Yesterday afternoon, Arsenal suffered a setback after being pegged back by two goals at the London Stadium. This is the second time the Gunners have lost a two-goal lead, leading to two dropped points in their title race. In recent times, two important players in Manchester City’s form have been England stars, Jack Grealish and John Stones. To discuss the form of City’s starlets, who have stepped up their game at the right time for Pep Guardiola, we caught up with former England winger, John Barnes.
Grealish knows what Pep wants from him
Ever since joining Manchester City in the summer of 2021, Jack Grealish has been under intense scrutiny. Being the most expensive English player ever, after being transferred for a whopping £100 million to the reigning league champions, expectations for the former Aston Villa winger could not have been higher. One of the biggest draws towards Grealish had been his fearlessness to dribble and take on players at any given opportunity. However, last season and parts of this season have been a disappointment for him on a personal level.
Despite this, Pep Guardiola has publicly and privately supported Grealish and his faith in the winger has paid off. Grealish is now likely to be one of the first names on the City team sheet, playing on the left-hand side. He has already improved on last season’s stats with eleven goal contributions in 24 league appearances, compared to just six last season. Barnes believes that Grealish now understands what Guardiola demands from his wingers. It is well known that it can take time for a winger to understand what Guardiola requires from his wide players, with the likes of Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane, and Riyad Mahrez all needing time to adapt.
“The improvement is the understanding of what the manager wants from him. Grealish has always been a good footballer but he was maybe dribbling too much.”
“Now, he is playing with one touch, he is passing the ball and he is holding his position on the left, which is the opposite of what he was doing at Aston Villa, where he was running a lot around and had a free role.”
“He is working a lot better in the system now and he is even working a lot defensively as well. He is much more disciplined now.”
“He is understanding his role much better now and he is not just being an individual, which is what he always was.”
John Stones is the perfect player for Man City
John Stones has become another linchpin in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team. Gone are the days of him making typical errors such as overplaying or dawdling on the ball. He has now become an essential component of Manchester City’s squad and provides Guardiola with a lot of tactical flexibility. Depending on the game’s requirements, Stones can seamlessly fit into a double pivot central midfield role or drop back into a right back/centre back position. People are now questioning whether Stones is one of the best centre backs in the world. Barnes believes that Stones is the perfect footballer for Guardiola and Manchester City’s style of play.
“The way Man City plays with the ball suits John Stones very well because he is very good on the ball.”
“It is a bit like the Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell situation. Rio was better on the ball and Campbell was a better defender.”
“John Stones is a perfect player for Man City because he isn’t put that much under pressure defensively. He probably wouldn’t be the best centre back in the world but he is at a club that Utilises his strengths to the maximum.”
“Of course, he is one of the best players in the world when he is playing for Man City but if he played for another team he wouldn’t be the best defender. That’s why Man City are so good at finding players that suit the way they play.”
“It is a bit like Jack Grealish. Stones understands his role very well and because of that he is showing what he can do.”