A decade ago, Barnsley fans could not have imagined John Stones winning the Champions League as a midfielder. A grown-up from Barnsley’s academy, he didn’t look like he was going to be a brilliant midfielder. The English managers at Barnsley and later at Everton agreed that Stones was best at centre-back.
In the summer of 2013, Pep was still working at Bayern and Stones had just moved to Everton for £ 3 million. Three years later, the tall and thin Barnsley player became one of the first transfer signings when Guardiola arrived at Man City.
Stones took another 7 years to become the tactical invention that almost changed the history of Man City. It’s not an exaggeration to say that. If Stones is not pulled up by Pep in the central midfield position and the player himself does not play brilliantly in that role, Man City is unlikely to quench his thirst for the Champions League or create a great treble in the calendar. club history.
Stones didn’t need to talk or scream much when Inter Milan pressed Man City in the Champions League final. The player’s body language says it all. The star born in 1994 holds the ball with confidence and flexibility, passes Inter players and also completes the defensive task with his inherent skills.
Before Inter Milan, Stones had 6 successful dribbles, reaching 100%. No player has achieved the same absolute percentage or successful dribbles as Stones in Champions League finals, since Lionel Messi did the same in the 2015 Champions League final.
Stones reminds people of Busquets, a holding midfielder who was also discovered by Pep and brought to new heights. Of course, the star of Man City cannot compare to the person who just left Barca. But not every player can play a good central midfielder in Pep’s system.
Manuel Akanji said: “John (Stones) dribbled and played like Maradona in the final. He gets the ball, passes three people, then passes it somewhere else. He created a lot of chances for us and is an incredible player.”
Akanji is also a unique adaptation of Pep this season. The Swiss player is a versatile star model, when he can play as a central defender, full-back or even central midfielder in the former Dortmund or Basel shirt. However, it was Stones who was chosen by the Man City captain to partner with Rodri.
In an interview in 2018, the idea of putting Stones into central midfield was revealed by Pep. “He has the physicality, the intelligence and the skill to play in this position,” Guardiola said of Stones at the time. But the Catalan strategist also insists that he has never tried it and that the England defender himself “never played the role before”.
Man City’s Season Change Position
When asked about the tactical adjustment that made him most proud of this season, Pep admitted that using all four central defenders in the starting XI including Stones (playing midfield), Akanji, Dias and Ake brought the difference. great difference.
Not many teams in the world can launch up to 4 central defenders in the starting list and still possess the ability to control the ball and attack as smoothly as Man City. That creates a balance for Man City, when these players are both good at passing and controlling the ball, and have good defensive skills.
The special thing about Stones is that the player does not play in the central midfield position. At times, the England star was seen stepping back to play as a fourth defensive player, at other times Stones drifted to the right to play as a full-back or a right-sided centre-back.
The variation in play from the Stones makes the Man City squad more flexible and difficult to grasp. Pep’s side could overwhelm their opponents in terms of numbers in the centre, if Stones stepped forward to play as midfield. However, when the player retreats to the back line, long-forged defensive skills help Stones have good blocking skills.
Basically, Stones is the all-round player in the center that Pep has been looking for for a long time. It is often said that Guardiola cannot win the championship without Lionel Messi in the squad, but it is the position of Busquets that is the puzzle that causes the most headaches for the Catalan strategist.
In the past, this coach has pulled many players from central defenders or full-backs to central midfield (Lahm and Kimmich are typical), with the desire to create a “new Busquets”. Stones is undoubtedly the most successful change of Pep.
Tuong Linh | 17:00 12/06/2023