Guardiola says it’s all over to you now John
PEP: DEFENDER REALLY HAS TO PROVE HE IS GOOD ENOUGH
PEP Guardiola has said it is down to John Stones whether the defender fulfils his potential because City have done everything they can to help him.
The former Everton defender was a marquee signing in Guardiola’s first transfer window at the club, and has been regularly defended by his manager – and even this season has nearly always been picked when available.
However, more than three years since signing for £47m, there is still expectation of more from the 25-year-old. He could not dislodge Aymeric Laporte or Vincent Kompany from the team during the second half of last season and has not managed more than two consecutive starts in this campaign due to a string of injuries.
City’s manager still believes the England international has what it takes to become a top defender, but cannot put his finger on why he hasn’t.
“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,” he said.
“It’s difficult to reach the potential that he has, he has to be at the level to play regularly.
“The last three seasons and a half he could not do it. It’s difficult to know the reason why.
“Sometimes when you have a tough injury, for example like Aymer had this season or [Ilkay] Gundogan in the first season, sometimes it’s unlucky, or [Benjamin] Mendy the year he arrived. That can happen, you know, it’s unlucky.
“But in the case of John I don’t know. I don’t know why he is not able, we are not able, to be a regular for a long, long period because he’s a young player.”
Guardiola has seen enough from Stones – who was excellent in the first half of the Centurions season alongside Nicolas Otamendi before an injury disrupted his form – to show that he can do it.
That players from youngsters Eric Garcia and Taylor HarwoodBellis to veteran Fernandinho have improved in the position is testament that progress is not limited by age.
The onus is on Stones, then, to take that important step.
“We tried to help him, we tried to do the best to help him since the first day of the three-and-a-half years we are here. We do everything for him,” said the manager.
“He’s still young. As a player he has his future in front of him, it depends on him. It’s in his hands and in his head to become one of the best.”
Guardiola, meanwhile, has criticised Port Vale striker Tom Pope’s mocking tweet about Stones.
The two players will clash at the Etihad today in the third round of the FA Cup after the Vale skipper was scathing about the England defender during the European Nations Cup semi-final defeat by Holland last summer.
Stones was culpable for Holland’s
In the case of John, I don’t know why he is not able to be a regular for a long, long period
equaliser, getting caught in possession, and also played a poor pass to Ross Barkley which led to the third Dutch goal in a 3-1 defeat.
And Pope took to Twitter to express his view of the City man.
He tweeted: “Just watched the highlights of the England game! I know I’m a league 2 player, I know he plays for England, I know he’s on £150k a week, I know he’s a million times better player than me but I’d love to play against John Stones every week! I’d get 40 a season!” He followed that with the hashtags ‘soft’ and ‘weakasp***.’
After City drew Port Vale last month, Blues fans dredged up the tweet and gave Pope online abuse, leading to his tongue in cheek retort: “This tweet was 6 months ago and you’ve all managed to dig it up, in them 6 months he’s improved dramatically and I think he’s the best centre half in the world” he said, followed by two smiley emojis.
He also tangled with City fans who had a pop at him on Twitter, saying: “I feel honoured to be getting abuse from Man City fans, it’s made me emosh! You lot should be worrying and tweeting Mane and Salah not Tom ‘the carthorse’ Pope, you plantpots.”
Guardiola was unhappy with Pope’s disrespectful tweet. When asked about it, he replied: “It was not nice, it was not nice”. He then said he had been unaware of the tweet until a reporter mentioned it, before confirming “John is going to play tomorrow, yeah.”
John Stones in City training ahead of today’s FA Cup clash with Port Vale