Manchester City’s Yaya Problem

I know, I know, I know. We’ve been very City centric these last few days, we might as well call ourselves “Every Day Is Kun Aguero Day”. (Not gonna happen, Jordan.) This is what occurs when you’re involved in arguably the three biggest games of the last two weeks: stuff gets written about you. Unfortunately for City, who haven’t won a game in a while, most of that stuff is pretty bad.

It’s no secret that since the Ivorian’s arrival at the Etihad, Manchester City – whether managed by Roberto Mancini or Manuel Pellegrini – go as Yaya Toure goes. And why not? An on form Toure is perhaps the most destructive force in the English Premier League. The guy gets it done.

Lately, though, Yaya Toure hasn’t been himself. He tires easily, doesn’t get involved as much, and in this week’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich, he’s basically been anonymous.

A team of City’s caliber should not rely on one player this much, yet the team from the blue side of Manchester do. Yaya Toure has engrained himself into the fabric of the Citizens that players who should be able to assert themselves when the Ivorian doesn’t simply can’t. David Silva is more than capable of being the offensive fulcrum, but he’s marginalized for the benefit of Yaya.

City isn’t the only team that has this phenomenon, mind you. Barcelona under Tito Villanova and Tata Martino (even in Pep Guardiola’s final season) were dependent on Messi so much, the Catalan press came up with a term for it (Messidependencia). Andre Villas Boas’s Tottenham squad was so reliant on Gareth Bale for goals – creating and scoring – that AVB wilted under the pressure and was fired the season after Spurs let Bale go. Heck, even Sir Alex Ferguson’s last Manchester United team was reliant on the heroics of Robin Van Persie. (Time will tell whether Brendan Rodgers’s Liverpool squad are a product of his tactics, or this year’s Spurs.)

Where Manchester City differs from those teams, and what can help Manchester City going forward even with Yaya Toure, is that they can fix this. With the African Cup of Nations in January, they need to, and fast.

With Yaya getting up there in years – he’s 31 this season – a move to a Silva centric attack might be the best thing City do. The Spanish talisman is more than capable of being the attacking force Yaya is, and while he isn’t as dynamic, he might offer more going forward.

David Silva is a better passer than Toure. He’s quicker than the Ivorian. He’s even more inventive than Yaya the Beast ever was. A move to put him in the center of the attack, as the top of an inverted V, makes City much more dangerous. I’m not saying this should be a permanent move, mind you. I just think it would help Manny have more options.

I do, however, think that this is a good game plan for the game against Chelsea. Cesc Fabregas will struggle against Silva’s speed. The Spaniard, much like the Ivorian so far this season, has struggled defensively as part of a defensive midfield two, stretching Nemanja Matic in the same way Yaya has been stretching Fernandinho, and, to a lesser extent, Fernando, who might be this team’s most important player. (The latter is just fine doing all the running for seemingly the entire squad.)

Having Silva, Samir Nasri, and Jesus Navas attack Chelsea while Fernando and Fernandinho stay home could cause Chelsea’s defense a lot of trouble. In fact, City was at its most dangerous against Bayern when Silva was in the center. Once James Milner was introduced and David went wide, Munich relaxed a little.

On Sunday, Manchester City will try to get its first win in three games. On Sunday, City would be wise to try something different, something new, and end Yayadependence before its too late.

How well their season goes, both domestically and in Europe, may depend on it.

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