Crystal Palace have been one of Yaya Toure’s favourite opponents, against whom he had scored three goals in five appearances—before last Saturday’s clash at Selhurst Park—since the start of the 2013/14 campaign. Yet, single-handedly winning Manchester City last Saturday’s game with his two goals would definitely have thrilled Toure and given him a lot of satisfaction as well.
Last Saturday was a special day for Yaya Toure because he made his first Premier League appearance of the 2016/17 season and proved many, many football followers including Manchester City fans themselves, wrong, after they had written him off. The Ivorian has now made just a couple of appearances for his club this season and Guardiola, on a couple of occasions, had explicitly said what Toure had to do, to feature for Manchester City in some capacity.
In his customary pre-match press conference ahead of the Premier League trip to the Britannia Stadium to take on Stoke City, Guardiola said that Toure “will be involved when he increases his intensity without the ball”. And, at that time, Yaya Toure had not featured yet. He did feature four days later, however, in the second leg of Manchester City’s UEFA Champions League playoff tie against Steaua Bucuresti.
A little more than a month later, again in a press conference ahead of the EFL Cup third round clash against Swansea City, Guardiola, annoyed by Yaya Toure’s agent’s claims that his client had been “humiliated”, asked Dimitri Seluk to apologise if Toure had to be picked.
For long, the apology didn’t seem coming, either from Toure on behalf of his agent or from Seluk. However, on November 4th, Toure apologised via a statement to Guardiola and his club and in the press conference which followed the talks between the two ex-Barcelona men, the Manchester City manager said that the 33-year-old midfielder was available for selection again.
Last Saturday was special for Toure, but that day should also be considered special for Manchester City, who witnessed one of their “talismanic players” do what he does best and do what has endeared him to the football watching public. The fact that Yaya Toure reappeared on the pitch after a near three-month absence and won Manchester City a crucial game and with it three crucial points, should make the club and their fans just as proud as the player himself.
Now, having produced a performance of such a magnitude, albeit out of the blue, does Yaya Toure become an automatic starter in Manchester City‘s starting XI against Burnley this Saturday?
Well… let us take a look. Read on!
Will Yaya Toure Start Against Burnley?
We hear managers so often say that having many options makes their lives easier, but I wonder how much they mean their words and whether they mean those words at all.
The reason I think football managers have a difficult time when they have too many options is that they are bound to make at least a couple of players unhappy by not being able to play them ahead of one or two other players who they have picked in their starting XI.
After last Saturday’s 1-2 win against Palace, Guardiola was happy for Toure and went on to say: “I’m so happy because he’s now a real part of the team and he can help us to achieve our targets because we need all the players, because it’s so demanding with the Premier League and the Champions League and the Cup and so on.”
Against the Eagles, Ilkay Gundogan, who had started the previous four Premier League games, for Manchester City, was not in the 18-man matchday squad and David Silva was on the bench. This duo was involved in action for Germany and Spain during the international break and Guardiola had, in his pre-Palace press conference, said that he was going to assess the fitness and weariness levels of each player before deciding on the starting XI against Palace.
Now, with Guardiola predominantly deploying a 4-1-4-1 formation, Manchester City’s engine room has room for an additional player to slot into and complete the midfield three. Over the last couple of months, Fernandinho, Gundogan, David Silva, and Kevin de Bruyne have been played in central midfield by Guardiola.
So, if Toure has to feature in Manchester City’s starting XI against Burnley, Guardiola has to rest Gundogan and/or Silva once again, also presuming Manuel Agudo Duran (Nolito) retains his place in the frontline, along with Sergio Aguero and the ever-present Raheem Sterling. Such a selection will mean that Yaya Toure and de Bruyne play ahead of the solitary pivot in the system, Fernandinho, who will miss Manchester City’s clash against Celtic on Champions League matchday six, after picking up two yellow cards in his side’s 1-1 draw at Borussia Park last night.
In the event that either Gundogan or Silva comes into the starting line-up, Nolito has to drop out if Toure is to feature in the starting XI for the second consecutive Premier League game. If the former Celta Vigo forward does not play, then de Bruyne could move to the left of Aguero and Toure can play alongside Silva/Gundogan and ahead of Fernandinho.
A Case for Yaya Toure
With Manchester City enduring a real struggle for goals and having scored just 13 goals in their last 10 games across all competitions, Guardiola should definitely consider playing Toure against Burnley this weekend. Yaya Toure has a knack of scoring goals and in many ways, scoring goals comes naturally to him. Against Sean Dyche’s men, who are expected to play on the counter-attack, Manchester City will have to score at least a couple of goals to give themselves a chance of registering back-to-back wins in the Premier League for the first time since September.
Aguero has not been his usual self in many a game this season and Manchester City have been over-reliant on the likes of de Bruyne and Sterling to create and score goals, although Gundogan has started sharing the goal scoring responsibility since the UEFA Champions League clash against Barcelona on matchday four.
Generally speaking and,
Looking beyond all permutations and combinations, I think we can safely say that Yaya Toure will have difficulty in finding a place in the Manchester City starting XI when the likes of David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan are fit and available for selection. Which is likely to be the case this Saturday despite his match-winning brace against Crystal Palace last weekend. Because he hasn’t played at all, almost, so far this season, Toure will require time and a sizeable number of playing minutes, to potentially displace the established personnel of the side.
But, by taking Manchester City to victory against Palace, and having, according to Guardiola, become fitter and lost weight, Toure is likely to find a regular place on the bench from now on. Consequently, the chances of him finding game time are bright!
Here’s the probable Manchester City starting XI v Burnley at Turf Moor (4-1-4-1): Claudio Bravo (GK); Bacary Sagna, Aleksandar Kolarov, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi; Fernandinho; Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva (C), Raheem Sterling; Sergio Aguero.