Pep Guardiola is prioritizing a safety-first approach with John Stones, despite the defender being a crucial part of his tactical plans.
The English international has been limited to just 393 minutes of football for his club. He also played only 91 minutes for his country due to a hip injury. Despite being named in the squad for the 1-1 draw with Liverpool after a muscle injury, Guardiola had no intention of using him.
Stones plays a crucial role in the ongoing evolution of the team. He acts as the center-back who advances in possession to enable midfielders to play higher up the pitch. While other players, like Manuel Akanji, have been assigned similar roles, Stones remains the primary exponent of Guardiola’s game-plan. However, Guardiola is cautious to avoid more setbacks after two unsuccessful comeback attempts.
“He feels good. But we are going to give him one, two weeks to do proper strength training sessions.” said the City boss.
“John is so important for us I let him play when maybe his muscles weren’t completely ready. He will train with us, either partial or completely. The rest he is going to have strength training sessions in his legs to be sure when he comes back he feels stronger.
“We need him because there are a lot of games. I know the man of the match (against Liverpool) was Jeremy (Doku). But at Stamford Bridge and yesterday Manu (Akanji) was unbelievable.
“What a signing the club has made with that guy. He can play full-back. Central defender, now holding midfielder and when arriving in the final third he has the ability to make passes.”
Pep Guardiola: We need John Stones because there are a lot of games
The match against Liverpool marked the beginning of a scheduled 10 – potentially 11 – games in 36 days until the end of December, including a trip to Saudi Arabia for the Club World Cup where they are anticipated to advance from the semi-final.
Given this demanding schedule, Guardiola has the task of managing all his players, not just Stones. He states that their training sessions will not extend much beyond half an hour to navigate the congested fixture list effectively.
“Maximum 30-35 minutes. Until Tuesday (the Champions League game with RB Leipzig) it will be 10 minutes on the pitch moving the ball and that’s all.
“We cannot train. If we train we won’t have players for the next game.
“We have learned from the past and you just understand what you have to do, the places you have to move, the press.
“We have TV images and we talk individually in specific ways and after they make mistakes it is just about understanding what you have to to do.”