Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Engine Room

25 games into the Premier League season with only 13 games remaining, City sit at the top of the table with a 2 point lead over the closest contenders. There are a number of reasons as to why City are now in the position they're in; Kompany and Lescott's ever improving partnership in defence, the sometimes seemingly telepathic relationship between Silva and Aguero etc etc.

There is one partnership that I feel merits much more praise than it gets. The success of the team this year is in no small part influenced by the complimentary qualities of Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure.

I've made my feelings known about how infuriating I can find Yaya at times in another article. When he's bad, he's awful, but when he's good, he's world class. I have also made no secret of my admiration of Gareth and his superb consistency and defensive qualities.
This season has seen Yaya deployed in a deeper role than last season. This has seen Nigel De Jong sitting out most games as Toure lines up along side Gareth Barry. It has been a master-stroke by Mancini, as although City were solid defensively last term, we found it difficult to score many goals (although we still finished with more than the beautifully free-flowing, attacking Spurs).

Now Mancini has brought more creative players in with Nasri and Aguero to play alongside Silva and other forwards to unlock defences. But what links City's defence and attack together? You guessed it, Barry and Toure.

Now don't get me wrong, the team can cope without either one of these two players. But, and it's a big but (No Barry or Yaya jokes please), the team simply isn't the same without one or the other.

Both players have been almost constant features in the side when available so a relatively fair comparison of statistics is available. This is exactly what I want to do, and I think you'll find that the two compliment each other almost, if not as well, as the defensive pairing of Kompany and Lescott.

First of all, it should be pointed out that although Yaya lines up as a defensive midfielder on the team sheet, he is not a defensive midfielder. He may have been one in Spain, but he certainly isn't one here. In fact, Barry is as much an attacking midfielder as Toure is defensive. You will clearly see this in the statistics to follow.

Each statistic is an average per game measured throughout the course of their appearances in the Premier League this season.


As previously stated, Yaya and Barry differ greatly in their defensive ability and it would be ludicrous to think Mancini isn't actually aware of this when lining them both up in the centre of the pitch.

Barry does the majority of the grunt work, and as such, goes relatively unnoticed by what appears to be the vast majority of football fans. He makes more tackles, around double the number of interceptions and clearances and made a number of blocks throughout the season.

Because of this, Barry has also committed around 30% more fouls but has made around 66% more tackles in that time.

One thing is quite certain, Barry does not get the credit he deserves for his defensive duties. This season has seen him grow in the estimations of more and more City fans, but he is still largely scoffed at by football fans in general (maybe apart from Villa fans who know full well what he brings to the table).


Just like the defensive stats, the attacking ones also differ quite a bit.

Toure has scored more goals and has more assists than Barry, thanks to his more advanced role compared to that of his teammate. Although considering this, 2 extra goals and 1 assist isn't altogether outstanding.

What is noticeable however is that rather unsurprisingly, Toure dribbles with the ball double the number of times Gaz Baz does. Toure is well known for his ability to cause havoc amongst defences when he runs with the ball due to his sheer size and good close control on the move.

Another noticeable difference is the number of key passes both make. With Yaya's more advanced role, it is only natural that he makes key passes to the attacking players and he makes almost double the number compared to Barry.

One thing that can't be measured by statistics as the effect that Toure has on the opposition. Perhaps strangely, one of Toure's most useful qualities is just his presence. With him roaming about further up the pitch, it creates more space for the mercurial Silva and others to operate in.


When looking at cold stats, Toure is the pass master with an average of 77.6 completed passes per game at a rate of 90% success. What should be noted though, is that despite a generally more advanced position he does make a large amount of passes to the back two and to Barry.
Barry is more likely to attempt a cutting pass along the ground from midfield to one of the wider positions which partly accounts for a lesser success rate, although 86.5% is by no means poor.

Both have relatively good long ball stats, but Toure successfully completes 1.5 more of these passes on average. It has to be said, Yaya's ability to hit a 40-50 yard lobbed pass is superb. Once again due to being further up the pitch he also completes more through balls than Barry.

It isn't surprising that neither put in many crosses but as you would expect with Barry's history and ability to play wider, he puts in more accurate crosses.

The pattern is quite undeniable, and both complement each other beautifully. It's why we still have such a good defensive record and partly why we've scored so many more goals compared to last season.

Just to compare, this time last season we had scored 39 goals, conceding 20. This season we have scored a staggering 64 goals whilst conceding only 19, giving us a goal difference of 45 compared to 19 last term.

What this partnership provides is creativity and fluidity while still keeping a large measure of solidarity in front of Kompany and Lescott (who's partnership along with a magnificent Joe Hart has also helped keep the goal tally below what it was this time last year). It is quite possibly the best midfield partnership in English football and a major reason why City are sitting pretty at the top of the league heading into the final straight of the race for the Premier League title.

Player stats taken from

@MikeWalshMCFC or @mcfcDSLeftFoot
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1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I've been saying for weeks that YaYa is the MVP of this team, even taking into account the occasional horrific start. I always thought the arguments came from Silva, Aguero, Kompany and Hart, but your post has convinced me that Barry belongs in the conversation. He is doubtless the most overlooked player in the entire EPL.

    My reason for picking YaYa for team MVP is what you stated: "One thing that can't be measured by statistics as the effect that Toure has on the opposition. Perhaps strangely, one of Toure's most useful qualities is just his presence. With him roaming about further up the pitch, it creates more space for the mercurial Silva and others to operate in."

    No one else on the team does this. We missed this entirely while YaYa was at the ANC. So, shorter response: always knew YaYa was wonderful. Never knew about Gareth but I do now.


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