Guardiola says it’s all over to you now John

PEP: DE­FENDER RE­ALLY HAS TO PROVE HE IS GOOD ENOUGH

Manchester Evening News - - CITY V PORT VALE - By SI­MON BAJKOWSKI

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

Pep Guardiola

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

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