Manchester City’s policy of bringing in players over the last year that already possess Premiership experience and have already adapted to the English game has worked wonders for the team this season. The likes of Carlos Tevez, Craig Bellamy, Shay Given and Emmanuel Adebayor have been in fine form for City and helped the club challenge the dominance of the top four. Some new arrivals at Eastlands haven’t had the same effect: Patrick Vieira is a shadow of the player he was at Arsenal and Roque Santa Cruz and Joleon Lescott have both suffered with injury problems. But it’s City’s captain Kolo Toure that I’m going to focus on. The former Arsenal defender has struggled this season and looks like a liability at times at the heart of the City defence.
Toure was signed by former City boss Mark Hughes for £16 million last summer, who hoped that the Ivorian defender could use his exceptional tackling ability and reading of the game to marshal the City defence and form an excellent partnership with new signing Joleon Lescott. Mark Hughes said when he signed Toure from Arsenal:
“He is strong, quick, reads the game well and will be an influential figure in the dressing room. Kolo was a central figure in a very strong Arsenal team for many years and I feel we have recruited a world-class player.”
Toure may know how to win and have the experience of top-level football with Arsenal, but he certainly hasn’t lived up to his big transfer fee with his performances on the pitch this season. The City captain has played in 27 Premiership games this season but hasn’t been as commanding as he was at Arsenal, looking susceptible in the air and has been criticised for occasional lapses of concentration. Seeing as Toure should be at his peak at 29 years old, it does prove that Arsene Wenger used his judgement wisely to offload the defender and replace him with a younger version in Thomas Vermaelen.
Toure needs to play with a world-class centre back in order to be at his best, just like when he played with Sol Campbell in Arsenal’s “Invincibles” season in 2003-04. But when Toure plays with a poor centre back, like when he played with Pascal Cygan at Arsenal, the Ivorian looks atrocious at times, error-prone and not the experienced international that we know him to be. Playing with Lescott for City makes Toure look a better player, but with the England international missing a lot of games through injury (he’s played in 19 Premiership games this season), Toure has had the be the leader and main defender for City at times this season.
Lescott and Vincent Kompany have looked a far more solid defensive pairing when they play for City, which raises the question: does Kolo Toure have a future with the club? City have been heavily linked to Hamburg defender Jerome Boateng in recent weeks, which means that if Toure doesn’t start to perform at the level we all know he can, then he could be surplus to requirements next season.
I think Toure can still do a job at City, albeit as a squad player and backup to whomever City sign in the summer; his experience at the top level is invaluable for them and he can act as a mentor for young defenders like Nedum Onuoha and Dedryck Boyata. But for £16 million, Toure has looked like a poor investment and should be performing a lot better for a player in his prime with his talent and experience.
What do you think – has Kolo Toure been a massive disappointment for City this season?
Follow Tom Jinks on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tomjinks