Nathan Ake makes comfortable Manchester City debut but defensive questions linger for Pep Guardiola

Mike McGrath
·3-min read
 Nathan Ake of Manchester City runs with the ball during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City at Molineux - Getty Images
Nathan Ake of Manchester City runs with the ball during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City at Molineux - Getty Images

As opening halves go, Nathan Ake could not have asked for more from his Manchester City debut. 

The Holland centre-back, on his first appearance following his £41million move from Bournemouth, got off the team bus at Molineux and had more trouble scanning the security pass on his mobile phone than he did with Wolves attackers in the opening 45 minutes of his City career. 

It got much tougher after the interval and the chances created - and wasted - by Wolves shows there is plenty of work to be done by Pep Guardiola in the rebuilding job that is City’s backline in the post-Vincent Kompany era. 

Ake will be happy enough with keeping one of the most potent attacks in the Premier League quiet for long periods of the game, even if they conceded a series of good chances in the second half. His brave tackle to deny Pedro Neto was a morale-boosting moment to announce himself as a City player. The pressure eventually told when Raul Jimenez pulled a goal back. 

John Stones was alongside him and is like a new signing himself. He was out of favour last season and only started 12 league games. Significantly he was left out of the Champions League quarter-final defeat to Lyon in favour of 19-year-old Eric Garcia.

With Garcia looking to leave the club, Stones has remained at the Etihad Stadium to fight for his place. Aymeric Laporte will return to match-fitness soon and Guardiola will add another centre-back, Jules Kounde is a target from Sevilla, and City will look stronger than they did a year ago.   

It helped in their opening match of the season that Guardiola chose to use a four-man defence instead of matching up the system of Nuno Espirito Santo like he did in the Lyon defeat. 

John Stones and Nathan Ake at Manchester City - And Hooper
John Stones and Nathan Ake at Manchester City - And Hooper

That night in Lisbon saw Guardiola lose faith in his own system to stifle his French opponents but sticking to his own system meant his team imposed their style on Wolves, who could barely get close to them. It meant no pressure on their defence as they cruised into a 2-0 lead.  

Ake and Stones were helped with the players they had around them. Benjamin Mendy has returned to pre-season training in the best shape of his City career and could now have a run at left-back. Kyle Walker pushed forward and supported his attack yet was never out of position at full-back when Wolves had possession. 

It also helps when Fernandinho’s positioning in front of the back four is faultless, offering his two centre-backs protection.  

The result was Raul Jimenez struggling to get into the game like he did on the opening weekend of the season. Adama Traore took time to get into the game as Wolves’ young forwards.   

In the second half Ake got caught out when he followed Jimenez into midfield, leaving a space behind him for Daniel Podence to exploit but he failed to punish City. It was during this period play that Wolves split open Guardiola’s defence a number of times.

Stones made tired mistakes that comes with not being in a rhythm of games. However, he now has a chance to seize this chance to impress in the penultimate year of his contract, along with Ake. 

At the other end of the pitch, Sergio Aguero believes he could be back for City within a month following knee surgery in the summer.

Aguero is understood to be confident of being available again after the international break next month, barring any unforeseen setbacks.

He has yet to train with City’s first team squad but he hopes to be back doing some work with the group soon.