The arrival of John Stones at Manchester City has received a mixed reaction from the club’s supporters due to the hefty sum that was paid for the services of the young Englishman.
The 22-year-old defender certainly has room for improvement given his age, and while his enthusiasm on the pitch will assist with development, mistakes are also likely to occur.
As seen during his time at Everton, Stones often gets carried away on and off the ball. His flamboyant approach while in possession and the bold decisions Stones regularly adheres to make him unique in the English game, but can also be considered two of his largest vulnerabilities.
Defensive errors can cost a team a point or three, particularly when playing in the elite level competitions Manchester City are familiar with, and as such, the England international needs to add some defensive maturity to his game in order to live up to the £48 million fee that was paid for him.
A man who shares many of the footballing values evident in Stones’ play however, is new City manager, Pep Guardiola. The possession based football Guardiola creates and that is nurtured by high-intensity training, could work wonders for Stones. And if things go as planned, this could turn out to be a truly inspiring signing for City.
It’s evident that Stones isn’t a world class defender yet, and for the same amount of money, there are better centre-backs out there. Yet as well as bags of potential, the Englishman has a certain dynamism about his play which is relatively rare in defenders these days.
He is one of few that can be realistically believed to have the capability of following in the footsteps of the likes of Gerard Pique or Sergio Ramos (preferably without the constant bookings). A key aspect of Ramos’s widespread appeal is his ability to score goals, and that’s just one of many things that Stones’ philosophy and ball ability could potentially offer Guardiola’s new side going forward.
He has quality in possession, knows how to read the game well which makes up for his slight lack of physical power, and most significantly, knows how to defend.
Though the consistency and positioning of Stones must be improved, he is undoubtedly a good addition to a Manchester City back-line that is often left weak due to the injury prone Vincent Kompany missing numerous games a season.
With Stones coming into the fray, Guardiola will hope that Vincent Kompany’s fitness issues will leave less of a black mark on City’s results and performances this season in comparison to last term.
Kompany is still out with a thigh injury and will miss the opening of this campaign; hence, Stones is expected to feature frequently alongside Otamendi in the heart of the Manchester side’s defence over the next few weeks.
Can Stones Thrive In City’s New Style?
Guardiola is currently implementing his tactical possession-based ideology at the Etihad stadium, and judging by the club’s opening league performance against Sunderland, the Citizens are going to need quite some time to adapt fully to the precisely organised new style of play.
Being a talented footballer and highly skilled passer of the ball, Stones can contribute to play in different phases depending on the tempo and shape of both teams on the pitch.
His role as a ball playing defender gives him the relative freedom to push higher up the pitch as an when his influence is required in a middle of the park battle.
City’s new style revolves around midfield dominance and pressing which paves the way for the ball to be worked into and around the opposition’s 18-yard-area in a bid to create clear-cut chances with crosses or direct dribbling.
Stones’ talents will be crucial to Manchester City’s resolve this season with his ability to make his presence felt on the pitch. There appears to be no better prospect that is in fitting with Guardiola’s philosophy within the League or indeed around Europe.
Most may tag Stones as just another overrated youngster, but he could very well prove his doubters wrong. Guardiola and City have given him a platform, albeit an expensive one, to show the world just how far he can go in the game.