Beyond the Hype: How Good Can John Stones Really Be?



While all, elite-level sports must contend with the type of sensationalism that comes with constantly accessible digital news feeds, few can compete with the hyperbole of the English Premier League. Here, amid the daily maelstrom of criticism, hype and unfounded rumours, participants must tread the increasingly blurred lines between fact and fiction, while also attempting to cope with the often indefatigable expectations of fans.

This destructive cycle has only gotten worse over time, especially after EPL clubs spent in excess of £870 million during last summer's incredible transfer window.

This surreal existence is also embodied by many of the young English players who have recently made their way in the Premier League, from Manchester City's stylish centre-back John Stones to Tottenham's often-beguiling midfielder Dele Alli.

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The former is a particularly interesting example, as his £47.5 million summer move from Everton to the Etihad has honed the media's focus and placed the young defender even greater scrutiny.

Somewhere Between Hype and Performance: How Good is John Stones?

Stones is interesting in more ways than one, however, particularly has the hype and bluster that surrounds him has disguised the fact that his development has clearly stalled over the last 18 months. After initially excelling following his breakthrough, £3 million transfer from Barnsley to Everton as a precocious 18-year old, Stones struggled throughout his final season at the Toffees and has done little to enhance his reputation at City so far.

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Now 22, he is fast approaching the point where promise and potential must translate into consistent performances on the pitch. This is especially true given his hefty price tag, as the weight of expectation that sits upon his shoulders will only grow heavier as the months and years progress.

Of course, the real question that remains is how good a player can Stones become in the near-future? This is something that remains open to conjecture, particularly when you compare the praise of teammates and pundits with his performances on the pitch.


There appears to be something of a chasm between perception and reality here, with figures from last season highlighting that Stones made less interceptions and tackles (and noticeably more errors) that centre backs such as Diego Godin, Lorenzo Tonelli and Loic Perrin.

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Yes, these players are older, but this should not disguise the fact that Stones continually fails to produce performances in keeping with his reputation. He is hardly helped by the assertions of his current manager Pep Guardiola, who has compared Stones to a young Ronald Koeman on more than one occasion. Nothing highlights the problem with Stones more than such a comparison, as it creates an idealistic standard that young Englishman may never be able to live up to.


Guardiola and Koeman in Barca training.

After all, Koeman was not only one of the most talented and prolific centre backs of his time, but his passing range and ability to carry the ball into the final third far supersedes anything that Stones has shown to date. The Englishman has scored just once in his career, for example, while his range of passes and willingness to move into the final third seems relatively restricted in comparison with Dutchman.

While this should reflect negatively on Stones, it does raise serious questions about the true limit of his potential.


On a positive note, a peak John Stones has the ability to successfully read the game, while his pace and agility make him the ideal defensive partner for a strong, tough-tackling centre-back.

He also has an unusual level of courage on the ball, meaning that he is capable of stepping into midfield and making an extra man. These are all attributes that can be developed further, which would in turn make Stones a more accomplished defender and attacking threat.

Even allowing for such growth, however, it is genuinely hard to see Stones becoming the players that pundits want him to be (or attaining a similar level to players such as Koeman or Lothar Matthaus).

The time may therefore have come for us to celebrate the qualities that Stones does possess and hope that he optimises his true potential over time, rather than over-hyping his abilities and setting him up to fail like so many younger players that have gone before in the EPL.

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