SOLID STONES: HOW MAN CITY DEFENDER TURNED HIS CAREER AROUND
John Stones has not had the easiest time on the blue side of Manchester over the last few years, many branding his move from Merseyside a flop.
Dipping in and out of form every few months, to problems in his personal life being splashed out on newspaper front pages, Stones hasn’t had an easy ride. However, this season a switch has flipped on the centre-back and he’s finally starting to show his potential and promise.
Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola, seems to have found a new role for Stones. Ever since Portuguese centre-back, Ruben Dias, joined the club at the start of the season to be the main right-sided centre-back, Stones has been shifted over to the left. Having a strong defensive partner has always been one of Stones problems, being paired with mistake prone Nicolas Otamendi for a large portion of his City career, and not fully gelling with Aymeric Laporte, so bringing in a strong and stable partner has definitely played a role in Stone’s rejuvenation. The pair now have eight clean sheets, eight wins, one draw and one goal conceded in nine starts together.
Furthermore, Stones has also had his time playing in the right side of a back three, against Brighton. He seemed comfortable there, which may be of interest to England boss Gareth Southgate, who was watching on and as a back three is his preferred formation, the defender may find himself back in the Three Lions camp, a place Stones hasn't been since November 2019.
Stones has found the best version of himself, the rhythm and certainty he provides for the team are necessary in order to mount a title challenge and win the big games. The Englishman seems to thrive in big games, scoring in the recent win against Manchester United, as well as putting on a defensive masterclass throughout the 90 minutes.
The defender seems to have picked up a knack for scoring goals, scoring twice against Crystal Palace, from a Kevin de Bruyne cross and again from a corner.. The best defenders have always contributed to goals, think of Sergio Ramos, John Terry, Nemanja Vidic; all defenders and leaders who contributed to their team’s goals tally. Perhaps this is something Stones has been working on and if he is planning on leading by example in this manner, it’s not completely out of the question that he could be considered for some form of captaincy, if his form should not falter.
His resurgence has earned him praise from Guardiola.
“It was himself, he settled perfectly in what he would like, no injuries, and showed his personality with and without the ball.”
Perhaps the competition from both Dias and Laporte has sparked something inside of Stones that has brought him back from the brink, knowing he isn’t guaranteed a starting position every week. Maybe it was the transfer rumours that surrounded him during the summer and the prospect of losing the chance to win more prestigious trophies. It could even be the fact that seeing Liverpool win the league by a long stretch was enough to reignite Stones’ competitive spirit and inspire him to want the feeling of lifting a Premier League again.
Whatever has brought about this change of form and new direction, it is long overdue and now Stones has the chance to establish himself as a sure thing for both club and country. It remains to be seen if Stones’ resurgence will lead City to another Premier League title, but he could just be their ticket back to glory.