Nathan Ake is ready to step into the Chelsea first team after impressing on loan at AFC Bournemouth – but only at the end of the season. The 21-year-old is currently on the third loan spell of his career. Has started the last six Premier League games in a row, scoring three times.
Those efforts have included winning goals against Stoke City and Liverpool, when the defender struck in stoppage time as the Cherries clinched a dramatic 4-3 win at the Vitality Stadium. Ake's latest goal came against south coast rivals Southampton – but it was not enough to claim a third home win in a row, as Jay Rodriguez netted twice in a 3-1 win.
Ake, on a season-long loan, is one of 38 players currently gaining experience away from Chelsea. However, given the high amount of youngsters who never progress into the senior team, he could be forgiven considering his future with the four-time Premier League champions. He has returned from spells at Reading and Watford only to be sent on loan again – but Bournemouth's Harry Arter believes it will be different this time around.
"Nathan deserves all the plaudits he's getting at the moment," he said, according to Sky Sports. "And I've no doubt that next year he'll go back to Chelsea and play in their side. I personally feel he's more than good enough, especially with the system they're playing now. And it's a credit to him because he's worked really hard, even when he wasn't in the team, and he deserves all the praise he's getting."
Unlike many Chelsea youngsters, Ake possesses first-team experience with the Blues, having played 12 times for the senior side. Former interim boss Rafael Benitez handed Ake his professional debut in 2012 against Norwich City. The player has gone on to feature in a host of competitions, including the Champions League.
Bournemouth's Boxing Day trip to Chelsea will end Ake's run in Eddie Howe's first team, with the Dutchman ineligible to feature against his parent club. Antonio Conte does have the option to bring Ake back to Stamford Bridge next month, and Howe is concerned the league leaders could activate the clause.
"I thought Nathan Ake was excellent again [against Southampton]," he was quoted as saying by the Press Association, according to the Daily Mail. "There is a clause there where Chelsea can recall him, but we would hope the fact he's playing and playing well would mean he'd stay. But we'll wait and see."