Why Kolo Toure's Experience and Character Is Vital to Liverpool in Title Chase

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Why Kolo Toure's Experience and Character Is Vital to Liverpool in Title Chase
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Amidst the plethora of articles building up toward Sunday's vital Premier League clash between Liverpool and Chelsea, The Reds have managed to stay slightly out of the spotlight courtesy of David Moyes' sacking at Manchester United this week.

Moyes' departure the week preceding a potential title-decider for Brendan Rodgers' side couldn't have been timed any better, nicely moving the focus east to Salford rather than Merseyside and with it alleviating some of the pressure on Rodgers' young side.

As Liverpool edge closer to a first league title success in 24 years, that pressure and weight of expectation will increase upon the squad. The role of Rodgers and Dr. Steve Peters in helping to manage that has been well documented of late, but little has been mentioned of the role some of the experienced players in the squad can play.

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There are three players in the Reds' squad who have experience of winning the Premier League:  Glen Johnson, Daniel Sturridge and Kolo Toure.

Johnson was a 21-year-old bit-part player at Chelsea when they lifted the title in 2005, similarly Sturridge's role at Stamford Bridge was peripheral in 2009/10. 

Meanwhile, Toure was instrumental in Arsenal's "invincibles" campaign of 2003/04—featuring in all but one of their league games. The Ivorian was also part of the Manchester City squad that won their first title since 1968 in 2011/12.

It's fair to say that the 33-year-old has the perfect experience required for Rodgers' squad.

 

Appearances

Toure was signed on a free transfer last summer as a direct replacement for the retiring Jamie Carragher. He began the campaign superbly, helping the side to two consecutive clean sheets against Stoke City and Aston Villa before picking up an injury in the League Cup tie against Notts County. By now, Toure had already become somewhat of a cult hero at Anfield.

Scott Heppell

Bringing leadership qualities that Rodgers felt his defence lacked in Carragher's absence the previous campaign, Toure surprised many early on.

However, the form of Martin Skrtel and new signing Mamadou Sakho, plus competition from Daniel Agger have meant that Toure's appearances became more fleeting.

When Sakho and Agger were both injured, Toure was asked to deputise alongside Skrtel in games at Hull City and West Brom—two fixtures that resulted in just one point gained. The latter being remembered for Toure's blunder that gifted the equaliser at The Hawthorns.

 

 

 

Influence

It isn't necessarily on the pitch where Toure will add value to the Liverpool squad, though, providing vital experience off it.

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The correct mentality, showing no fear, remaining focussed and displaying team spirit are all psychological traits that Liverpool have displayed this season, especially as they have embarked on this current 11-match winning run.

Those terms are ones with which Toure has been repeatedly described alongside by fellow players and staff.

Brendan Rodgers praised Toure's character shortly after his arrival in September. "Kolo is the type of character that I love in a back four, an organiser and a leader," praised the boss, as per The Liverpool Echo.

"Kolo's a great person," defender Martin Kelly told the official LFC website. "He's come in as a big character for the club and helped a lot around the dressing room."

Clearly, Toure was vital in helping to foster the team spirit that has become a trademark of the Liverpool squad this season. These quotes from Toure himself, back in September explain a lot:

It's key. With team spirit, you can win anything. Individuals are very important, but team spirit is the key - it is the most important thing. Individuals can win you one game, but to win trophies or be champions it is [down to] a group of players.

If you want to be successful, you need to work as a team. That is really, really important because we are a group of players and we have the same target - to win trophies and do as well as we can.

When you don't play, you need to support the team and your teammates need to feel that you are behind them fully.

Reading those words back now and having watched the way Rodgers' side have developed since gives you a feeling of just how important Toure has been behind the scenes.

"Whether he's on your team or not in training, he's giving advice to everyone and you like that as a defender," explained Kelly.

Players such as Jon Flanagan will use Toure as a vital source of experience in the day-to-day routine of a footballer on the threshold of huge game after huge game.

 

Encouragement

Toure is clearly a positive man. He's been quick to praise those players needing some encouragement throughout the season, giving them the belief from a fellow team-mate.

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When Simon Mignolet received some criticism, Toure explained to The Liverpool Echo"Simon will get through it as he is really strong mentally. I told him that the life of defenders and goalkeepers is like this."

As Raheem Sterling began to find form and regain his place back in the starting XI, Toure came along to give him another boost. "For me at the moment Raheem is one of the best players in our team," he told The Liverpool Echo. "I play against him every day in training and every time I go up against him it's always tough."

 

Vital

Making that step to become title winners is never easy no matter how much experience is in your squad, Toure's role will be vital now as it has been throughout the campaign. Not only will he offer words of wisdom to the younger players, his presence will also relinquish pressure on elder statesmen like Steven Gerrard.

The Reds' skipper will be thankful to have a player of Toure's mentality, character and experience around the squad at training and in the dressing room before games.

Toure's errors at West Brom and Fulham shouldn't be what supporters remember him for this season, but the vital role he played at the start of the season and throughout the campaign off the pitch.

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