Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini admits he is “not happy” with Yaya Toure's performances this season.
Toure was outstanding in last season's title success but has not been the same player since the difficult summer of 2014 that began with a row over how the player's birthday was celebrated.
There was also tragedy with Toure losing a brother to cancer and his form clearly, and understandably, suffered as a result.
Added to that is the weariness that followed from his involvement in the World Cup last summer and the African Nations Cup, which Toure's Ivory Coast won, in the early part of 2015.
I don't think Yaya is happy with his performance this year, and I am not happy also with his performance.
From the lofty standards set last year, Toure's form for City has been noticeably worse this term and he came in for heavy criticism after last week's demoralising 4-2 derby loss to Manchester United.
But Pellegrini has no intention of taking the 31-year-old out of the firing line and wants to keep him at the heart of his side.
Pellegrini said: "He doesn't need a break. For a lot of reasons he's not the same Yaya he was last season but he continues being a very important player for our team.
"I don't think Yaya is happy with his performance this year, and I am not happy also with his performance. But we must support him and he will return him to his normal performance.
"He's a very important player and he will have my support until the end of the season."
Pellegrini feels Toure has been unfairly singled out for City's problems during what has been a tough three-month spell.
The Chilean points out that during the early part of the current poor sequence - just four Premier League wins in 12 games since New Year's Day - Toure's absence for the African Nations Cup was being offered a reason for poor results.
Pellegrini said: "It's very easy when you don't get the results you want to single out one player but remember in January, when Yaya was at the African Nations Cup and we started with bad results, people said it was just because this team was (only) Yaya, that he was the only player we had and without him we couldn't win.
"I don't think it was the truth. It is very easy for me to sacrifice Yaya, but I don't think he deserves that. He's not playing well in parts of the game, maybe, but in some parts he is playing very well and he will continue playing."
City's season has unravelled since they went joint top of the Barclays Premier League in January, slumping out of the title race and going out of two cup competitions.
For a club with stated lofty ambitions it has been a frustrating period and some observers have suggested a major summer clearout, including Toure, could be necessary.
Pellegrini insists that is not being considered.
Speaking at a press conference, the 61-year-old said: "We are not talking about that. Yaya is a very important player for our team.
"Maybe all of you are waiting to criticise him or (for us to) sacrifice him but Yaya will continue playing here because he is a very important player for me and the squad and for everyone."
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