Wigan must “suffocate” the performance of Yaya Touré, Manchester City's “lung”, if they are to stand a chance of claiming their first FA Cup, claims Arouna Koné.
The City midfielder and Wigan's top scorer have been close friends since playing for the Ivory Coast Under-19 side – Koné was a guest at a birthday party for one of Touré's children last Sunday – and Koné is all too aware of Touré's powerful ability.
"He is a really tough opponent, someone who thrives on possession, but if he doesn't have possession that frustrates him and that's something we will try and prevent," said Koné. "Yaya is like the lungs of the team – the vital organ. City are a great team but when he's there, there is something even more special. If we try and suffocate that lung then they are not the same team.
"When we played them [last month] we managed to do that. The service from the back seems to come through him and we had a system in which we were able to do that. If it hadn't been for one moment of individual brilliance we would have got something from the game."
A goal from Carlos Tevez settled the teams' April meeting in Manchester. But it was a fixture that gives some succour to Wigan, who enter today's game with their Premier League status hanging by a thread, as they enjoyed parity with their expensively assembled opponents for much of the contest.
Koné has admired Touré's qualities since being the end receiver of his service for the national youth teams. They are the only two from that side to have progressed to the senior ranks and now Koné, who is enjoying a fine debut season in the Premier League with 13 goals, will follow Touré in becoming the latest Ivorian to feature in the FA Cup final.
Since the final returned to Wembley in 2007 only the following year's fixture has not featured a goal from an Ivory Coast player. One came from Touré himself, the others from Didier Drogba. It was Drogba who first made Koné aware of the FA Cup, showing pictures of him celebrating one of his winning goals around the players at a national training camp.
"I'm aware of the Ivory Coast tradition in the FA Cup and I would love to maintain it," said Koné, who arrived on a free transfer from Levante in the summer.
The Wigan manager, Roberto Martinez, believes winning the trophy would mark a key staging post in the club's history, as well as a timely fillip for their relegation struggle. "You have to dream and the bigger the dream the bigger the achievement," he said. "Just arriving in the final is a photographic moment in the history of our football club. Winning a major trophy would take our club to a different level. We are all well aware what this could mean. There are a billion people watching this game.
"When I came here in 1995 there were around 1,500 people watching us in what is now League Two. We will be taking 21,000 to Wembley. It is a great example of how football can develop in a town and what you can achieve with it."
Koné will be given a lone striking role as Wigan chase a first goal against City in four years – they have not beaten today's opponents since 2008.
The make-up of the remainder of the side is less certain. James McCarthy and James McArthur are likely to have the job of suffocating Touré. McCarthy adroitly handled the threat of Gareth Bale in the recent draw against Tottenham.
Martinez's major issues have been in defence, although injury means he may have little choice but to field the same line-up that conceded three goals against Swansea in Tuesday's calamitous defeat.
"The defensive problems are something we need to accept and find solutions to," said Martinez. "I have never seen anything like the injury situation we have. But we won't use it as an excuse. We need to find the answers."Reuse content