Yaya Toure: 6 Reasons the Manchester City Midfielder Is Set for a Stellar Season
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Manchester City fell far and hard from the grace of their 2011-12 Premier League title with last season's indifferent title defense.
So abject was City at times that even a player of the stature (physical and figurative) of Yaya Toure was called into question.
It is difficult for any City fan to imagine Toure having aspersions cast about his character or his will to propel City on.
Yet there was Dave Kidd of The Mirror last March, hitting Toure with one of those hatchet jobs the British media is so known for.
Kidd indicted Toure thus:
Roberto Mancini has, to his credit, stated with honesty that many of his players have rested on their laurels this season. Toure is not the worst culprit but his performances have certainly dipped since the monstrous displays that inspired City last term.
Planting the last dagger in the last line, Kidd wrote about Toure that "perhaps City will be better off without him."
In the immortal words of Brandon Flowers, "I never."
Dave Kidd is not making personnel decisions for City, thank goodness. Because Toure is set to reclaim his rightful place at the top of the midfield mountain in the Premier League this season.
Contract Issues Settled
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As Dave Kidd's March piece in The Mirror pointed out, Toure played most of 2012-13 with his contract status unresolved.
No professional athlete likes the idea of being one awkward misstep or tackle away from losing his livelihood. This is especially true of megawatt stars like Toure.
Even as the Sky Blues' title defense was ending poorly, City's management had the sense to lock Toure down for the long term in April.
As reported by Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail, "Toure has vowed to lead another assault on the Barclays Premier League next season after committing his future to Manchester City with a new four-year contract."
Ladyman asserted that the deal will pay Toure "more than £200,000 a week."
Toure will not have the distraction of his contract status to point to if things do not go well for him and City this season.
Even Year for Africa Cup of Nations
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One of the privileges (and responsibilities) of being one of the world's best footballers is that the part of the world you call home needs you to wear your national colors now and again.
The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations tournament was one of those times of obligation for Toure.
Toure played in City's 3-0 dusting of Stoke City on New Year's Day, then was not seen in Manchester City colors again until returning to lead City against Southampton on February 9, a mere six days after his Ivory Coast side was eliminated by Nigeria half a world away.
You will recall that City played an embarrassing match at St Mary's Stadium that night, losing 3-1 after finding themselves down two goals just 22 minutes into the match.
Toure was nothing special that night; indeed, it took him weeks to get his legs back under him after his time in Africa last winter.
As the AFCON is held in odd years, Toure will not have to leave his City teammates behind for a month or more this season.
That can only help.
Motivation After a Bad Season
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Toure is acutely aware of the disappointment City fans felt at last season's woeful efforts in both the Premier League and the Champions League.
“Last season we have to be honest and say United were much better than us. In the Premier League and Champions League we were disappointing," Toure told Richard Tanner of The Express.
“I came here to win trophies, make history and try to improve each year,” Toure continued.
That means exhibiting the same desperate desire Toure saw in his former club.
"I’ve known that attitude for a long time, having played with Barcelona in Spain. We simply had to win there and it is the same at City now," observed the Ivorian.
Toure and his teammates have to answer for last season's failings.
Ultimately, the only satisfactory answer will be a finish at the top of the Premier League table or a place on the winners' podium after the Champions League final.
Or, you know, both of those.
Arrival of Manuel Pellegrini
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Former City manager Roberto Mancini eschewed width and did what he could to funnel play to the middle of the pitch.
Anyone who watched City play under Mancini noticed it. You know who else did? Yaya Toure.
"Whereas perhaps we caught a lot of teams by surprise last season, this year our opponents know how we play," Toure noted last December per Kristan Heneage of ESPNFC.com.
As Toure aptly surmised, Mancini's refusal to expand the pitch and exploit his side's talent edge gifted less-able teams openings. "Even sides who are near the bottom of the table are more than capable of making it difficult," Toure admitted.
Yes, well, all that is over now.
Manuel Pellegrini is the new boss at City, and he has promised that City's style will make the club's fans forget the stilted offensive displays of the past.
"We will see an attractive team playing in the opponents' half, we will try to be an attacking team. All the teams I worked at before did that and that is why I am here now," said Pellegrini at his first press conference as City's manager, according to goal.com.
Toure sounds thrilled, telling the Associated Foreign Press that Pellegrini's "ability to manage is unbelievable and he's doing fantastically well. We are all focused on him and trying to understand what he wants us to deliver and what he wants us to do on the pitch."
A rough translation of Toure's remarks might have included Toure's tacit admission that he was tired of having City's entire game plan run through him every match.
Help from Strikers
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It is no secret that Toure can find the net when he needs to.
Toure scored City's only goal in the Sky Blues' FA Cup victory over Stoke in 2011.
He also provided the ultimate winning margin against West Ham in April. There have been many such moments in between.
Still, if Pellegrini is being truthful, City would be better off seeing their goals come from their strikers.
Toure will have an easier time dominating and patrolling the midfield if he is not also burdened with making up for goal-deficient strikers all the while.
Help from Midfield Partners
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Mike Goodman of Grantland.com expertly assessed how Premier League teams used to set up their midfield partners—and how the old way is being tossed aside.
"There was a time when an ideal central midfield pairing was a pairing of strength and finesse. This summer, however, teams up and down the Premier League are doubling down on strength and leaving finesse to the wings," Goodman wrote.
Notably, Goodman cited Toure and Manchester City as a prime example of the new midfield mindset. "Instead of looking to complement Yaya Touré, Manchester City decided to amplify him, adding the athletic box-to-box midfielder Fernandinho," he added.
Of course, it is not only the addition of Fernandinho that will make Toure's job more manageable.
City has eight or nine midfielders who would start on almost any other Premier League side.
As such, while Toure might start more than 30 Premier League matches for City (as he has the past three seasons), he should not need to.