Whether England fans like it or not, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Gareth Southgate is on the brink of being appointed manager.
After all, the Three Lions are unbeaten under his management and haven’t conceded a single goal. It’s been far from electrify stuff, but Southgate seems to have done enough to pass his audition.
Moreover, the 46-year-old is increasing his grip over the squad. In fact, he has strong ideas as to how one player in particular can kick on to become one of the best in the world for his position.
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The man in question is John Stones.
The Manchester City man has divided opinions over the last few seasons with his positive defending provoking props from some and pure anxiety from others.
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Whereas, on the whole, his style of play encourages an offensive playing style within the team and a certain calmness, he can often prove a liability.
This was no more apparent than last month when his wild back pass to Claudio Bravo gifted Southampton a goal at the Etihad Stadium. It proved a mistake that, ultimately, cost City all three points.
Furthermore, many doubted whether Stones had missed his chance for a big move this summer. After a flying 2014-15 campaign, the proceeding term proved notably underwhelming and littered with infuriating errors.
Nevertheless, Southgate sees the positive side of such style. After all, it does hark back to Bobby Moore and the way he revolutionised defending in the 1960s.
According to the Mirror, the interim boss explained: “For years we have talked about not being able to play out from the back and if we are going to progress we have to be different and encourage players like John Stones.
“But he also knows what I think of some of the things he did.”
"I believe John has the technical ability.
“I think it comes down to decision-making and positioning sometimes, and a recognition of when to really commit to it and when to play past the first press.
“At times we want bravery but not stupidity. And that is the balance we have to find.”
So, although predominantly positive, Southgate believes Stones needs to hone is decision making to continue his rise. While he may be guilty of such ‘stupidity’ at times, the fact he plied his trade at Barnsley just three years ago should warrant him some slack.
Nevertheless, England’s current manager went onto explain who Stones could progress to emulate.
The 46-year-old elaborated by saying: “If we want a Mats Hummels, a Boateng and a Gerard Pique we have to encourage him.”
Consequently, for all the rash decision-making, Southgate shares the increasingly popular view that Stones-like play is the future of defending. After all, it’s something Pep Guardiola would corroborate without doubt.
However, while the excitement around Stones is undoubtedly justified, it must be taken with a pinch of salt. Poor performances like that against Scotland will come, but in time, he will come good.
Do you think John Stones is the best defender in the Premier League? Have YOUR say in the comment box below