Man City's Yaya Toure Found Wanting, as Willian and Eto'o Inspired Chelsea

Janusz MichallikFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2014


The narrative was perfect fuel for Jose Mourinho as he took his Chelsea team to Fortress Etihad. Everybody expected him to park the bus; everybody expected Mourinho to revert to type.

What we saw was Chelsea dominate Manchester City in every facet of the game. He didn't park the bus as we know it, but he didn't play wide open either. Who would against a rampant City team and with the Premier League title at stake?

You can say all you like about Mourinho, but nobody can deny he's a great strategist. He's a student of the game who fully understands football's Xs and Os, and he knew exactly how to beat Manuel Pellegrini's City.

Of course it helped Mourinho that Fernandinho didn't play for City, but their midfield pair of Yaya Toure and Martin Demichelis were overrun and outpowered by Chelsea. Why Pellegrini kept Demichelis on the pitch is a mystery to me.

Clint Hughes/Associated Press

As for Toure, my fellow Bleacher Report contributor Dietmar Hamann made the suggestion in an appearance on the BBC's Match of the Day that the Ivorian occasionally fades when he's overwhelmed. He looked a beaten man at times on Monday night—summed up by the moment Nemanja Matic out-muscled him and picked his pocket.

There was a reason Barcelona let Toure go. Perhaps it's to be found in games like the one he endured against Chelsea.

Toure didn't have the space to make those forward runs he loves because Chelsea didn't give it to him. Demichelis was ill-equipped to provide the support he needed and Toure was neutralised. For a player of his stature, I still would have expected him to set the tone, but he didn't.

Elsewhere, Willian and Samuel Eto'o deserve special praise for Chelsea. Eto'o did a brilliant job of closing down City's left flank. Aleksandar Kolarov and David Silva are extremely dangerous, but Eto'o suffocated them and removed a supply line.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: Samuel Eto'o of Chelsea and Matija Nastasic of Manchester City battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Etihad Stadium on February 3, 2014 in Manchester, England
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Willian, while a little wasteful with his passing, was excellent in his role in his front of Matic and David Luiz. He brought physicality and work ethic, and his contribution led to Eden Hazard being able to isolate Pablo Zabaleta down Chelsea's left.

Hazard was superb, as he always will be when given space to operate and the chance to go at players one-on-one.

We must not forget the fact that City were without two of their best players in Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero. That said, I still feel Pellegrini mismanaged his team by not using James Milner, either as a starter or an obvious second-half substitute. Milner would have added strength, pace and vital support for Zabaleta on the right flank.

City still have the best squad in the Premier League and must remain favourites to claim the title.

But in Pellegrini's excuses after the game, there was perhaps evidence that Mourinho has got to him. He identified City's weaknesses and he went after them. It will be fascinating to see how the battle unfolds the next time the two coaches are in opposite dugouts.