Yaya Toure cannot catch a break. Because Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini will never give him one.
Manchester City have played 11 Premier League matches. Toure has started and finished all of them.
Manchester City have played four Champions League matches. Toure started all of them, too. The only one of those matches he did not finish came at Viktoria Plzen with City leading 3-0 in the 80th minute.
Toure did get one of City's two Capital One Cup matches off. In the other he appeared (and scored) as a substitute.
In City's 15 most important matches this season, then, Toure has played all but 10 minutes plus stoppage time in Plzen.
This is, unfortunately for Toure, not a new phenomenon. Former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini loved him some Toure, too.
In 2012-13, Toure started 32 of City's 38 Premier League matches. That sounds like a respite, but Toure only missed those six matches because he was playing for the Ivory Coast side in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Toure played five of City's six Champions League matches in Mancini's last campaign. What happened to the sixth?
Look at the team sheet for that match Toure missed—played against Borussia Dortmund after City had already been eliminated from contention for the knockout stage. Alex Nimely, George Evans and Courtney Meppen-Walter dressed for that match. It might as well have been a Capital One Cup match.
The same thing happened in 2011-12, with Toure playing in 32 Premier League matches and all six Champions League matches. The season before that, he played in an absurd 35 Premier League games.
There are, of course, significant reasons for the way City are running Toure ragged.
Above all, Toure is City's best and most durable midfielder. Depending on who you ask, Toure is either an elite, or just a very good, midfielder at age 30.
Toure is signed at City for this season and three more at wages approaching £240,000 per week, according to Mark Ogden of The Telegraph.
And both Mancini before and Pellegrini now have been forced to manage almost every Premier League and Champions League match like his job depended on it, because it sort of did.
Toure is not the only Citizen who entered this campaign in need of some rest. But injury has provided Vincent Kompany more time off than he would like, and ineptitude cost Joe Hart a 123-game Premier League match streak and his job. Bottom line: Both Kompany and Hart should be healing up nicely.
Pellegrini spoke before the season started of needing two players at every position. Somehow, though, City's depth at all positions affords rest for everyone but Toure.
Considering the physically demanding position Toure plays and the beating he absorbs just for being big, he has understandably played matches this season (at Stoke City, at Sunderland) where he looked out of sorts and a bit spent. And every player has those days.
The degree to which City rely on Toure, however, compels Pellegrini to do a better job finding places to spell the Ivorian.
Take, for example, those matches at Stoke City and at Sunderland.
Toure found himself thrust into the XI in each of those matches with something approaching a junior varsity City side. Not surprisingly, City played poorly in both matches and took only one point of a possible six.
Which begs the question: If Pellegrini is going to rotate his squad against lesser opposition, shouldn't resting Toure be part of that plan?
Given City's points deficit in the Premier League table and the coming Champions League effort, opportunities to sit Toure are not exactly plentiful on City's schedule. But they are there. For starters, he should not even dress against Plzen on November 27.
Would Pellegrini dare hold Toure out against Swansea City at the Etihad on December 1? Or against Fulham at Craven Cottage on December 21? How about against Crystal Palace on December 28, two days after City play Liverpool?
If Pellegrini cannot trust players like Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell and James Milner to hold things down in Toure's absence, maybe they should not be on the team at all.
Neither Pellegrini nor Toure much want to see City play without Toure on the pitch.
In the interests of both the player and the club, though, it has to happen more often.
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