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Roaming Stones set for successful European tour with club and country
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Dan Fitch
John Stones is relishing his new responsibilities
John Stones is relishing his new responsibilities

John Stones is proving himself to be the centre-back with a playmaker's touch.

In Manchester City's 3-1 victory against their rivals Manchester United last Sunday, the defender frequently found himself in attacking positions.

Pep Guardiola has long used the England international in a hybrid role between the back four and midfield but he is now being deployed in an increasingly adventurous manner.

Ahead of the second leg of City's Champions League last-16 tie with FC Copenhagen tonight, we examine Stones' evolution.

New role

At an early age, Stones was earmarked as having the ability to become the sort of ball-playing central defender English football has traditionally struggled to produce.

Yet it was perhaps envisaged that he would be striding out of the back four into midfield. Instead, he now finds himself starting in the middle of the pitch, with a license to roam forward.

Stones was recently asked if he relished the new role when it was given to him by Guardiola.

He said: "From the start. It goes back to learning.

"Playing in there you appreciate other people's roles and see their positions from a different perspective.

"You realise when sometimes I might give a pass into a midfielder, but being on the receiving end of that, you know that that's the wrong pass or the wrong position to give it.

"You appreciate someone else's role in the team."

Stones is certainly building his positional experience.

He has nominally started games at centre-back or right-back this season, with responsibility to slip into a holding midfield role, from where he is now surging forward into attack.

Carragher praise

John Stones adopted remarkably advanced positions in the Manchester derby
John Stones adopted remarkably advanced positions in the Manchester derby

Jamie Carragher was in awe of Stones' performance in the 3-1 victory against United.

The former Liverpool defender-turned pundit said on Sky Sports: "John Stones is going from centre-back to No10. We have never seen this before.

"When you look at his touch map from the Manchester United game, you see his touches are all over. You can see that when you watch the game as well.

"The interesting stat is 39 passes in the final third. The most he has ever had in a Premier League appearance."

With Red Devils engine room duo Casemiro and Kobbie Mainoo man-marking Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, Guardiola sent his No8s to wider positions.

Erik ten Hag's central midfielders were dragged out closer to the flanks, creating space that could be attacked.

It was Stones that was largely tasked with entering this void.

He has the ability on the ball to be a threat in this area, while also possessing the off-the-ball movement to create space for City's attackers.

England hopes

John Stones is backing England for Euro 2024 success
John Stones is backing England for Euro 2024 success

City are aiming to land a second consecutive Treble this season.

Stones will then go to Euro 2024 with England and he is confident of success.

He said: "I think, without arrogance, we have an incredible chance of winning the European Championship this summer.

"Since 2018, we have always approached things quietly confident. It's the same here at City."

It might be a little late for Gareth Southgate to consider altering Stones' role at this advanced stage of the Three Lions' preparations.

Yet at 29, he is still young enough to adopt a hybrid role for his country in the upcoming Nations League and World Cup campaigns.

Stones is becoming the complete footballer and it is a development that should be embraced by his country — as well as his club.


John StonesManchester CityChampions LeaguePremier LeagueEnglandEuropean Championship
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