Pep Guardiola is happy to see his men eliminate the individual mistakes that marred the Premier League and last season’s European challenge
John Stones is determined to make the most of his remarkable turnaround after recovering in the heart of Manchester City’s defense.
The England international’s future at the Etihad Stadium was in doubt this summer when Pep Guardiola drafted Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake to eliminate the defensive problems that plagued City last season.
But Stones returned in brilliant form to oust first-choice center-back Aymeric Laporte and help City clean 13 sheets across all competitions – best of all clubs in Europe’s top five leagues.
City haven’t conceded a goal with Stones on the pitch for 718 minutes after the season opener, and they revel in being back on the sidelines.
“It makes you realize how hard you have worked and how hard work pays off,” the former Everton defender said ahead of Monday night’s return to Goodison Park.
“It makes you realize how special it is to be there and also to realize that when the other players are not playing what they are feeling and what you have to do for them when you are on the pitch. .
“There are a lot of things you can look at but it’s something you can’t take for granted. There are always twists and you have to grab it with both hands and enjoy it and that’s what I do.
“I really enjoy my football. It always makes it easier when you win and keep the sheets clean, but I’m just trying to go in the right direction and keep trying to become better as a player and as a team. ”
Individual mistakes have taken a toll on City, especially with Guardiola putting pressure on their defense by asking them to defend at the top of the pitch.
But since the 5-2 loss to Leicester in September where they conceded three penalties, the City boss has been happy to see his side largely eliminate their mistakes.
“What we’ve improved is that individually we don’t make stupid mistakes,” Guardiola said. “The opponent can do a good deed and we applaud, but we don’t make a mistake. Everyone is focused.
“It helped us, we conceded three goals in the last 10 games.
“We conceded five against Leicester because we gave them three penalties, but otherwise we’ve been incredibly strong. Hold it, don’t make mistakes, it will help us. ”
These two years have not been easy for Stones as he suffered from injuries, being sidelined, problems off the pitch and losing his place as a regular in the England squad.
But he was grateful for the support of his teammates and thinks he has learned a lot about his own game.
“I think I learned who I am as a player,” he added. “I have also learned a lot in football as a person.
“I think the biggest compliment goes to my teammates because I wouldn’t be where I am without them and my coaching staff.
“You learn how to become a winner among the winners who are still there and gone.
“I also learned a lot from players in different positions. I think we have such a variety of players here with different qualities and attributes that have made me better.
“It’s a difficult question to answer, but I think a winning mindset is one that I learned.
Stones says he appreciates the pressure that comes with being in a city squad to achieve Premier League and Champions League success.
“Win or lose, the pressure is there and the pressure is something that we definitely thrive on and we take a lot of motivation to do better and keep the pressure on other teams,” he said.
“There are all types of scenarios going through your head at this club and it’s exciting to be a part of it.
“We have to continue to strive to be better and better and to maintain the consistency that we have had in previous seasons.”