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Stones - and Pep - silence their critics...

Byline: SIMON BAJKOWSKI simon.bajkowski@men-news.co.uk @MANCITYMEN

FOR two years John Stones has been held more accountable than most for the type of football Pep Guardiola has introduced at City.

As the players struggled to get to grips with the manager's demands in an inconsistent first season, the PS47m defender was seen as integral to their issues.

The more the critics urged Stones to lump it into Row Z or get a tackle in, the more Guardiola vehemently defended his signing. The upshot of that defence was that defenders are always going to make mistakes when the system places such extreme demands on them, but the benefits of playing in such a way with a high line looking to press outweigh any individual mistakes.

After 100 points and 32 wins from 38 games last season, you'd have to say it works.

Stones still went to the World Cup with question marks next to his name after struggling for confidence in the second half of the season, and despite an excellent tournament, he was caught out as Croatia's Mario Mandzukic nipped in to break English hearts in the semi-final.

The 24-year-old was highlighted again after England's UEFA Nations League win over the same opponents for his role in Andrej Kramaric's opener (although answers on a postcard as to what Joe Gomez was doing), only now the narrative has changed.

Theren undoubted improvement from Simon "I think it was a good way to concede a goal," said Gary Neville on Sky Sports.

"I've been really impressed with the centre-backs, Stones and (Joe) Gomez.

"Watch John Stones there, he goes in aggressively. Far too many times English defenders over the last 25-30 years have gone that five yards back and taken the easy option and not put themselves in." Fellow pundit Jamie Redknapp suggested after the derby that the 'world-class' defender would not have received the stick he has had if he was coming through in La Liga.

But where Guardiola's approach was seen as ruining traditional defending, his influence is now hailed as improving the English game.

It's not hard to see why either.

City have conceded just five goals in 12 league games this year - no team has a better record - and playing on the front foot has been critical.

been Stones Bajkowski Ederson has barely faced any shots on target because the players in front of him have anticipated any danger and snuffed it out before the goalkeeper is needed, with September 1 the last time they conceded a goal from open play.

There has been undoubted improvement from Stones, and Aymeric Laporte has also helped, but City are reaping the rewards for investing in the potential Guardiola saw before he arrived at the Etihad.

It's beyond time everyone else caught up.

Theren has been undoubted improvement from Stones Simon Bajkowski

CAPTION(S):

John Stones was criticised for his mistake in the World Cup

John Stones has been a key part in City's defence this season

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)
Date:Nov 20, 2018
Words:498
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