With the excellent 4-1 victory at Stoke City aside, it’s plain for all to see just how much Manchester City have missed their influential powerhouse Yaya Toure. Whilst the Ivorian has been on international duty captaining his nation to AFCON glory, City have struggled to adapt to life without him and have now slipped seven points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea.
Prior to Toure’s absence, the Citizens had won 11 out of 12 games in all competitions and were level on points with Jose Mourinho’s side. City’s slump in results has coincided with the 31-year-old’s absence from the first-team, and they have only won once in six, a run that included being dumped out of the FA Cup, with a shocking 2-0 home defeat to Championship side Middlesbrough.
But a club with the size of Manchester City’s resources and finances, should have been able to cope better without the Ivory Coast international – but in truth, they haven’t. City lacked a physical presence in the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in mid-January, and they were well below par in last week’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Hull City at the Etihad; needing a late James Milner free-kick to bail them out.
Obviously, being able to replace Toure like-for-like is a near impossible task, he really is one of a kind for the specific job he does in the middle of the park for City. He may have a languid and laid-back style, but the results in his absence just prove how vital he is to Manchester City’s cause. His range of passing, hard-tackling and pure ability to get from box-to-box to grab the odd goal, makes him not only one of the Premier League’s best midfielders, but one of the best in the world.
Fernando and Fernandinho may have rallied in Toure’s absence, but they both found life difficult without having the ex-Barcelona man by their side. The pairing struggled to stamp down their authority in midfield, and prior to last night’s win at Stoke, City had netted three times and conceded seven in five games.
Chelsea may be seven points above Manuel Pellegrini’s side, but the Blues were somewhat fortunate to get the three points against a dogged Everton side last night. And as for City, they were superb in the impressive 4-1 win at the Britannia Stadium – the win at Stoke was probably their best performance and result without Toure. In the wake of Toure’s fellow countryman Wilfried Bony eager to make his bow for the Champions, City have set themselves up nicely to take Chelsea all the way to the wire.
With 13 Premier League games remaining and a two-legged Champions League knockout tie with Spanish giants Barcelona on the horizon, the dominant midfielder’s return could be pivotal to the way City’s season is going to pan out. There are still plenty of points up for grabs, and in the Premier League anything is possible. Jose Mourinho may be the master tactician, but City have been in this position before, which should set us up for another enthralling finale to the league campaign.