Belfast Telegraph

No worries about throwing Stones into Manchester City side, says Pep

Pep Guardiola has refuted the suggestion he no longer trusts John Stones.

The man who became the Premier League's most expensive defender when he arrived from Everton for £50m in the summer has watched Manchester City's last two games from the bench.

The fact that City won them both and restricted Watford and Arsenal to very limited goalscoring opportunities would have done little for his chances of an early recall.

"I know the theory that if a player does not play it is because the coach does not trust him any more," said Guardiola before today's Boxing Day clash at Hull.

"This is not the truth. Our job is uncomfortable. It is unfair in most of the cases of many, many players because they deserve to play but I cannot find a solution for these kinds of things.

"All of them have to be prepared to play because the season is so long and now we start a tough moment. Then there is the FA Cup and then there is the Champions League."

Like his fellow Englishman, Raheem Sterling, Stones adapted impressively to Guardiola's tactics before falling away.

But while Sterling kept his place and scored the winner against Arsenal, Stones has been the victim of Guardiola's decision to switch to a flat back four after successive defeats by Chelsea and Leicester.

It was the 4-0 thrashing by Barcelona in the Nou Camp in October where Stones first looked seriously exposed.

The following month, Roy Keane lambasted the 22-year-old's "childlike defending" after the Borussia Monchengladbach captain Lars Stindl brushed him aside for the German club's equaliser.

In his last game before being dropped, Stones was guilty of a dreadfully-lax back pass to allow Jamie Vardy to complete his hat-trick in City's 4-2 defeat at Leicester.

Guardiola ridiculed suggestions City might buy the Southampton centre-half Virgil van Dijk to shore up their defence, although did concede the club could do with cover at full back.

Asked how a naturally-talented but still young defender like Stones might improve, Guardiola replied: "Play, play and play."

He added: "It is the only way you can improve as a football player. If a manager plays a lot of games, you are a better manager. John needs to train every day, be fit and wait until I decide he has to play again.

"He has played a lot. It is the first time in his career that he has played every three days. This season he has had the Champions League as well as the League Cup.

"If I didn't have confidence in him, he would not have played the games he has played.

"When you play in the big teams, you have to show character. The difference with players at big clubs is the personality, how they react in bad moments.

"John is one of them; I don't have doubts about that."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph