Manchester City’s Ivorian powerhouse Yaya Toure has been a fans favourite ever since his arrival from Barcelona in 2010 and it’s not hard to see why. In today’s market, the £24 million spent on the African Footballer of the Year (two seasons running) would be seen as a bargain considering what he has achieved and how he has helped the team since joining City. Having been the catalyst for both PL and FA Cup triumphs in previous seasons, including scoring in the final of the Cup and crucial games leading up to that dramatic final day of the 2011-2012 campaign, he has written himself into City folklore. For the last three seasons it could be argued that he has been the most consistent player in the Premier League and this season so far has been no different, after enjoying a phenomenal start to the campaign. He was again performing at his very best on the weekend and helped City to a 7-0 thumping of Norwich at the Etihad Stadium.
As always, Toure is ever reliable in the centre of midfield and possesses the ability to be a dangerous threat at both ends of the field, which is a rare sight in the modern game and on his day he is an absolute joy to watch. Being a box-to-box midfielder in the Premier League requires not only excellent stamina levels and technical application on the ball, but also the work ethic and willingness to help out the team in attacking and defensive positions.
Toure is more than a handy man when his team are under pressure with the way he can break down opposition attacks and set up counters attacks of his own. This is obviously a great quality to have and the other City defenders will be more than grateful, whilst opposing players will be wary of what he is capable of. His physical strength and tall figure will evidently help him in tackles and aerial challenges and he uses this very much to his advantage. His stats show that over the season so far he has an average of 76% in terms of tackles won. However, looking at individual games, it shows that he has achieved 100% in half of the games played this season, including the win over Norwich City on the weekend. He’s also been involved in 74 ground duels thus far which shows he isn’t afraid to get stuck in to win back possession.
It is in midfield where Yaya produces his best work and his versatile nature allows his team mates and especially players such as Samir Nasri and David Silva to play freely within the final third of the pitch, without having to worry too much about what is behind them. As well as sitting back and protecting the back four, Toure has a superb passing range which is actually very underrated amongst his various characteristics on the pitch. We can see below that he attempted a mammoth 118 passes against Norwich, completing 110 and giving him an impressive 93% completion rate. If we break down the passes into different areas of the pitch, we see that within the defensive and middle areas combined, he completed all but one pass whilst completing 23/30 passes in the attacking third. Being confident to play passes whether they are long or short is an important aspect in this role and in Toure posses it in abundance. We can see the influence he has within the middle of the pitch in the dashboard below that shows much of City’s good work will often include him at the heart of it.
Considering his tall figure, his touch is exceptional and that was evident in Negredo’s goal where his delightful dinked ball to Aguero highlighted another versatile aspect of his never-ending talents. Another speciality of Yaya are his bursting runs and counter attacking ability, especially late on in games where opposition players maybe slightly weary. On many occasions over the last few seasons, Yaya Toure has produced a trademark galloping run past players, with great strength and control; starting from his own defence, and setting up a goal scoring chance. This makes him a threat from the first minute to the last.
Eye for goal
You could argue that maybe his goal scoring tally over the last few seasons could be improved, but, looking into the context of when, and more importantly, the significance of the goals, I don’t think City fans will be complaining too much. Having scored only 6 goals in each of the previous 3 seasons, he has almost matched that already after 10 games this season with 5 goals to his name. Having had 20 shots so far, he has a 1 in 4 conversion rate which is decent by any standard for a central midfielder. Having scored 100% of his clear cut chances, you can see that he has an eye for goal and can be deadly given the opportunity to shoot.
A new found aspect of his game has been discovered this season: lethal free kicks. By scoring three so far this season, he heads the list just above Leighton Baines, who has scored 2. His unerring accuracy to find the corners with ease (predominately to the top left hand corner) has shown that he can also be a set-piece specialist.
The Complete Midfielder?
Toure has shown over time that he is a player that combines different features from various positions, with his physical nature, technique and creativity he has to be one of the most versatile players in modern football at the moment. His ability to adapt to different styles of play in order to grind out results and help his team to the bitter end shows how important he is to Manchester City and how they are building the club with him as the focal point. The most complete midfielder in the Premier League? I would agree.