What are our options if Stones is out for a while?
With Ruben Dias not set to return atleast for a few more weeks, this was the worst poossible time for John Stones to suffer a knock. I do understand that it is just a precaution, but you would not want Stones to play in the big games when he is not at a 100%. These upcoming fixtures against Athletico and Liverpool are ruthless and anything less than the very best is a perfect receipe for getting bombarded and beaten all ends up. Let us explore Pep’s options if Stones is not ready to start those games. This will not at all be an easy path to go down.
Nathan Ake – The most obvious choice
Ake is the most obvious of replacements that would come to your mind. He is our only available center back apart from Laporte and he is in great form as well. Now, you might be wondering what the fuss is this article then. The answer to this John Stones question is as clear as it can be. I do hope that the solution was straight forward, but unfortunately the opposition we have to play in Athletico and Liverpool complicate it way too much.
For me, Ake is the best one on one defender out of all our center backs. He is very solid and reliable. But, he is not as adventurous with the ball as a Stones or Dias. This could very well be the primary factor in Pep’s mind. We are playing Athletico madrid, where we will have to break down one of the lowest blocks in the world. So, you would need both your center backs to play those creative passses and unlock the defense.
Liverpool offers a completely different test, but again Pep would want his center backs to play through Liverpool’s press with creative passing. Also, Liverpool play their Full backs high up the pitch and Pep would ideally want his center backs to play those diagonals to the wingers.
So, in deeper examinaiton we can see that Ake is not the center back you would ideally want for the Liverpool and Athletico games.
Fernandinho -The most left field choice
Starting Fernandinho in the Athletico and Liverpool games is a typical Pep Guardiola selection. But, if we dig in a bit deeper, it might actually not be as bad as it sounds. Fernandinho has that passing range, great sense of smelling danger and that phenomenal interception ability. The only thing is that he does not have pace and we have seen it being exploited a couple of times in that 2019-20 season.
We must not forget that Pep played Yaya Toure at center back in that Champions League final against Manchester United. Compared to Yaya, Fernandinho is much better in his defensive part of the game and it seems like this could almost be a no brianer for Pep. The only concerns for Pep would be the lack of Playing time for Fernandinho and i am sure it will affect his match sharpness to some extent.
Kyle Walker – Interesting Choice
Walker has experience playing in that center back role, but i don’t think he has ever played in a 2. Also, playing Walker as a center back would mean switching Cancelo to the right and starting Zinchenko on the other flank. All this would cause a lot of chaos in the team and i don’t think that Pep would like to tinker that much before an ultra tough run-in.