Football

'Yaya plays like a boy'

Guardiola hails Toure's influence in comeback win

His statistics summed it all up.

Yaya Toure completed 75 per cent of his tackles and was also successful with 75 per cent of his headed duels, highlighting how hard he worked off the ball as he played a key role in Manchester City's 2-1 comeback win over Arsenal yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The Ivory Coast midfielder also completed 90 per cent of his passes as he bossed the Gunners in midfield.

So it was no surprise that Pep Guardiola labelled Toure as "exceptional" after the match.

The 33-year-old was frozen out at the start of the season, following a dispute between his agent Dimitri Seluk and Guardiola.

When we are in trouble, he goes there, asks for the ball, pass, pass.Pep Guardiola, praising Yaya Toure for his exceptional performance

Following a personal apology, Toure returned to the Citizens' starting 11 during the 2-1 win at Crystal Palace - where he scored both of Man City's goals - and he has featured in every Premier League match since.

"He looks like a boy. He played awesome. It is not in terms of when he has the ball, it's the personality," said Guardiola of Toure.

"When we are in trouble, he goes there, asks for the ball, pass, pass.

"When Yaya plays at that level, because he is fit and focused, he is an exceptional, exceptional player."

Asked if Toure's form might earn him an extension to his contract, which expires at the end of the season, Guardiola replied: "No answer to that question.

"I know he finishes his contract. Now we have time to discuss about that. What I am impressed most (by) is his huge quality.

DESIRE

"It was about tactics and desire," said Toure, emphasising the point that Guardiola's teams are not all about pretty football.

Buoyed by the win, Guardiola said his side are ready to pounce if Premier League leaders Chelsea falter.

The Blues have streaked clear at the summit thanks to a storming run of 11 consecutive victories.

City trail Antonio Conte's side by seven points, having climbed to second place with their win yesterday morning, and Guardiola said that the leaders are in their sights.

Asked if the win, secured by second-half goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, would give City a psychological boost, Guardiola nodded and replied: "A lot.

"Seven points are a huge distance and, when a team can make 11 victories in a row, you just can say congratulations.

"But at least to be there as much as possible, and waiting if the opponent fails sometimes, and waiting until the last part of the season to be there, to fight for the title."

Since Guardiola's arrival in England, following stellar stints at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, there has been huge interest in whether his passing principles will prevail in the pell-mell Premier League.

The City manager triggered his team's comeback by moving Kevin de Bruyne up front at half-time and switching Sterling to the right flank, but he played down the significance of the decision.

"Because we won, now the trainer is a genius!" said Guardiola, who faced criticism following recent one-sided losses to Chelsea and Leicester City.

Guardiola said he had apologised to John Stones after benching the centre back, a £47.5-million (S$85.6m) recruit from Everton, for the second game running.

He said: "I just apologised to John because he didn't deserve to be left out. I love him a lot but I just tried to keep the same back four we played against Watford." - WIRE SERVICES

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