Skip to content

Key man in Sunday’s Manchester Derby? Yaya Touré, of course

Dec 8, 2012, 8:19 AM EDT

Britain Soccer Premier League AP

Three finalists for 2012’s African Player of the Year were announced this week, though one candidate’s case makes him the clear favorite for the award. While Didier Drogba inspired in leading Chelsea to Champions League glory and Alex Song had his best year as a pro for Arsenal (mostly), neither player’s influence matched Yaya Touré’s. Though Robin van Persie’s goal totals won him last season’s major individual Premier League honors, Touré was the best player in the league, a dominating presence in the middle of the park that help capture Manchester City’s first Premier League title.

It’s no surprise Michael Cox, writing for the Guardian, picks out Touré when discussing keys to Sunday’s Manchester Derby. Against Manchester United, the Ivorian can be particularly influential against a team whose main weakness lie in the middle of the park.

Cox discusses Alex Ferguson’s options matching up with Touré in deep midfield, but it’s when Touré comes forward that Manchester City’s most effective. That Touré can start deep and still have a determining factor in the attacking phase (or, pushed forward later in matches) is part of what makes him an elite player. It’s also why relying on a forward to mark him (as, Cox illustrates, United has done in the past) is difficult to pull off. Touré can win most of those individual battles, and when he doesn’t, his movement forward pulls one of your attackers too far upfield.

MORE: Title to be settled in Manchester, again

Defensively, it’s better to concede Touré’s influence higher up the pitch and use a midfielder to pick up him as he ventures forward (something that almost requires playing three in the middle versus City). This is where Manchester United may miss a player like Anderson. The Brazilian midfielder has the strength and athleticism to compete with Touré, but sidelined with a hamstring injury, Anderson will miss tomorrow’s match. Ferguson’s other midfield options — Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes, and Tom Cleverley — all beg a forward, Wayne Rooney, to come back into the picture.

Depending on how United set up, they may be able to dedicate Rooney to the role without undo damage to their attack. Ferguson has used a midfield diamond at various points throughout the season. If he plays Rooney at the top of that diamond, United can afford to have Rooney follow Touré deep into the defensive zone knowing the speed of Ashley Young and/or Antonio Valencia can bring van Persie and Javier Hernández back into the game.

MORE: Chelsea finally finds three in league

Valencia, however, presents another option, one Ferguson’s highly unlikely to use. For Ecuador, the nominal right winger has player through the middle. In England, he’s ill-equipped to do so from an attacking perspective, but Touré’s presence (and Manchester City’s dependence on it) might justify giving Valencia the role Park Ji-Sung tried to perform last October. With his speed and strength, could Valencia be the man to help mitigate Touré?

We’ll likely never know. At least, not tomorrow. The most likely scenario sees Ferguson trust Rooney to stymy Touré, though as Cox points out, there are drawbacks to that plan, too.

His preview’s worth the quick read.

Latest Posts
  1. WATCH: Ex-Barcelona midfielder Xavi scores a wonderful free-kick on debut for Qatari club

    Aug 2, 2015, 8:06 PM EDT

    Xavi Getty Images

    Xavi gets up for preseason friendlies, and in his first match for his new club, the 35-year-old rips a classic free kick.

  2. MLS Snapshot: San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 Portland Timbers (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 7:03 PM EDT

    Valeri Getty Images

    Diego Valeri missed a penalty as neither side could take advantage of its few big chances.

  3. Premier League friendly roundup: Southampton draws, Stoke swallowed

    Aug 2, 2015, 6:36 PM EDT

    Hughes Getty Images

    It was a tough day for a number of Premier League teams who suffered losses and setbacks, most notably Mark Hughes and Stoke City.

  4. Jack Wilshere to miss the start of the season with another ankle problem

    Aug 2, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT

    Wilshere Getty Images

    The 23-year-old midfielder has struggled with ankle problems in the past, and another has cropped up.

