from his loan at Bournemouth in January. While he was not expected to feature in the starting line-ups every week, the move was seen as a sign of the youngster’s importance to the club’s future. Alas, he featured just a handful of times, and the move that looked like the precursor for greater things to come at Chelsea actually turned into the move that sealed his decision to leave.
“When I returned from loan I thought I’d get more chances to play. I had a few games, but I wanted to have that feeling of playing every week. It’s what I need at my age. "
“Maybe what happened after the FA Cup semi-final was a reality check. After playing in a game like that, you want to play again. But I was conscious that the team playing every week was doing really well. They were competing for the title."
“I understand the manager’s point of view at Chelsea. They have a lot of pressure on them and maybe it’s difficult to throw in youngsters. I’m not angry at Chelsea or disappointed. I really had a good time there and learnt a lot."
“At the end of the season I just felt that the time had come. Chelsea were disappointed and wanted to keep me, but they understood as well. They didn’t want to stop me from fulfilling my dreams.”
It probably made the decision easier for Chelsea that Bournemouth were willing to spend so heavily on Aké ... who is now eager to prove his worth and live up to that pressure.
“I put pressure on myself anyway, but of course you want to repay a club when they spend so much money on you."
“I had a couple of games against Manchester City and Arsenal where I didn’t play so well and that was a tough time for me. But unlike at Chelsea, I was still playing the next week. I had to come back stronger, show the character to get through it."
“It’s good to play a lot of games in a row and I’m learning a lot from it already. I have improved and become mentally stronger.”
And now Aké faces his old team. But it won’t be about revenge. Just another day, another challenge in the office.
“I am not intimidated by anyone. I obviously have respect for my opponents and it will be a good battle, for sure. I always want to test myself against the best players, so I’m actually looking forward to it. I won’t go into it soft."
“He is a top striker and has been playing really well so far. He has got all the attributes. I need to be focused and I hope to stop him."
“Playing against Chelsea won’t give me more motivation. I have nothing against them. It is not like I will be going out there thinking, ‘I want to prove this and that’. But to win will be the ideal story and we fancy our chances.”
-Nathan Aké; source: London Evening Standard
Aké may try to play down the circumstances but it would only be natural for him to give a bit more of an effort when facing his older team. It will be up to Chelsea to not give him the pleasure of a win...