Manchester United are reportedly leading the race to sign Everton defender John Stones this summer, with Chelsea’s interest fading.
The latest reports say that Antonio Conte – who is expected to take charge at Chelsea this summer – would like to bring Leonardo Bonucci to the club ahead of Stones. This leaves the coast clear for Manchester United to swoop in and go all out for the 21-year-old.
We know how much Jose Mourinho likes Stones and if, as expected, he becomes the Manchester United manager this summer, then you would anticipate him to use the big budget to try and once again sign Stones. Struggling for form this season, Everton may be more willing to part with their man, especially if an offer of £40million or more is submitted.
Alongside Chris Smalling, Stones could form a defensive partnership that is already being experimented with at International level.
But with such a high price-tag, would Stones guarantee an improvement on United’s current defensive options? Daley Blind has been utilised in a central role for much of this season due to long-term injuries sustained by Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo. United will almost certainly be looking to sign a defender this summer, but is Stones the answer?
Comparing Stones to three players often utilised at centre-back for Manchester United helped put into perspective his defensive performances this season. A clear strength of Stones is his aerial ability, highlighted by his 67.35% success in aerial duels – trumping all three of the United centre half’s. The young Englishman also has an impressively low fouls committed rate (just 0.45 per 90 minutes).
But the other three statistics in this comparison highlight Stones’ weaknesses. Just 1.31 tackles and 1.85 interceptions per 90 make for grim reading. If partnered alongside Smalling, there may be a lack of aggressiveness and maturity. This could be developed as both players are still young – but I am not sure that duo is a title-winning defence, yet. What is interesting is the similar stats between Smalling and Stones – could two players with similar attributes work successfully as a pairing? Often you need two different moulds to compliment each other and nullify the threat of any type of striker.
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