Dec 8, 2012, 8:19 AM EST
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.
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.
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.
Dec 11, 2013, 11:46 PM EST
You can’t been drawn against a team from your own federation – a rule that will hurt Arsenal, Manchester City on Monday.
Dec 11, 2013, 10:24 PM EST
The defenses need to get better in both places. A lot better:
No, the South Florida team will NOT be “Miami Beckham United;” plus the MLS news roundup for Dec. 11
Dec 11, 2013, 9:23 PM EST
A little social media brush fire over the new Miami expansion outfit was promptly, mercifully extinguished:
Dec 11, 2013, 8:33 PM EST
Highlights from all Wednesday’s games, which saw Barça’s newest start break out, Italy’s reigning champions eliminated.
Dec 11, 2013, 7:46 PM EST
Once you narrow the list to 15 or so, it’s nearly impossible to decide from there:
Dec 11, 2013, 6:59 PM EST
That assumes, of course, that the former U.S. manager was ever a serious candidate:
Dec 11, 2013, 6:11 PM EST
Tough draws await Arsenal, Manchester City in the knockout round.
Dec 11, 2013, 5:31 PM EST
Demba Ba’s 10th minute goal was enough to give Chelsea Group E.
Dec 11, 2013, 4:47 PM EST
Brazilian star’s hat trick helps Barcelona rout Celtic, claim first in Group H.
Dec 11, 2013, 4:43 PM EST
One good club from Group F was bound to be odd team out on Wednesday as Champions League group play finished with a high-wire tension.
Dec 11, 2013, 3:32 PM EST
There’s more to “coaching discussions” right now in domestic soccer than those four MLS openings:
Dec 11, 2013, 2:31 PM EST
He keeps performing for “club” … but when it will translate to performance for “country?”
Dec 11, 2013, 2:15 PM EST
Hull chairman Assem Allam is ready to risk backlash with choice comments and a formal application for name change.
Dec 11, 2013, 1:45 PM EST
From East Coast goalkeeper to West Coast coach in under five hours.
Dec 11, 2013, 1:28 PM EST
Which venues will the USA be playing in next summer? We take an in-depth look at them, right here:
Dec 11, 2013, 1:12 PM EST
Next stop: politicians. David Beckham’s bid for a stadium in Miami is moving ahead.
Dec 11, 2013, 12:34 PM EST
New York City FC is on the verge of getting a palace in the Bronx.
Dec 11, 2013, 12:09 PM EST
What? Roy Keane back down from a fight? Sir Alex and Keano still bitter after all these years.
Dec 11, 2013, 11:33 AM EST
Dwyer suggested a transfer abroad was imminent, but has backtracked.
Dec 11, 2013, 10:54 AM EST
Longtime Revs keeper and Boston Marathon bombing hero retires with 75 clean sheets and 110 wins.
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