Manuel Pellegrini has insisted Yaya Toure is not a lazy player, saying the figures prove he works as hard as his Manchester City teammates.
The towering midfielder has been criticised for not tracking back and neglecting his defensive duties, but manager Pellegrini believes Toure is judged on his reputation and his body language, rather than the ground he covers.
"Maybe it's the image, the body language," Pellegrini said in a news conference on Friday. "But if you review the numbers of Yaya, each game he runs as much as every teammate."
Pellegrini feels that Toure, who turns 33 in May, is not in decline and isn't in need of a rest for their FA Cup tie at Norwich on Saturday.
The Ivorian has started 27 club games this season, the joint-most in the City squad along with Fernandinho and Bacary Sagna.
And Pellegrini said: "He's not so old. I think he's a player who is very important, an experienced player and he knows how to play every game. Maybe to play the whole season three games a week, he is not able to do it. But I think he can play in the way he's playing now."
Pellegrini said he would have no problems dropping Toure and accepted the former Barcelona player was below his best in Wednesday's 2-1 defeat to Everton, but pointed to his return of three goals in his last five games.
"It's not difficult for me [to drop him]," he explained. "It's difficult for him because he's a very good player. He can make a difference.
"But every time people say we have not got the squad we need, people always look at Yaya. Remember he scored three times in the last few games.
"Maybe against Everton he didn't play very well but every player has better or worse games. But you can't talk always about it's because he's older. Everyone can have a bad game."
David Silva turned 30 on Friday, and Pellegrini believes the Spaniard's skill and style of play means he is equipped to remain at his peak for quite some time.
"He can be a top player for many more years now he is 30," he added. "He's not based on force, or speed, he's based on his style and his talent. You can get more talent and use it for your experience."