While many Manchester City players are feeling under pressure for their place after an unconvincing start to the season, Yaya Toure’s stock continues to rise.
He appears to have been freed up under new manager Manuel Pellegrini to play more of a positive, attacking role than he has been given previously at Manchester City.
The Ivorians’ role in a side is always questioned. At Barcelona and City in particular he has sometimes unfairly been labelled as a luxury player who often doesn’t influence enough of a match.
Toure is a player capable of the brilliant and those players are hard to find. His power and strength in midfield set him apart from so many in his position.
It is this power which saw Roberto Mancini deploy Toure in defensive midfield during his tenure at City, a position he is more than capable of playing and performing solidly.
The Italian though was always aware of Toure’s attacking capabilities and it is those skills which Pellegrini appears to have tapped into so far this season.
Mancini frequently withdrew an attacking midfielder and pushed Yaya Toure into that position when Manchester City needed a goal late in games.
The acquisition of Fernandinho from Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer has enabled Pellegrini to allow Yaya Toure to break his defensive shackles and start to influence the attacking side of City’s game.
Fernandinho is now the man more likely to sit and hold in midfield while Toure pushes further forward.
As a result, Yaya Toure has seen far more of the ball this season, as opposed to trying to win it back. His long range strike against Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday was his third of the season for City, having struck free kicks against Newcastle and Hull.
At a time when City are not blessed with central midfield alternatives, Toure’s form is a real positive for Manuel Pellegrini.
Jack Rodwell featured against Stoke but lacks the experience to be a regular, Javi Garcia is more frequently played at centre back while James Milner lacks the technical ability to worry any opponents.
Toure and Fernandinho are the certain central midfield starters in the Manchester derby against United this weekend and it will be the Ivorian Toure who United will fear the most.
Manchester United have been stung by Toure before, most notably in the FA Cup Semi-final in 2011, when Toure showed his power to dispossess Michael Carrick and then his finishing ability to fire City into the final.
In Toure’s new more influential role, it will be Carrick again who is tasked with keeping an eye on the Ivorian on Sunday.
Manchester United’s summer signing Marouane Fellaini will also be charged with trying to fight fire with fire against Toure, using his own physical presence to match up with the city midfielder.
Toure’s value to Manchester City should not be questioned. He is one of the most complete footballers in the world, able to bully the opposition with his strength while possessing the acceleration and dribbling skills to drive at the opposing defence.
His role under Manuel Pellegrini looks set to enhance his performances. The Chilean has a more attacking mindset than his Italian predecessor Mancini. Playing with just one holding midfielder is part of this and makes Toure a more frightening proposition.
The removal of defensive responsibilities also benefits City. Toure does have periods in games where he switches off and when in the defensive positions this can be dangerous for Manchester City and an area for opposition to exploit.
By placing less emphasis on his concentration and more on his ability to get on the ball and make Manchester City tick, Manuel Pellegrini appears to have unlocked an extra few percent of Toure’s full potential.
The Ivory Coast midfielder deserves more recognition for being a complete footballer and not to be considered a luxury player.
In his days playing as centre back at Barcelona, few could have imagined Yaya Toure as a playmaker. Under the new regime at Manchester City that is what he is fast becoming.
Toure is essential to Manchester City and his new role shows just how good a player he really is.
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