In the summer of 2020, it seemed almost certain that John Stones was going to be heading out of the exit doors at the Etihad Stadium.
But following a goal and yet another clean sheet in the Carabao Cup semi-final win against Manchester United, the 26-year-old is among the best central defenders in England this season.
A rock solid performance alongside Ruben Dias means City have now kept nine clean sheets in Stones’ last ten appearances, with the only goal conceded coming in the 93rd minute against Chelsea in a 3-1 win.
The resurrection of his form and reputation has potentially saved his City career but also reignited his chances of being in the England squad.
More importantly, he seems to have proven his fitness for once too. Stones has been able to play in ten of Man City’s last 12 fixtures, which have all comes in the space of 42 days. It’s a vast change from the young player who struggled to play a run of fixtures in the past. He’s never played more than 27 league appearances for Manchester City and has already made half as many appearances this season than last.
He’s showed a quick turn of pace to deal with fast attackers, reads the game well with his positioning and just seems to be in the right place at the right time constantly.
His partnership with Dias has also seen him edge Laporte out of the team, with the Frenchman having previously been Pep Guardiola’s go-to man in defence.
Stones’ passing has always been a big factor in his game, with his ability to play through the lines he suit a Guardiola system perfectly as a ball-playing centre-back but he seems to have managed to play himself straight back into the starting lineup.
It was expected he would leave in the summer, with Eric Garcia moving ahead of him in the pecking order at the end of last season and Fernandinho seemingly being used primarily in defence.
But with Garcia opting to refuse to sign a new deal in favour of a summer move to Barcelona and with Nicolas Otamendi moving to Benfica as part of the deal to bring Dias to the club, Stones was given a final chance.
He’s now entered the final 18 months of his contract but it’s fair to say when he plays like this he is a favourite of Guardiola. He’s back and he’s better than ever.