While Sergio Aguero has consistently (and deservedly) lapped up the adulation of Manchester City fans this season, another of their heroes seems to have experienced a slight, while not catastrophic fall from grace. Yaya Toure hasn’t exactly gone out of his way to endear himself further to fans at the Etihad this season. Threatening to leave – albeit through his agent – over a birthday cake was one of the most laughable incidents involving today’s pampered professionals of recent times, while images of his smiling face after City’s loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League were instantly propelled around social media and provoked a huge backlash. Nowhere else conveys outrage quite like Twitter.
City fans main gripe with Toure this season however is that at times, he simply hasn’t looked interested. Yaya is often described as ‘lumbering’, and regularly transforms during matches from a man who looks like his bones are painfully disintegrating, to a rampaging machine that one of Marvel’s superheroes would struggle to contain.
This season, much more focus has been placed on his work ethic, mainly due to media coverage of Toure’s apparent desire to leave Manchester. It’s been noted amongst many City fans, particularly in the early stages of the season.
Toure’s rocket against Sunderland showed just how important the big Ivorian still is for Manchester City. At a time when Gus Poyet’s side were becoming increasingly difficult to break down, Toure absolutely smashed a brilliant long-ranger beyond former City ‘keeper Costel Pantilimon, and, after a spirited comeback from Sunderland, his team went on to win the match.
Toure will soon leave to join up with his Ivory Coast teammates and compete at the African Cup of Nations. But how will his departure affect Man City, currently second in the league table on alphabetical order.
Well, Toure is currently City’s second highest scorer behind Sergio Aguero with seven goals in seventeen starts in the Premier League (Aguero has fourteen). Toure also has a high passing percentage rate – 89.8% – which is only bettered by Samir Nasri and Fernandinho, who both have 90.7%.
Toure has only provided one assist in the league this season, but he does make just over one key pass every match on average. He also averages exactly two shots from outside the penalty area every match. If teams decide to use Sunderland’s defensive blueprint, it may take somebody to step up in his place and adopt the more direct approach, as no other player averages more than one shot per match from outside the box.
Defensively, Toure is currently being ‘out tackled’ by Fernandinho, James Milner and Fernando, though Toure does tend to be deployed as the more offensive central midfielder.
And what of Toure’s trademark forays forward, leaving defenders in his wake? The City midfielder has completed on average nearly two successful dribbles past opponents each game, and is once more second only to Sergio Aguero.
Now averages of course may indicate that Toure has stepped up his game in recent weeks after a poor start, but it could also be the case that Toure has been harshly criticised for simply not hitting the ridiculously high standards he has set for himself since signing for City in July 2010.
His true worth to the team may be discovered only during his absence in the coming weeks – he will definitely miss matches against Arsenal, Everton and probably Chelsea – after which there is a significant chance he will be welcomed back to Manchester with open arms.
Just as long as he doesn’t smile about it.