Man City manager Pellegrini backs Toure to be on top form

Manuel Pellegrini is confident Manchester City will see Yaya Toure back to his best after insisting the problems the player faced last season are now behind him.

Toure was on the scoresheet as City showed their Premier League title credentials with an impressive 3-0 opening-game win away to West Bromwich Albion on Monday.

Having seen rivals Chelsea and Arsenal both slip up over the weekend, City manager Pellegrini’s team took full advantage with a dominant display which will give them confidence ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Jose Mourinho’s champions.

Having struggled to find his best form for a variety of reasons last term, the performance of Ivory Coast star Toure stood out as he gave signs he is fit and focused with a dominant display at the heart of City’s midfield.

“I always said last season it was a strange season for Yaya, he started with a lot of problems, the death of his brother, his agents, I think he was not focused maybe on what he had to do last year,” Pellegrini explained.

“We spoke a long way before the start of the season and I am very sure we will see the Yaya from two years ago. He is a very important player for us,” the Chilean added.

“I don’t think Yaya deserved the amount of criticism he received last season. It was not his best season but he did not play so, so bad like everyone said.

“But he is an important player for us. I am sure last season his head was not in his best moment. It is very difficult for a player when you have so many problems.”

– More trust –

Toure and David Silva combined to hand City the initiative just nine minutes in, with the Spain international flicking home his team-mate’s shot with the aid of a deflection before midfielder Toure curled home a fine second goal 15 minutes later.

With Vincent Kompany making the points certain, City’s old guard overshadowed £49 million ($76 million) record signing Raheem Sterling on his competitive debut.

The former Liverpool forward twice had good opportunities to join them on the scoresheet only to be foiled from close range by Baggies goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.

“I’m not disappointed because Raheem plays 70 minutes very well (before he was substituted),” said Pellegrini. “If he continues to play like this I am sure he will be the player we bought.”

Pellegrini played down the significance of this weekend’s meeting with Chelsea, who already trail City by two points following Saturday’s draw against Swansea.

“It is important to have a difference with them at the start of the season because they are one of the five teams who have the most chance to win the title.

“Every point is important but the gap after the second game is not decisive… It is important to beat the champions of last year to give you more trust.”

West Brom boss Tony Pulis refused to blame his players for the defeat. “I take responsibility for the way we set up and the fact we had (two strikers) Saido Berahino and Rickie Lambert both playing,” said Pulis.

“I have to look at it and say if I did it again I would probably do it differently. The pivotal moment was when I decided to play the two up front instead of an extra man in midfield.”

Pulis hopes the arrival of West Brom’s own record signing, £12 million Venezuela forward Salomon Rondon, will signal a marked improvement after his capture from Zenit St Petersburg on a four-year deal was sealed hours before kick-off.

“Speaking to Manuel (Pellegrini) and Andre Villas-Boas (the Zenit coach) who have both worked with the lad, he comes highly recommended,” said Pulis. Pellegrini had previously coached Rondon at Malaga

“He has played a good level, has a good goalscoring record, he is quick and powerful and at that price hopefully it turns out to be a good deal for us.

“The reason Zenit had to sell him is their quota of foreign players had been cut.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Toure absence not cause of slump: Pellegrini

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini refused to blame the continued absence of Yaya Toure for his team’s collapse in 2015 following their 1-1 home draw with relegation-threatened Hull City.

The defending Premier League champions are now seven points behind leaders Chelsea, have exited the FA Cup at home to Championship side Middlesbrough, and have gone four games without a league win — their worst such run in over five years.

All this has happened while the inspirational Toure has been at the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast, who face Ghana in Sunday’s final.

The hulking 31-year-old midfielder is not expected to be available for Wednesday’s trip to Stoke City, but Pellegrini is adamant that City can prosper without him.

“I always have the same answer — you can’t have any doubt how important Yaya Toure is for us,” he said. “But we feel that every game without Yaya we could win. It is not just about one player.

“We must be a creative team and we must play faster in the last 25 metres against teams who defend with men behind the ball. I think there is more of a problem than one individual player.”

David Meyler gave Hull a deserved, if surprise, first-half lead on Saturday and the visitors, who defended stoutly, would have won had it not been for a fine injury-time free kick by James Milner.

“Yes, of course, before the game, if you’d said we were going to draw against Hull, I wouldn’t have liked it,” admitted Pellegrini. “But the way we did it was not so bad with a goal in the last minute.

“In the 90 minutes, we had all the possession and attacked and attacked. We only created one chance, so it’s very clear — we must work and try to improve in that sense.”

On Chelsea’s advantage, he added: “We’re not thinking about it. We’re not concerned about the gap.

“We’re thinking about how we can return to our normal performance. How we can score again; how we can resolve the problems other teams are presenting us. That’s more important than the gap to other teams.”

– ‘Crazy and difficult’ –

Milner was the unlikely saviour for City after coming off the bench in the second half, raising questions as to why the England international had not been in the line-up from the start.

“I think James Milner has played 24 or 25 games this season,” said Pellegrini.

“But for different reasons, I need to make changes because the last few games we didn’t score and the last two home games we didn’t score.

“He scored a beautiful goal with the free kick, but it is not about one name. That is not the problem. It is not just about one individual player.”

For Hull manager Steve Bruce, the only frustration — apart from conceding a late equaliser — was the fact that his team have failed to show this sort of form all season.

Last season’s beaten FA Cup finalists had failed to find the net in 11 of their previous 15 league games and Bruce said: “It shows how crazy and difficult the Premier League is.

“We’ve been awful for 10 or 12 weeks, but hopefully that will galvanise the squad and bring the confidence and belief that has ebbed away a bit.

“If we keep playing like that we will come back here next year and that’s the aim of the club.”

The draw lifted Hull out of the relegation zone, but they will fall back into the bottom three if Burnley avoid defeat at home to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.

Photo Credits : AFP

Yaya Toure wins fourth straight African Player of Year award

Manchester City and Ivory Coast midfield star Yaya Toure on Thursday became the first player to win four successive African Footballer of the Year awards.

The 31-year-old beat off the challenge of Gabon and Borussia Dortmund star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who plays for Lille in France.

Toure equalled Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o as a four-time winner, but he is the first to claim four awards in a row.

Photo Credits : AFP