  5. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: West Ham United

    Aug 2, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Payet Getty Images

    Some big signings this summer and a new manager has fans excited for what could be this coming year.

  6. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: West Bromwich Albion

    Aug 2, 2015, 3:14 PM EDT

    WestBrom Getty Images

    Tony Pulis is a hard-nosed leader, but unless Saido Berahino can repeat his goal-scoring year from last season, it will be a tough go for the Baggies.

  7. Jose Mourinho says “best team lost,” attacks Arsenal’s defensive tactics, as Chelsea beaten at their own game

    Aug 2, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT

    Chelsea Media Access Getty Images

    Chelsea boss hits out at Gunners as he loses to Wenger for first time in 14 attempts.

  8. Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho fail to shake hands, as Gunners boss finally prevails

    Aug 2, 2015, 1:07 PM EDT

    The long-time spat between the managers of Arsenal and Chelsea rumbles on.

  9. Sunday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Liverpool wants Cheryshev, Pato to Sunderland

    Aug 2, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    FC Internazionale v Real Madrid- International Champions Cup Getty Images

    Catch up on all the latest transfer rumors and gossip, right here.

  10. Three things we learned from Arsenal’s Community Shield win vs. Chelsea

    Aug 2, 2015, 11:57 AM EDT

    Wenger finally beats Mourinho, while the Blues have some issues up front.

  11. Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea: Oxlade-Chamberlain strike wins Gunners FA Community Shield

    Aug 2, 2015, 11:55 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptq2mtvlzdlkyzrjzwnhzdg3ywvhyzy2m2qznzzkmwu11 AP

    Arsenal takes claim to the Community Shield as Arsene Wenger has finally defeated Jose Mourinho.

  12. VIDEO: Brilliant finish from Oxlade-Chamberlain puts Arsenal ahead in Community Shield

    Aug 2, 2015, 10:49 AM EDT

    Arsenal celebrate their opening goal vs. Chelsea. AP

    The Gunners took a 1-0 first half lead over Chelsea in the FA Community Shield thanks to a classy finish from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

  13. VIDEO: Watch the Wright-Phillips brothers combine for slick goal in Red Bulls’ win

    Aug 2, 2015, 10:04 AM EDT

    Bradley Wright-Phillips, Bill Hamid AP

    In the City of Brotherly Love, it was only fitting that the Wright-Phillips boys led New York to a victory.

  14. Roy Keane thinks Arsenal players too focused on “selfies and six-packs”

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:07 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Everton: Barclays Asia Trophy Getty Images

    There’s a legitimate chance that Roy Keane has never taken a picture with his cell phone.

  15. Report: Manchester United, PSG agree to $70 million fee for Angel di Maria

    Aug 2, 2015, 8:12 AM EDT

    Everton v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Manchester United’s Di Maria experiment is all but over, and it’s going to cost them $20 million.

  16. MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 0-3 Vancouver Whitecaps (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 12:02 AM EDT

    Pa Modou Kah, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Pa Modou Kah, Vancouver Whitecaps FC

    That’s 7 losses in 8 games for the Sounders. Meanwhile, the ‘Caps go top of the West.

  17. MLS Snapshot: Sporting Kansas City 1-1 Houston Dynamo (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 10:47 PM EDT

    Tim Melia, Sporting Kansas City Tim Melia, Sporting Kansas City

    Another Royal Rumble between old rivals. While the rest of MLS went goal-crazy, these two did what they always do.

  18. MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 5-2 Columbus Crew SC (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 9:33 PM EDT

    Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

    The goals floweth over in MLS tonight. Cyle Larin scored his second straight brace for Orlando City.

  19. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 6-4 Real Salt Lake (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 9:11 PM EDT

    Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United

    D.C. United and RSL combined for 10 goals at RFK Stadium Saturday night. Let the video do the talking.

Featured video

What can we expect from PL new boys?