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First team

Ever-present Nathan craves consistency

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Nathan Ake’s near-perfect attendance record gives him licence to state the case for the AFC Bournemouth defence.

Since joining the Cherries on a permanent basis two years ago, Ake has featured in all 76 games in the Premier League.

For the record, the Dutchman has missed just 68 of 6,840 minutes in the top flight, subbed off at Manchester United this season and subbed on at Brighton in 2017/18.

Ake, who also made 10 appearances during a fruitful loan spell from Chelsea in 2016/17, will be hoping to play a part for the Netherlands in their Nations League semi-final against England in Portugal tonight.

He was the only player to start every league game for Eddie Howe's team this season and admits conceding 70 goals – the highest in the Cherries’ four years in the Premier League – was a hurtful experience.

“It was, 100 per cent, especially being a central defender,” said Ake, delivering his assessment of the season to afcb.co.uk. “I think we have conceded too many goals in the past few seasons.

“It’s hard to put your finger on why and we have been working on it. We know it’s an area we have to look at and one we need to improve on.

“We scored more goals this season but conceded more as well. It was highlighted in the final game when we scored three at Crystal Palace but lost. We can’t accept that.”

Ake played a starring role at the back as the Cherries registered their best start to a Premier League campaign, taking 20 points from their first 10 games.

But as injuries began to bite, victories became harder to come by, although a record points haul in the top flight was only scuppered on the final day at Selhurst Park.

Ake said: “After how we started the season, we were a little disappointed at how we ended it. I think everyone hoped we could do something special and at least finish in the top ten and maybe push for seventh or eighth.

“But we had a lot of tough games and a lot of injuries in the middle of the season. That killed us. The end of the season was up and down as well.

“We don’t like to use injuries as an excuse but there have been a lot and also to main players in the team. Long-term injuries are never good for morale.

“It’s not an excuse but it wasn’t ideal either. We also know we can play a lot better than we did in the second half of the season.

“We still had very good players on the pitch but were too inconsistent. We were amazing in one game and had a bad game in the next one. We have to make sure we are more consistent next season.

“It’s always a positive when you stay in the league but I think it shows the belief we have in ourselves. We are saying we had a bad season because we finished 14th with more points than last season. That shows our mentality. We always want more and have ambition so we have to show that next season.”

Asked about his season on a personal note, Ake replied: “I think it was a good season. The start was good and it was a bit easier with the team doing well.

“In the second half of the season, I had a few games when I was not at my level of performance and was critical of myself. But I picked myself up and I thought I was okay again after that.

“I’m always critical of myself. I know my level and know which level I want to play at and that’s always my highest level.

"If I perform below that, I’m the first one to say so. Even though some people might say you had a good game, you always know yourself when you have played well.

“I’m always trying to improve myself and the manager is helping me with that but, overall, I can’t be too critical as I had a good season.”

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