Why John Stones is Manchester City's most important player as they chase the treble

Manchester City are on the cusp of the treble, with just Inter Milan standing in between them and footballing immortality in the Champions League final on Saturday night. 

But, without John Stones, there's an argument to suggest that Pep Guardiola's side wouldn't even have this opportunity. 

Sure, Erling Haaland has bagged an astronomical 52 goals this season. And while Ilkay Gundogan is the club captain who scored crucial goals in the run in for the Premier League title, as well as a double in the FA Cup final against Manchester United - including the competition's quickest final goal in history - it is one of their team-mates who is arguably the reason why Manchester City have ascended to such a high level this season. 

Stones' impact at City has been well-documented already, with the way he steps out from defence to create a box midfield highlighted in great detail over the course of the campaign. 

Other teams have implemented these tactics, too, such as Oleksandr Zinchenko at Arsenal, in order to create overloads. However, where the crucial difference lies in Pep Guardiola's system is that Stones performs the job of a highly accomplished midfielder in possession, and a hard-nosed defender when out of it. 

Stones starts attacks from City's backline, carrying the ball out from defence or when they're being put under pressure by the opposition's high press. Trusted in tight situations, Stones comfortably and confidently deals with these scenarios expertly, ensuring he breaks lines to progress the ball further up the pitch.

Ostensibly, he is there to create overloads, but because he is so accomplished in the midfield, he doesn't mind running into vacated spaces either. Indeed, on multiple occasions Stones ran in behind the Manchester United defence during the FA Cup final to take advantage of the space, not something many centre-backs/defensive midfielders do. 

What is more impressive, though, is that his primary job is still to defend in the centre of defence, something he does assuredly through aerial duels, blocks and organisation. 

And, as FourFourTwo's Adam Clery asks, at what stage does John Stones enter the conversation of being one of England's greatest ever centre-backs? A treble certainly won't diminish his case, that's for sure.

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future. 

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