Going into this season, expectations were always going to be high for Manchester City. Pep Guardiola's has managed great success in every club he’s managed, especially in his second season, and so far I believe that holds true. Perhaps more important in the eyes of City Football Group management is how would Pep manage this summer. All too often your summer signings are an indication of your statement to the Premier League (just ask ArsenalFanTV).
After a few successful transfer windows to refresh and reshape the squad in his image, we’re already seeing the impact Pep Guardiola had in mind of our newest additions. Of all the signings over the last two years, the main one of mention is not an attacking player but the heir apparent to Vincent Kompany, England international defender John Stones.
Purchased from Everton last summer, Stones has all of the attributes to become one of the world’s best defenders. Known primarily as a ball-playing defender, Stones did struggle at the start of his City career. A few mishaps early on last season curbed his development, and quite rightly his form came into question, and predictably this incited speculation of his giant transfer fee (by 2016 standards). This seemed too much to handle for the young man, and you could see during the adaptation to Guardiola’s system he was always between two minds.
So far this campaign it’s hard to see any hesitation in the boy’s game. He’s started well and has taken to the pressure of Guardiola’s possession system. As the main central defender in a 3-5-2 formation, Stones is required to constantly be on the ball and initiate a lot of the attacks from the back. Why Stones is required to be so influential with and without the ball is that the lack of structure and quality at the back will hurt the Blues this season.
If Stones becomes the first choice at central defender this season, I feel secure that we can go far in the all competitions — but he needs to be consistent in his performances when replacing the Kaptain. In the two Premier League title campaigns, Vincent Kompany made more than 25 appearances in each season. It will come as a surprise to no one that during the last three seasons combined, Kompany has made 28 total league appearances, and that certainly had a major impact in the lack of silverware for the club.
We can continue to bang in the goals, but now more than ever we need an athletic and mentally strong player leading the back line. Fingers crossed we’ve now got in Stones the player with the nerves and the ability to get stuck in when required.
So what is the ceiling for John Stones? City fans will be buzzing if his performance against Feyenoord is an indication of the level Stones can achieve. He bossed the backline, provided quality distribution throughout the game and also scored a brace. Not a bad day at the office.
With the World Cup in Russia next summer, England fans (regardless of club affiliation) will hope Stones continues his stellar play in this early season so he can represent his country well come tournament time. If Manchester City supporters continue to get behind him and the positive results follow, he’ll go into the World Cup with loads of confidence. Maybe at the start of next season we won’t need to be asking how good can he be, but how good he has become.