Why versatile John Stones is ticking every box as a defender for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City
- Pep Guardiola believes John Stones can become one of world’s best defenders
- City sources say Stones ‘ticks every box’ like no other they’ve seen at his age
- But the management team at City are aware of how he needs to be coached
- They talk about two key things: concentration and ability to shake off mistakes
Pep Guardiola has made it known to friends that he has never encountered a defender like John Stones before.
To the Manchester City manager’s mind Stones should grow into one of the world’s finest, and the tools at his disposal are a specialist subject for Guardiola while holding court with his staff.
City sources are adamant that the 24-year-old ‘ticks every box’ like no other they’ve seen at his age but the management team are aware of how he needs to be coached. They talk about two key things: concentration and the ability to shake off mistakes.
Pep Guardiola has made it known that he has never encountered a defender like John Stones
That is partly why Stones is being used as the utility man this season. He has played in three different starting positions already, at right back during this rout but spending much of his time in midfield.
Guardiola is not blasé enough to use the Premier League as a tactical playground — Stones is filling in where required, here because Kyle Walker was injured — but argued it is helping his development.
‘It helps him become more intelligent, to understand the game more. He also has more chances to play because I need him in other positions,’ Guardiola said.
‘It’s good for young players to learn different positions. I think he can play holding midfield because we only have Fernandinho.’
However, Guardiola and his management team are aware of how he needs to be coached
That last sentence is particularly pertinent given City are unlikely to chase Ajax’s Frenkie De Jong in January. Stones excelled in that part of the pitch, comfortable on the ball and moving it quickly.
‘Who knows what his starting position was?’ Vincent Kompany grinned. ‘He’s a top, top centre half already. But he’s an even better one in the making.’
So, Guardiola’s two key areas of improvement for Stones. Concentration still plagues him somewhat, evident in the 88th minute with City leading 4-0. Stones underhit an easy back pass and Ederson had to bail him out.
The other is also mental, a tendency to dwell on errors in a way the season’s standout defender Aymeric Laporte doesn’t. Guardiola believes Stones can learn much from Laporte, with the pair primed to become the club’s premier centre halves for the years to come.
Amazingly, they were born just a day apart in May 1994 and are very slick together; that much was obvious at Anfield when they gave up just two shots on target.
Stones is being used as a utility man – he filled in for Kyle Walker at right back on Saturday
It was zero against Burnley, thanks in part to a terrific first-half block by Stones as Jeff Hendrick searched for an equaliser. Sean Dyche later complained about Jon Moss, and Jack Cork claimed losing by five was harsh. Both were reasoned points, while City have conceded just three goals in their nine league games.
‘You can’t win games if you’re not solid,’ Guardiola added. ‘We create on average 20 shots every game. That’s pretty good given we got 100 points and people couldn’t believe how good we were.
‘The Champions League is different — we dropped three points here (against Lyon). Every game is a final and we are going to play Shakhtar Donetsk like a final.’
They may head to Ukraine without Walker, who picked up groin and adductor problems on international duty. Guardiola said: ‘He complained there that he was not feeling quite good. That is what he said to us when he came back.
‘He only played 10-15 minutes in Spain but they told me in that period he didn’t feel so good.’
Stones could be filling in again.
SANE AND KOMPANY SHOULD HAVE SEEN RED FOR CITY
MY VERDICT – MARK CLATTENBURG
Vincent Kompany and Leroy Sane should have been sent off for bad challenges.
As a referee, you cannot take into account that Kompany is an honest player. You have to judge his challenge on Aaron Lennon on its own merits. His studs were showing, it was high on Lennon’s leg and it was reckless.
As for Sane’s kick on Matt Lowton, it was similar to the incident during Tottenham v Cardiff, when Joe Ralls was sent off for cynically bringing down Lucas Moura when he had no chance of winning the ball. It is violent conduct.
I’m surprised Jon Moss did not show a red card because referees meet every two weeks and they would have discussed the Ralls challenge, especially as Cardiff’s appeal was rightly rejected by the FA.
Supporters want consistency from the officials and, in the case of Sane, they did not get it.
Leroy Sane was not sent off for this kick on Matt Lowton during City’s comfortable win
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