Match Coverage

Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester City: What We Learned

The King is Back

You could be mistaken for thinking that Yaya Toure’s Manchester City career was virtually over. His contract is running down and he had been outcasted by Pep Guardiola since August. And with David Silva and De Bruyne firing on all cylinders, Ilkay Gundogan pushing for a first team spot and Aleix Garcia waiting on the wings, there didn’t appear to be a way back in for the proclaimed King of Africa.

But sometimes, things are not as they seem and the circumstances for a return were favourable to Yaya Toure. He had apologised for a “misunderstanding” a few weeks ago and Pep, recognising the opportunity to draft in a fresh midfielder, brushed aside his ego and brought him back into the fray against Crystal Palace.

Even though it worked out perfectly in the end, for Pep, this whole ordeal was always a win-win situation. If Yaya didn’t apologise, he would’ve be applauded for bringing down one of the most powerful figures in the dressing room and a player who has seemingly held the club to ransom several times. If Yaya did apologise, Pep strikes a wonderful power play and has another player to strengthen his challenge for the title. In the end, I think everyone (including Yaya’s agent Dmiritri Seluk) walked away from today a happy man.

So for Pep to bring him back made all the sense in the world. Perhaps, deep down, Guardiola would’ve liked him back a lot earlier but he knew he couldn’t go back on his word for reputation’s sake. The truth is, he needed Toure because Silva, De Bruyne and Gundogan were playing an awful lot of football and it had started to show, particularly during the six game winless run. Pep’s midfielders were being run into the ground because their deputies – the perennially crocked Fabian Delph and the outcasted Yaya Toure – either did not exist or came simply in the shape of Fernando.

Yaya Toure isn’t the player he was. He doesn’t move like he used to nor does he have the legs to play like wants to. But that doesn’t mean he has nothing to offer. At his peak, Yaya was the most wonderfully gifted midfielder in the world. He scored goals – lots of them, offered a presence on both sides of the pitch and on top of all that was a 100-passes a game man. While he may not be able to run up and down the pitch anymore, his instinct, his knack for scoring goals will never desert him and his technical ability on the ball is still there to see.

This truce was in the interests of all parties and although Seluk himself didn’t offer an apology, Yaya’s gracious sorry of his own a few weeks ago was most likely his saving grace.

Yaya Toure won’t be the bona fide star of this team anymore, nor will he be the first name of the team sheet again. But he can be the best reserve midfielder you could ask for. He can fill in for certain games, he will score goals and his versatility means he can play in several different midfield positions.

His two goals today were a reflection of the player he is – always in the right place at the right time. But while he may have been fortunate with a deflection and poor defending, it is testament to his ability to arrive in the box at that precise moment that he could’ve easily added a third or even a fourth today. This Ivorian’s presence has been missed and his return will be a massive boost to City’s title challenge.

Yaya Toure, welcome back.

Pep Bailed Out

Manchester City might have returned to winning ways after a disappointing outing against Middlesbrough two weeks ago but this was far from the dominant performances we’ve become accustomed to this season. Crystal Palace were fired up from the go and were keen to cause an upset against a side who have appeared fragile against smaller teams.

City were on the ropes early on but both teams sparred evenly throughout the first half. Bacary Sagna made his first appearance in seven games while Kompany was elected ahead of a “very tired” John Stones. Elsewhere Yaya Toure flanked De Bruyne as Aguero lead the line.

City’s broke the deadlock as a wonderful one-two between Toure and Nolito resulted in a deflection from James Tomkins to push the ball past Wayne Hennessey. This was Toure’s first league goal since March although a second would be required if City were to walk away with all three points. Connor Wickham beat Zabaleta far too easily for Palace’s equaliser and his shot which breezed past Bravo would have had the Chilean very disappointed. But City were to be bailed out again as Yaya Toure arrived unmarked in the box and tapped in his 77th goal for Manchester City.

Guardiola admitted that City were “lucky” given that Palace had made his side “so uncomfortable” for large parts of the game and it’d be hard to disagree with him. While results like these in tough away grounds are always welcome, City know they must do much better if they are to wrestle first place off Liverpool and Chelsea.

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