John Stones return to form is key to Manchester City’s fortunes this season
In a bid to resolve their defensive issues that had kept them from coming back in the 2019/20 season, Manchester City have managed to move on and sculpt one of the best defenses in the league this season.
No, Aymeric Laporte did not multiply in two and did not carry the new signatures either. In fact, it was John Stones who came out of the cold and returned to form, forming an incredible partnership with summer signing Ruben Dias and once again becoming the key to Pep Guardiola’s plans.
While it might seem a little frustrating – and extremely confusing – for City fans to see Stones in the XI ahead of Laporte in 2021, it’s not a drawback either. Not only is this a testament to the fact that Guardiola’s side have worked effectively on their weaker areas and shown pragmatism in successfully consolidating the defense, but finding Stones at his best means that the Blues now really have the game. spoiled for choice at the rear and have made serious progress. one more time.
Spoiled for choice is something you would hope they were considering the money City manage to spend on defenders every summer, and the left-back is still a problem, but it’s still progress nonetheless.
Stones that rise from the ashes like a first-rate Undertaker can only be positive. And if it was easy to use him as a scapegoat in a disappointing 2019/20 campaign – where he was admittedly offbeat – the blame was not entirely fall on him.
Honestly, the defensive signings made before the 2020/21 season came a year too late; Aymeric Laporte was injured last season and there was still no real replacement for Vincent Kompany. Stones, who has been struggling for form and fitness, saw his confidence crumble to pieces and made just 16 total appearances throughout the 2019/20 campaign, with Guardiola often opting for square pegs in holes round instead.
Considering the £ 50million fee he arrived for in 2016 and the performances he had made before a disappointing season without Kompany’s presence, Stones’ loss of form after a stellar 2018/19 campaign looked good. worse than maybe it actually was.
This season, however, the 26-year-old has been able to rebuild everything behind the scenes. With City now able to rotate between Stones, Laporte, Dias and Nathan Ake, there are plenty of options and combinations at the back. After starting the first game of the season, Stones went on to miss the next seven Premier League games and limited himself to Champions League appearances, before slowly returning to League XI in late November.
This phased approach paid off and allowed Stones to restore that confidence while keeping City’s defensive options fresh. As a result, he has yet to be part of a losing side in the league so far this season and has contributed five clean sheets, along with four more in the Champions League.
Guardiola’s patient approach with the 39-time capped England international is to be credited. It would have been the easiest way to sanction his sale and accept that the project failed with his progressive Yorkshireman, but he saw beyond and chose to keep him in the ranks. This has paid off and citizens now have one of the strongest and most balanced lists of central defenders in Europe.
Stones quickly formed a nifty partnership with Dias, which left Laporte on the bench. The pair went 623 minutes without conceding before Chelsea scored a late consolation in City’s 3-1 win, and complement each other perfectly. Dias is the natural leader who allows Stones to play his progressive game and worry less about reducing authority, but the two are keeping an eye out for a vertical pass – much to their manager’s delight.
Some might say that the resurgence of Stones is all down to Dias, others will credit it to Pep. Honestly, they both played a part, but it was the Englishman who had to come out and prove himself and that is exactly what he did.
Stones are competing for places in the heart of City’s defense which is exactly what they need as they move up the Premier League table in search of another title.