In little under half an hour on the pitch, Sergio Aguero’s sensational performance ensured that he grabbed tomorrow’s headlines and made himself an instant hero in the process.
Little wonder too as there can have been few (if any) better (certainly more impact-full) debuts than that: 5 shots, 2 goals, 1 assist, 7/9 passes completed, 1/2 tackles won and 3/8 possession duels won. City may have got themselves ahead in the game, but it was Aguero who turned the screw and ensured that City ultimately steamrollered Swansea aside.
Whilst Aguero will dominate the column inches, there were other stand out candidates: David Silva, again showing the silky skills and technique that make him such a joy to watch, and Edin Dzeko, out of the shadow of Carlos Tevez and looking sharp, mobile and confident. More importantly, he possessed a goal threat that was rarely seen last season.
However, what knitted the City display together was the energy, industry and threat of Yaya Toure. There had been grumbles when the line-up was announced with Edin Dzeko deployed as a lone striker, it looked a more a cautious side than anticipated, the thought being that Roberto Mancini would be content with a narrow win having talked up the threat of facing off against a promoted side early in the season. There had even surfaced the odd ‘three defensive midfielder’ accusation, a tiresome and wholly inaccurate accusation and something that Yaya Toure ensured was dismissed every bit as easily as an opponent left in his wake during one of his marauding runs forward and illustrating perfectly his worth as an attacking threat was the stat that some 74% of his passes made in the Swansea half.
We saw at the end of last season his ability to play in an advanced role sans Carlos Tevez; not relinquishing his midfield responsibilities but augmenting the lone striker as a second forward. It cannot be easy to combine the two roles, yet Toure does this seemingly with ease. City’s play – certainly after the initial twenty minute period where Swansea looked the more impressive of the two sides – was fluid, witnessing plenty of interchange between the players and no shortage of creativity and opportunities created with some 25 shots in total on the beseiged Swansea goal.
The balance of the side was spot on and this was knitted together by Toure – supporting Dzeko, Silva and Adam Johnson as part of the attack but also supplementing the duo of Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry. His impact is more than shown by his game statistics:
Passing: 41/48 (85%)
3/4 tackles won
7/10 possession duels won
1/1 aerial duels won
Both the offensive and defensive output from Toure statistically was on par with that of two players: a threat both at nullifying the opposition but also the attacking and goal threat at the same time.
In a system where Mancini demands that the midfield is capable of first and foremost controlling possession and space and denying the opposition opportunities to create, Yaya Toure stands out and his physical presence and superiority is just an another asset he has to offer. For him to be able to then support the attack in the manner he does, often too the creator and launchpad for offensive forays means his value to the side is almost immeasurable.
He may well have been (incorrectly) labelled as merely a defensive spoiler when he first arrived in the Premier League but attitudes began to shift towards the back end of last season when his performances really began to stand out.
Many more dominating performances such as the one witnessed tonight and the ‘defensive midfielder’ tag may well and truly have to be discarded once and for all.