Yaya Toure: From forgotten man to talisman
Toure leaves Pep eating humble pie with yet another solid performance
Yaya Toure wasn't quite dead and buried, but he has provided a pulse for Manchester City's walking dead.
The Ivorian enigma represents both hope and a little despair as Pep Guardiola prepares for a New Year's Eve date at Anfield.
Toure offers City an obvious bulwark against Liverpool's scampering Scousers, but his very presence hints at his manager's tactical struggles.
Three months ago, Toure's days were done. He was yesterday's news, a fading legend, a petulant brat, a party pooper and a waste of space, on both the payroll and in the dressing room.
He was a 33-year-old living off past glories and watching his reputation shrink further with every clueless claim from a greedy, unrepentant agent.
But he's the villain no more. Yesterday morning (Singapore time), Toure turned saviour.
Like a trusty credit card, City suddenly can't leave home without him.
OLD IS GOLD
He scored the first goal from the spot, delivered a sumptuous pass in the build-up for the third - an own-goal by Curtis Davies - and dominated just about everything in between as his side beat Hull 3-0 away.
I look like a kid, just enjoying playing football ... I’m used to winning Premier Leagues. I think it’s second two times, and I want to win another.Man City’s Yaya Toure
City's short-term future depends on a throwback, a retro box-to-box round peg being squeezed into a stubborn manager's square hole.
Until recently, Guardiola was adamant that his revolution had no place for an ageing midfield reactionary. But Toure's commanding performance at Hull felt like the restoration of an old monarch.
Manchester City’s Yaya Toure has converted all 10 of his penalties in the Premier League.
And that's a bit of a problem for his manager, underlining his lack of resources, thanks to City's erratic pre-season spending spree and, more worryingly, Guardiola's tactical uncertainty.
At Hull, City once again played without a conventional striker, leaving Kelechi Iheanacho on the bench, which ensured that they dominated possession against the worst team in the English Premier League without threatening to score.
Indeed, Hull looked more likely to break the deadlock in the second half, until they clumsily conceded a penalty.
Toure's constrained role typified Guardiola's unexpected caution. Chained to Fernandinho, the Ivorian formed a holding midfield partnership for the world's wealthiest football club against opponents tipped for relegation.
Toure's natural instinct to gallop between the lines was initially curtailed, with Guardiola remonstrating with him to hold his position.
Perhaps it was a full-dress rehearsal for the pivotal game at Anfield - and if City hold Liverpool, then Guardiola will be vindicated - but Toure's defensive position betrayed the club's paucity of options.
Only when Iheanacho, who scored his team's second, was introduced for the ineffective Nolito and Toure found himself with more space and fewer defensive responsibilities did the Ivorian and his club look like their old selves.
Galloping forward, the gazelle on the prowl, Toure flicked passes with aplomb and restored an attacking impetus.
Despite David Silva's presence and Raheem Sterling's wonderful pace, Toure posed the greatest threat to Hull's spirited resistance.
Their worst nightmare became City's most potent weapon - a fit, resurrected warhorse with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove.
Until recently, Toure was isolated and alone at the club. Now he's a plaster for the gaping flaws in Guardiola's logic.
A manager who once promised flowing, fluent football sent out a cautious side that delivered 60 minutes of tepid fare.
For an hour, City rivalled paint drying on a humid day for entertainment.
The tactics were cautious and confused. There was no striker, a timid back four, one holding midfielder too many and wide players starved of service.
Guardiola tinkered, but there was no discernible improvement until Toure took charge of proceedings.
Hull succumbed in the end, but Guardiola knows City will not get away with a largely sterile display at Liverpool.
Sergio Aguero's return may be impeccably timed, but it's the Ivorian who can mind the gaps at Anfield.
Guardiola once thought he couldn't live with Toure. Now he can't live without him.