Why Yaya Toure Could Win the Title for City:

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When Yaya Toure made his £24million move from Barcelona to Manchester City in the summer of 2010, he was regarded by many as a “defensive midfielder”. He played in the holding role of Barcelona’s midfield trio for a number of games before Pep Guardiola began to favour Sergio Busquets for that particular position. It was perhaps surprising to some then, that City felt it necessary to spend such a large sum of money to cover a position that was seemingly already filled by the presence of Gareth Barry and Nigel De Jong.

What we have seen, however, is that be it due to a newly-found freedom or be it due to some shrewd management by Roberto Mancini, Toure has become an entirely new player in this City side – and a devastatingly effective one at that. The 29-year-old is a powerful driving force in the Roy Keane/Patrick Vieira mould that not only controls games but changes them at will. Adding to his defensive qualities with an attacking threat that regularly resembles a particularly angry steam-train has seen him rack up a total of fourteen goals in his relatively short tenure in Manchester. So despite City’s multitude of footballing talent, is Yaya Toure the one player that could truly edge the champions out in front of their title challengers once again?

Manchester United have undoubtedly strengthened their squad with their summer additions prior to the start of this crucial season. The advantages of Robin Van Persie’s arrival require no explanation and with four goals in the opening three games, he is lining up to produce a season just as spectacular as the last. Nick Powell appears a bright prospect for the future and the introduction of Alexander Buttner gives them much-needed cover at left back.

If you listen to United fans, however, you will still hear a persistent grumble that their club’s ongoing “midfield problem” is yet to be resolved. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs continue to defy the laws of physics by producing performances year after year but with each passing birthday their influence in the centre of the park wanes a little bit more. Anderson is still to display a consistency that justifies his price tag and Tom Cleverley appears to be tip-toeing towards his potential rather than announcing himself on the scene with any authority.

Michael Carrick continues to divide opinion both inside and outside of Manchester United, but even those who praise his tidy and calming approach to the game will concur that he is not a player who will grab a game by the proverbial scruff of its proverbial neck in the same way that Toure does. Shinji Kagawa has impressed with tidy link-up play and speed on the ball but the same principle applies to the Japanese international. Do United have a player who will step up and drive his whole team forward from the centre of midfield when things are going against them? Perhaps not.

So far, Chelsea look like a potent attacking threat and the addition of Eden Hazard will go a long way to terrifying defences across the country. Last season’s laughing stock, Fernando Torres, also appears to be making his way back to ominously impressive form. In Michael Essien, Chelsea have lost their most Toure-esque powerhouse midfielder on loan to Real Madrid. Frank Lampard has taken something of a back seat in recent months and it’s possibly true that his goal tally can be relied upon less each season as he enters the twilight years of his career, whilst John Obi Mikel is a solid if unspectacular regular in the side.

Other than Lampard and Mikel, Di Matteo looks to Ramires, Juan Mata or Oriol Romeu, none of whom can be viewed as central midfielders in the same manner as City’s star man. In the cases of Oscar and Marin, the London club have acquired some impressive and untested talent who are certain to have an impact on the Premier League at some stage in their careers, but 2012/13 may be asking the question marginally too soon.

Yaya Toure’s presence does not necessarily mean that Manchester City’s squad is definitively better than those of their closest challengers, but he is certainly a stand-out possession that the other two lack. When a game needs to be seized and a telling impact made, City can sit comfortably in the knowledge that they have the man to do it. Whether Manchester United or Chelsea can say the same is unclear, and only 38 games of Premier League football will truly give us the answer.


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