Pablo Zabaleta admits that Manchester City need Yaya Touré back to his best

'We are at our best when Yaya is at his best,' defender Zabaleta said

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To say that Yaya Touré was back to his best on Saturday would be stretching a point but in summoning the moment of magic that broke Aston Villa’s resistance, the Ivorian offered a reminder of what he can do when the mood takes him.

Touré’s first Premier League goal of the season was a wonderful strike, the big midfielder rolling the ball past Brad Guzan from the edge of the box with eight minutes remaining, and the hope in the Manchester City camp is that it will reignite the spark in the 31-year-old’s game.

Sergio Aguero added a late second, but City – despite a total of 27 goal attempts – could well have left Villa Park with just one win from their last five Premier League fixtures but for Touré’s breakthrough effort. His team-mate Pablo Zabaleta believes they need more of his match-winning contributions.

“We are at our best when Yaya is at his best,” defender Zabaleta said. “Last season he was fantastic. He scored 20 goals and that for a midfielder is just incredible. I would like to see Yaya scoring more goals, 20 if possible.

“We need him back to his best form in terms of passing, even free-kicks. We are 100 per cent sure we will see the best of Yaya soon. He’s been OK at the moment for us and he knows how important he is for that team.”

Zabaleta added: “It’s been a little bit tough for some of the players who have been at the World Cup.” Touré’s case was complicated by last May’s embarrassing episode of the spoiled millionaire footballer, the big-mouthed agent and the missing birthday cake.

The memory of that incident made questions about Touré’s commitment inevitable when he started the season below his usual standards. The player himself said on Saturday night, however: “The criticism has started coming because I am not scoring. For me, not scoring is pretty normal because I play in midfield.”

Manager Manuel Pellegrini described City’s display at Villa as their best of the campaign – James Milner, David Silva and Aleksandar  Kolarov were among those who excelled – but the breakthrough came only after Pellegrini had withdrawn Edin Dzeko, sent on Frank Lampard and switched to five in the middle. Remarking on that detail drew a prickly response from Pellegrini in the wake of criticism of his four-man midfield in last week’s Champions League draw with Roma.

“The most amount of games that we win is with two strikers and four midfielders,” he said. “I can’t always speak about a game we played against Bayern Munich one year ago [which City lost 3-1]; we played 70 games and didn’t have any problem, except that match.”

This was Villa’s third successive defeat, following 3-0 losses to Arsenal and Chelsea, yet they could take heart from a spirited defensive display – not least from centre-backs Nathan Baker and Philippe Senderos – and Christian Benteke’s appearance as a second-half substitute, his first game since suffering a ruptured Achilles in April. “To just see him back is a bonus,” said manager Paul Lambert.