It Is Time For Pep Guardiola To Sort John Stones Out
When the season began, John Stones was a solid and reliable figure for Manchester City at the back. The 23-year-old centre-back put in fine displays on a consistent basis and was regarded as one of the most influential players in the new-age City squad.
He even established a strong partnership with Nicolas Otamendi, who has been one of City’s best players this term. The duo worked through a lot of tough situations together to ensure victories for the Sky Blues.
However, on one fateful evening last November, Stones succumbed to a terrible hamstring injury. After a few assessments, the verdict was out: he would have to be sidelined for six weeks.
More than anything else, the timing of the injury was simply unlucky for Stones. He was at his lethal best at that point but the prolonged absence of action has turned him quite rusty. Although he started playing regularly since January, Stones’ performances have been error-prone, to say the least.
Besides surging past competitors, City were also aiming to finish the entire season unbeaten. But an eventful game against Liverpool saw them bow down to the Merseysiders as Jurgen Klopp’s men subjected them to a defeat for the first time in the Premier League this season.
Interestingly, the downfall was triggered by a costly mistake from Stones. Roberto Firmino kept pressing ahead and that built a tense atmosphere.
The former Everton star tried his best to keep Firmino at bay but he lost possession at the corner of the box and the Brazilian ace wasted no time in finding the back of the net. It was not City’s best performance and a lot of other players were quite poor as well. However, Stones should not have given the ball away at such a crucial moment near the goal.
In fact, his performances of late give me an impression that he is indecisive about things that need to be done on the field. Stones used to be a player who never thought twice to step out of defence and snatch away possession but now, he seems to be overly-cautious about making mistakes and that has just made the situation worse. If he continues this way, Pep Guardiola will have to find a way to deal with his slump in form.
The problem will be to find the right balance. He cannot afford to let Stones play too often due to his lack of form and on the flipside, the lack of game time will prevent the player from regaining his power. Thus, it will be interesting to see how this situation plays out from here on.