Speculations have grown over the last several days linking Manchester City defender John Stones with a shock move to Arsenal. The Englishman has had an unstable three-and-half years at City as a result of injuries and inconsistent form. Signed for £47.5 million from Everton back in 2016, Stones was expected to develop into one of the best center-backs in the world. But the 24-year-old has failed to distinguish himself at City leading to manager Pep Guardiola calling on him recently to step up his game.
His inconsistent performances have affected his position in the England national team as manager Gareth Southgate left him out of his squad for the last round of Euro 2020 qualifiers. At City, despite being a part of the team’s success in the last two campaigns, Stones has not been instrumental to that success. Once linked with a move to European powerhouses Real Madrid, Manchester United and Chelsea, much more was expected from him. But after failing to prove vital for Guardiola due to his unreliability, the Catalan manager sought for a solution elsewhere by handing midfielder Fernandinho the role of center-back.
The Brazilian has passed the test with flying colours and is now a mainstay in the position. At the moment, he is even preferred ahead of the Englishman. To make matters worse, Aymeric Laporte is nearing a return to full fitness. Fernandinho could become the ideal partner for Laporte at the heart of defence for the remainder of the season. That will grossly reduce Stones’ time on the pitch which would in turn affect his chances of making it to Euro 2020 later in the year.
It’s likely to avoid this scenario that the former Everton man is seeking a move elsewhere in search of regular playing time. Reports claim that Arsenal has emerged as a likely destination owing to the fact that Mikel Arteta is the manager. The former City assistant manager and Stones share the same agency and also enjoy a good relationship from their time together at the Etihad Stadium. With Arsenal in need of defensive cover, the City player is seen as a viable option even if just on loan until the end of the season.
However, it’s unlikely that City will let Stones leave the club this season in view of the defensive problems faced by the team so far. Yet, Stones’ days at City may be numbered if he does not impress moving forward. Guardiola’s comments ahead of the team’s FA Cup third round win over Port Vale show he is not satisfied with the player’s output.
Speaking about Stones’ inability to fulfil his potential, Guardiola stated:
“He has the conditions to do it.
“But to be the best central defender you have to play one entire season, every three days being there.
“It depends on him. It’s in his hands and in his head to become one of the best.
“It’s difficult to reach the potential that he has, he has to be at the level to play regularly. The last three-and-a-half seasons he couldn’t do it.
“It’s difficult to know the reason why. Sometimes when you have a tough injury, for example like Aymeric Laporte this season, Ilkay Gundogan in the first season or Benjamin Mendy the first year he arrived, it’s unlucky.
“That can happen. But, in the case of John, I don’t know.
“I don’t know why he’s not able, why we’re not able, for him to be a regular for a long, long period, because he’s a young player.
“But he’s still young. As a player, he has his future in front of him,” Guardiola said
Apparently, the ball is now on Stones’ court to show what made City splash the cash on him.