John Stones: An ode to England’s most underappreciated talent

How many times have you seen someone criticize Stones for apparently overplaying, and how many times have you seen the same person praise Umtiti or Varane for their ball playing skills. Ever since he has been on the scene people have been criticizing Stones for one reason or the other, most of this criticism has come from fellow Englishmen. How many English centre-backs have the same technical ability and game intelligence as Stones. The answer is easily none, yes he is prone to the occasional error but he is only 23. He is not even near the peak of his game yet however he is arguably the best English centre-back right now and he will only get better and better.

John Stones is a rare success story from the English academy system riddled with failures. How many technically gifted players do you see in the national team? The answer is none except Stones, of course, the English game is full of physically strong players and players who play with a lot of passion but when was the last time we had a player who could perform Cruyff turns in his own box and succeed while looking so graceful. Stones has an average passing accuracy of 97% percent from 67.1 passes attempted, that is a better success ratio than Toni Kroos and that’s more passes completed and a better success ratio than Luka Modric. Two of the world’s best midfielders and Stones has a better passing success ratio than both. To illustrate how technically superior Stones is I can compare him to Gary Cahill Chelsea’s captain and the man picked ahead of Stones in the previous Euro’s he has attempted 30 fewer passes this season and still has a lower success rate. While stones has more tackles, interceptions and duels attempted and still boasts a superior success ratio. The only thing Cahill is better at than Stones is clearances and that is mostly down to the fact that Stones almost always tries to make sure the ball reaches a teammate and very rarely hoofs it up the pitch in typical English style.

Stones’ improvement under Pep has been nothing short of revolutionary and it illustrates Pep’s ability to get the most out of his players. Stones has hardly put a foot wrong this season and so far he has looks cool calm and composed. You can also see the difference in the way he plays, he still tries to play it out from the back at every opportunity but when needs be he takes the safe option instead of attempting the outrageous and costing his team. He has also has been less prone to the lapses of concentration the plagued him particularly in his last season at Everton where he seemed to wander off to another world at vital times which led to him making some stupid mistakes.

On paper Stones is the perfect Pep centre-back which leads me to believe that he will continue his development under him and become one of the world’s top centre backs. I believe England should try and revitalize their whole academy system with the goal of churning out more players like Stones who are comfortable on the ball and technically gifted. If we manage to produce more of these types of players then I think we will have a realistic chance at competing for major honours.

I think Englishmen should acknowledge a talent as rare and precocious as Stones and I think Gareth Southgate if he remains England managers should try and build his team around Stones and aim to mirror Pep’s style of play. I appreciate the time and effort it would take but the whole FA and football system needs to be restructured, coaches need to try and teach young players to keep the ball at all costs instead of sticking to the old school 4 4 2 stick it in the box mentality which has been holding back England for years. The amount of criticism Stones receives from so-called experts shows the mentality of English football that requires a drastic change. The lack of technically gifted English players has led to the influx of foreigners that have flooded the league and hampered the development of youngsters. This cycle needs to be turned around quickly to save English football and try to regain the past glories of the national team.

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