John Stones reveals ‘body shape and timing’ has been key to his transition to midfield at Man City after his crucial role in their title win – as the England star hails Pep Guardiola for ‘simplifying the role’ for him
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John Stones heralded Pep Guardiola’s tactical innovations as he collected his fifth Premier League medal won at Manchester City on Sunday afternoon.
The defender has been playing in a tweaked role for his Catalan manager this season, which has paid dividends in not only rejuvenating Stones’ play but helping spur the Manchester club on to Premier League glory and an increasingly-vivid Treble chase as the season comes to an end.
The 28-year-old joined City in the summer of 2016 and made his debut in Guardiola’s first competitive match in charge.
Stones called the club’s fifth title under the former Barcelona head coach ‘surreal’ as he hoisted the trophy aloft after receiving a guard of honour from Chelsea ahead of their 1-0 victory over the west London side.
‘It’s surreal, I never thought I’d ever win five Premier Leagues,’ Stones said.
John Stones hoisted his fifth Premier League trophy aloft on a sunny afternoon in Manchester
The 28-year-old’s career at City has kept pace with Pep Guardiola’s and Stones was happy to adapt to the new role his manager handed him this season
‘I can’t put into words right now. Every one I’ve won has been special in a certain way, this one’s been so enjoyable with how we played and the different positions, I’ve really enjoyed it.’
‘I always find it hard to speak about myself. What I’ve tried to over the past three seasons is get that consistency, that’s always key to find that rhythm. It’s about always being ready. That mindset of always being available.’
Stones has been an invaluable part of City’s marauding 2022/23 campaign, making 32 appearances for the side across all competition.
But it is his new hybrid position, that allows him to move further up the pitch to form a ‘box midfield’ alongside team-mate Rodri, that has frequently caught the eye as City have overrun opponents again and again.
‘I think it’s such a unique position that you have to be spatially aware, I’ve had to learn and adapt in terms of knowing when I can take the ball,’ Stones said of the modifications made to his role in the team this season. ‘I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, it’s given me a new outlook of positioning.
‘Body shape and timing is so specific in that midfield role. The manager has simplified it for me, it’s about me trying to implement what he’s taught me.’
After knocking Bayern Munich out of the Champions League in their quarter-final match-up, Stones described the positional change as a ‘huge learning curve’, but the player has more than taken it in his stride.
As Stones has moved up the pitch, City have more and more often totally overrun their rivals
Stones provided the hoodoo that spooked Real Madrid when they travelled to the Etihad
The England star praised his head coach for ‘simplifying’ the new approach undertaken
Stones exploited the move to dramatic effect during Man City’s 4-0 rout of Real Madrid in midweek that handed the side a ticket to the Champions League final.
With the Premier League secured, Stones admitted the squad were already thinking about their bright future.
‘The next goal is to keep everyone fit going into the FA Cup final, which is such a special cup for me personally against our rivals as well and then we can fully focus on the Champions League final,’ the player added.
After wrapping up their league season against Brighton and Brentford, City’s attentions will move to facing Manchester United at Wembley, before travelling to Istanbul to face Inter Milan with a view to winning their first-ever European championship.
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