Yaya Toure, a heavyweight of European football. The dynamic midfielder that can tackle, score, assist whilst winning games single handedly. Crucial to Manchester City, or so I thought until this season. This season where the inconsistent form of Toure has coupled with his side crashing out of the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup at early stages whilst also losing grip on their Barclays Premier League title. Is he as crucial as he once was?
Statistically speaking, you would probably argue so. The 31 year old has mustered 10 goals in 33 games this season, fairly impressive figures for any midfielder. Only two assists in that period however, suggests that the once creative force of Toure has gone, especially as he managed nine assists in 35 games last season. With David Silva in your ranks, creativity isn't normally a problem but you can't solely rely on the Spaniard.
Manchester City's poor form has been shown in their games against top opponents, with losses to Arsenal, Liverpool, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and CSKA Moscow this season all coming in games where Toure has featured. Now it is unfair to blame Toure for all of these losses, however it is fair to question his place in the side due to these. Manuel Pellegrini consistently deploys a two striker formation for City, meaning that Toure is found in a two man midfield.
Two or three years ago, this wasn't such a bad thing as the Ivorian's fitness meant he could track back to perform his defensive duties whilst still bombing on in support of attacks. This simply isn't the case anymore through no fault of Toure's, he just hasn't got the fitness levels. Due to his attacking instincts, this often leaves the likes of Fernando or Fernandinho isolated in midfield just as we saw at Anfield against Liverpool last month, as the Reds won 2-1 thanks to a dominant midfield performance.
The advantages of a deeper holding two for the Citizens were shown in possibly their most complete performance of the season, a 2-0 win away against Roma that allowed them to progress to the next round. Fernando and Fernandinho sat back, allowing others to push on and influence the game without having the concerns of a large hole in midfield behind them.
All of this evidence leads you to think that maybe City should cut their losses and allow Toure to search for a new club, especially after the 'birthday cake' incident last summer. However there is still hope, if manager Manuel Pellegrini switches to a formation that requires five midfielders. This was done at the Nou Camp against Barcelona where City pushed Toure into a completely advanced role and saw themselves put in a very credible performance that could have ended differently had Sergio Aguero's 78th minute penalty gone in. Alas, this seems unlikely due to the striking options at the Chilean's disposal, after the £28 million signing of Wilfried Bony in January.
There have been report that City officials are extermely keen to keep Toure at the club, and are considering offering him an ambassadorial role for when he finishes playing. They might want to just hold off for the moment, and consider whether Toure's presence is helping or hindering them.