Pep Guardiola sees a maturity in John Stones that gives him hope Manchester City can cope without Ruben Dias.
Dias, the colossal centre-back who won the Premier League Player of the Season award last year for his debut campaign in English football that saw the Blues storm to the title, has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury. He could miss both legs of a Champions League quarter-final, the crunch league match at home to Liverpool, and a potential FA Cup semi-final if City can make it past Southampton without him.
There is no sugarcoating the absence of Dias, but Guardiola still has two outstanding defenders to turn to. Stones partnered the former Benfica captain last season, while Aymeric Laporte began this year alongside him after finding his mojo again with Spain at Euro 2020. Nathan Ake will be needed back to be able to rotate, but Stones and Laporte will likely play every game they can together.
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Stones struggled for years to overcome injury and personal issues that affected his form at City, to the point where his future at the club looked uncertain going into the 2020 summer transfer window. But he roared back last season, stepping up when Laporte erred to form a rock-solid partnership with Dias.
Having been you again at the beginning of this season, the England international rose to the challenge once more. As well as that response, Guardiola has also been impressed by the attitude of Stones that is open to improving himself and doing whatever he can to help the team.
“This season we started with Aymeric and Ruben. Aymeric was playing at an incredible level and we need a left foot in this area to help us to make our build-up,” the manager said. “Little details, to make a good pass the central defender to the left full-back creates a chance to score a goal.
“Aymeric was so important but John in part didn’t play much because he was injured twice again, the previous season he was never injured. But what I feel now is that he is incredibly mature.
“I think that [after] some knocks given to him, he understands his profession, his life much, much, much better. The proof is when he played right-back. he was not always good, but he was exceptional. Defensively, offensively, everything.
“That’s why of course now with Ruben out, hopefully he can be fit and be there. I don’t have doubts about John but he knows he can do better and every game is a proof to do it better. Today we train with him many aspects that he can do better and I think he is ready and accepts he can do better.
“When he doesn’t play it’s not, ‘Oh I don’t play’ – he helps the team a lot and says, ‘Pep, what do we need? I’m here’. When that happens, you will have a long career, a successful career and everything comes from here.
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