John Stones is, without doubt, an immensely talented footballer. In fact, I think he’ll develop into the outstanding defender of his generation, not just in Britain but in the World. He’s that good.
He’s also young, and immature. That means he makes some bad decisions, some of the time, and some of those bad decisions cause problems. That’s to be expected and part of the price of developing young talent is watching them learn from those mistakes.
Today, he made a massive mistake that handed Swansea their first goal. Yes, Tim Howard is a moron with the reflexes of a recently deceased relative, but John Stones playing that ball in that situation was ridiculous.
Now I can cope with the mistake, because he’s developing, but what I can’t cope with is how Stones reacted. Firstly, for about twenty minutes, he sulked. He sulked like a spoiled child who knew he was in trouble but didn’t want to admit it. At one point he had the ball and actually stood still to moan at his teammates for not moving enough, which when you’re 1-0 down isn’t exactly the sort of “up and at ‘em” Dunkirk spirit that you’re looking for.
However that wasn’t the worst of it. After he’d finished feeling sorry for himself he spent the rest of the match trying to demonstrate to the assembled masses that he was in fact a prodigious footballing talent ™ and not, as it appeared to everyone present, a total bellend ™.
Every time he got the ball he tried to do something much more complicated than he needed to. Instead of heading clear he tried to chest the ball down, instead of playing a simple pass he played a tricky one. It was football-wank of the highest order and he was clearly doing because he felt he had a point to prove.
What John Stones needs to realise is that it’s a team game. He can look as good as he wants, but right now he’s part of a defence that has conceded 34 goals in 23 games. Only three teams (Leicester, Man City and Spurs) have scored more goals than Everton this season – if we could defend we would, and I’m even a tiny bit joking, be mounting a serious title challenge. He might be a world class talent, but there’s a difference between being good at football and being good at winning football matches. If John Stones was actually as good as he thinks he is, we wouldn’t be 12th.
Now a lot of heat has been directed at Tim Howard in recent weeks, and I agree with that, but Stones shouldn’t escape scrutiny either. He has directly cost us as many goals as Howard has (often by being out of position, which isn’t generally picked up by pundits), and in the end stopping the opposition scoring is the reason he’s on the pitch in the first place. The fancy stuff is a bonus.
I want him to play, I want him to take risks and I want him to develop into the player he can be. But right now, Everton, with the best squad we’ve had since 1987, are 12th in the league. Something has to change and with Jagielka coming back and Funes Mori hardly putting a well-gelled hair wrong, it’s Stones who has to go. For now.