JOHN STONES IS A ROLLS ROYCE BUT HE MUST LEARN TO PUT THE BRAKES ON
John Stones is the player of his generation and destined for the very top. The boy is an absolute joy to watch.
The Cruyff turn against Chelsea, the galloping run through the Aston Villa midfield, his ability to pluck the ball out of the air on his chest and glide forward before starting the next attack. It’s beautiful. Mesmeric. Breathtaking. So good you want to punch the air for the simple fact he is doing it all in an Everton shirt.
The amount of times I’ve gasped at his audacious skill or impeccable timing in the slide tackle whilst viewing the game from the Gwladys Street is surely nearing triple figures.
Stones is worth the entry fee alone. It is an absolute privilege to watch him play. The way he caresses the ball with such ease and arrogance. Such composure and confidence. It’s utter class.
Committed and brave, his tackling is spot on too. John Stones leaping through the air and robbing the ball from the striker’s toe with a sweeping slide tackle is glorious. There is no doubt he will be one of the very best defenders the game has seen.
A leader to boot – away at Southampton, clearing up an error in midfield and holding out his hand to tell James McCarthy he had the situation under control before striding forward on the attack – Stones has got it all. Don’t be surprised to see him one day captain England.
However, while football is about entertainment, success is determined by results. The young defender’s showboating is one of the greatest sights you will see on a football pitch but Stones must now learn when to turn on the trickery and when to whack the ball up the field. No messing about.
I am one of his biggest fans – I’ve gushed about him on countless occasions (as my tweets below show – even comparing him to Baresi and Maldini in another Twitter post full of adulation) but, for me, Stones must understand there is a time and a place for such extravagant play. That place is not in the six-yard box.
Stones is programmed to always go forward. It’s one of his best attributes to get the ball down and play. However, he must understand it is acceptable to play forward with one almighty hoof upfield.
Towards the end of Sunday’s draw with Tottenham, Stones picked up the ball and ran back and forth across the six-yard box with Spurs forward Son Heung-Min in hot pursuit.
Teasing the South Korean so close to the goalline left Blues supporters with their hearts in their mouths. The brief time Stones was on the ball felt like a lifetime. It almost seemed like slow-motion – just waiting and fretting for what was to come. Would he get away with it?
Allowed to breathe a sigh of relief after the referee let Stones off the hook – Son adjudged to have eventually fouled the Everton defender – some supporters showed their discontent having witnessed such unnecessary risk-taking.
I’m sure Everton fans would back Stones to keep the ball in that situation 99 times out of 100 – perhaps some would back him to stay in possession every time – but is it really worth the risk?
It’s great to watch and see Stones exude such confidence in such difficult positions but is it really worth it if, just once, he gets his studs stuck in the turf or, heaven forbid, he actually gets tackled by the opposition. Playing with fire so close to the goal will see you get burned, eventually. It could so very easily have been another defeat for Everton had Son nipped in. Another error from the Everton backline.
Stones’ reaction – throwing his arms up with a shake of the head before suggesting fans calm down – showed the huge belief he has in his ability. However, it also showed his naivety. After all, let’s not forget he is still only 21 years of age!
Not for one moment should it be suggested that Roberto Martinez knocks the risk-taking out of Stones’ game – let’s be honest, Martinez is probably the biggest advocate of such play – but, however talented the player, it is football suicide to run with the ball and take people on in your own six-yard box. It just can’t happen. Hit it hard and hit it long, eh John? Just get rid! Watching Everton is stressful enough.
Stones is a supreme talent but is now in need of some guidance on when and where it is acceptable to try and beat a man. He will develop as a defender should he realise it is fine to keep things simple if it means steering clear of danger.
Of course some have backed Stones’ style of play – happy for the player to express himself anywhere and everywhere on the pitch – but accepting his decision to take on Son at Goodison on Sunday is sheer lunacy.
No real benefit can come from such a risk in your own six-yard box. Yes, it may have looked amazing had Stones whizzed past his marker but the consequences of losing possession in such a position are just far too great.
Yes, he can beat mean with ease. Sure, he can play the perfect through ball. His ability knows no bounds. But he is a defender. His main priority must be to stop the ball going into the back of the Everton net.
On occasion, his need and desire to get forward has sometimes left Everton short at the back and it must be said that his positioning is sometimes affected, such is his focus on such is his focus on bombing forward.
Many in football claim the best form of defence is attack but Stones needs to remember that he is a centre back with a No 5 on his back and not playmaking No 10.
Stones plays football as it should be played but in the results-based business that is the Premier League there is a time and a place.
There is no doubting John Stones is a Rolls Royce of a footballer but he must now learn when to put the brakes on.