There is a fierce, primal creature inside all of us. Part of being civilized is learning to use our words instead of picking up a club.
Occasionally, there is a need for this inner creature. Society has traditionally rewarded the fierce in battle, or the politicians who create and govern empires.
As the demand for General Pattons in the world has decreased, the modern warrior has found fewer refuges in the world. One of the only ones remaining is in the world of sports.
Gnégnéri Yaya Touré is one of these modern warriors. A true beast of a man at 6’3″ and 180 lbs., he strikes fear into the hearts of smaller opposing players. While his highlight reel features plenty of perfect passes, or well struck shots, the eye is always drawn to him dribbling over and through and around opposing players.
There is no doubt that one of the most important players to Manchester City’s success this season will be Yaya. Any time he is on the field, he makes the team better.
This season will be the first one since the 2010-2011 one that he hasn’t had to leave for a month to participate in the African Cup of Nations. With the tournament originally scheduled for even years, we lost him during January 2012. Fortunately, we had Nigel de Jong and a younger Gareth Barry to help not leave such a gaping hole in the midfield. We won all but one
Unfortunately for our 2013 season, the tournament was changed to odd years. His absence cost us 4 dropped points against QPR and Liverpool in consecutive weeks. When he came back, he looked exhausted in the Southampton game. That 3 game stretch might have been the worst of the season, and it was when we lost sight of United at the top of the table.
Having Yaya back for the full season is going to be an enormous boost to the team. This is a man who averages about a pass per minute. That’s about 2500 passes over the last two season. If he’s not missing a full month, he’ll average closer to 3000 passes. Considering that his pass completion is about 90%, that is an invaluable asset to have.
One area that I expect him to continue to improve in is his shot selection. Two seasons ago, he took 52 shots, but 36 of them were off target. That’s an accuracy of only 31%. Last season, he took 49 shots, but only 26 of them were off target. In one season, he shot up to 47% accuracy.
More importantly than that, his shot selection has gotten better. In the 2011-2012 season, this is how his shot selection looked (shots that were on target):
That’s not too bad, but consider the fact that his 3 shots at the upper left corner were all goals, and that of his 6 goals, 5 of them were aimed at corners of the net.
This is his shot selection from last season:
This is a man who learned a lesson. Out of the 23 shots on target, only 4 of them were aimed right down the middle. The rest went to the corners. This was also reflected in the goals that were scored. On his 8 goals, all of them were aimed towards a corner. Here is the graphic showing this from Squawka.
That looks like a man who has learned where to place a shot. Not only are more shots on target, but only 3 of them would be considered right down the middle. He put a whole bunch of them in the bottom left corner, and it paid off with 3 goals.
Keep checking back here to see how Yaya’s play trends during the season. Here are three things I expect to see.
Yaya spends more time in forward positions
Yaya takes more shots, and puts around 50% of them on target
Yaya’s goal tally in Premier League games is close to 15
The reasoning behind all of these trends I feel will come down to his new midfield partner. I want to see how he plays with a higher-caliber midfielder alongside him in Fernandinho. I expect Yaya to get forward more (since he can rely on Fern to cover for the back 4), and take more shots from these positions than he has the last two seasons. If he does, I see him getting to at least 10 league goals, and probably closer to 15.