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Player to watch next season: Nathan Ake at Chelsea

| 28.05.2013

Identifying Chelsea youngsters to have broken into the first team in the last decade is an almost impossible task.

Scott Sinclair and Josh McEachran received more pitch time than most, but Ryan Bertrand is really the only example of a player to have made the jump from youth team to first team and he is still far from a regular.

This should therefore only serve to heighten the optimism around Nathan Ake, who made six appearances towards the end of this season, including a start on the final day against Everton.

He was clearly highly regarded by Rafa Benitez and the hope is that whoever replaces the Spaniard in the Chelsea dugout continues to coax the 18-year-old into the first team.

Jose Mourinho is heavily odds-on to return to Stamford Bridge and although his track record of giving opportunities to youngsters is not the best, Davide Santon at Inter Milan and more recently Raphael Varane at Real Madrid do provide some optimism.

Ake is often considered to be a young Ruud Gullit because his hairstyle is similar to that synonymous with his fellow Dutchman from his playing heyday, but the duo are also alike in the positions they play.

The Dutch under-19 skipper is typically a central defender, but can also operate in central midfield or even as a left back if the situation arises.

Andre Wisdom at Liverpool is one example of a centre half utilised at full-back to enhance his first-team experience and this would look the more likely starting route for Ake.

Although he has impressed in holding midfield in his early Chelsea appearances and with competition not particularly rife for John Obi Mikel in this role, there is scope for Ake to continue his development there.

Five or six starts alongside a dozen substitute appearances would be sensible progress across all competitions, while a loan stint at another Premier League club would surely do no harm.

Chelsea have certainly endured a fixture pile up this season and if more of the same occurs in the next campaign, Ake could be a pivotal member of their squad, especially in some of the lesser competitions.

Winning the Premier League may well prove the number one aspiration and Chelsea are 5/2 to accomplish this feat.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publication



Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.