Vincent Kompany has defended Manchester City team-mate Yaya Toure from criticism over his form, saying he remains a key figure.
Toure has endured a tough start to the 2014/15 campaign, with his standards slipping below his talismanic best.
Having been a player City have relied upon in the past to drag them through testing times, the Ivory Coast international has been handsomely rewarded with a lucrative contract.
It has been suggested that he is struggling to justify that investment, with a man who netted 24 times in all competitions last season managing just one - in the Capital One Cup - so far this term.
Toure has also seen his commitment to City called into question, following a difficult summer in which a big-money transfer was mooted.
Kompany, though, remains convinced that the powerful midfielder is 'an important player' for City and that his class will shine through over the course of an entire season.
The City skipper said: "He’s done so much for this club, he’s always played brilliantly.
"He is always an important player - when he does well, the team does well.
"We’ve had a tough start because we’ve played tough teams. You can’t deny that.
"He has set the standards very high for himself. But to say he is not at his best, then, I don’t agree.
"It’s so early in the season to call something like this. Things will improve for everyone."