Before moving to Manchester City, Yaya Toure was known to the world as a holding midfielder, the defensive base of Barcelona’s world class midfield. Under Roberto Mancini at City, he has been used in a more attacking role but still provides steel in their midfield. Toure has now shown the world that he is a complete player and can excel in various positions.
Holding Everything Together
At Barcelona, Toure had to be very disciplined and supress any desire to join the attack unless it was absolutely necessary. His role was to prevent the counter attack by patrolling the center of the field and also form part of Barcelona’s temporary three man defense when their teamates were attacking. This is a role that requires excellent tactical awareness, good passing and tackling skills and the ability to play as both a midfielder and centerback. Toure played this well until Guardiola decided to go with the cheaper, younger option of Busquets. Keep in mind that Toure also played as a centerback in a Champions League final and did not look out of place, even though he had only played there a few times for Barcelona. That is how good he is.
Defending From the Front
At Manchester City Toure still has a defensive brief even though he is playing in an attacking position. When his team do not have the ball, Toure’s job is to press the opposition defenders and harass them until they make a mistake or hoof the ball upfield. this prevents the opposition from building attacks from the back. Luciano Spalletti often used Simone Perotta in a similar way at Roma when they used the same false nine tactic that Man City are now using. The effect of both Tevez and Toure harassing defenders is that Mancherster City are able to to win the ball high up the pitch and launch counter attacks. Toure has high stamina levels and is a good tackler so is well suited to play this role. In games where Man City want to defend deeper, Toure plays closer to the double pivot with the intention of clogging up the midfield and making it difficult for the opposition to play. Toure can also play as one of the two holding players when needed to but Mancini prefers him playing further up the pitch. He is the definition of “Box to Box” as it is not unusual to see him win the ball in defense and then run forward to support the resulting counter attack and then run back to help the defense once again.
Excellent Running with the ball
As a result of using the false nine tactic, Manchester City often do not have an out-ball as they cannot lump long balls to Carlos Tevez. Instead they give the ball to Yaya Toure and he runs with it through midfield. He has a lumbering running style but is very effective and his runs with the ball often create space for David Silva and Tevez. Toure is not a dribbler but he has a way of just gliding past defenders who you would expect to be quicker than him. He is also good at making late runs into the box and he loves to finish by passing the ball into the net, a skill most strikers have failed to learn. Opposing managers have still not realised how dangerous he is because he is still percieved as a defensive midfielder. As a result he often gets a lot of space in midfield and starts off Manchester City’s best attacking moves. He also gives Manchester City an aerial target upfront as he is over 1.90m tall and good in the air, something you need when Tevez is your striker.
Yaya Toure is the total footballer, comfortable in defence, all areas of midfield and attack. Roberto Mancini has recognised his excellence and built his midfield around the Ivorian. He is asked to do everything and he does it excellently and without fuss. He will be a key player for Manchester City in the coming months as they look to establish themselves as title contenders.