Chelsea have expressed their interest in the 26-year-old central defender who has recently fallen out of favor with Pep Guardiola. Stones’ current deal is set to expire in the summer of 2022. This, in addition to his poor performances, has cut the Englishman’s transfer value to as low as £20 million. City’s most recent signing Nathan Ake has added even more doubts to Stones’ future with Guardiola.
Stones had a torrid time in the City shirt, making only 16 appearances in the recently ended Premier League campaign. It seems to have become a consistent tendency, with Stones falling down the pecking order as the season progresses. The Manchester City defender usually tends to start the season as the main partner for Aymeric Laporte, but after poor runs of performances and injury issues, ends up not even making the bench.
Lampard is fully aware of Stones’ shortcomings but is willing to take a gamble and revive the once-promising central defender’s career. The English centre-back has always been renowned as an elegant defender who is comfortable in possession but is rather vulnerable at the back and reluctant to ‘get his shorts dirty’. Stones’ defensive stats are not as impressive as most of the league’s top centre-backs; however, with City dominating every game with 65% of ball-possession, the stats can be slightly misleading.
Stones, on average, attempted 1.2 tackles per game in the Premier League last season, recording a 58% winning rate. The 26-year-old also won 69% of his defensive duels followed by 0.6 interceptions and 5.5 ball recoveries per game. However, the Englishman also made two errors that lead to the opponent’s chance, an area that has always been a concern in Stones’ game. On the flip side, Stones’ ability on the ball has never been questioned. Last season, the Chelsea target had the best passing success percentage, (94%) among all Premier League defenders.
At first glance, Stones would nicely suit Lampard’s proposed style of play. Last season, Chelsea had the third-highest ball-possession in the league (57.9%), only behind the obvious ones – Manchester City (62.6%) and Liverpool (59.6%). It indicates Lampard’s intentions of playing out from the back philosophy that Stones is more than familiar with.
Nevertheless, whether Stones is the right defender for Chelsea remains a huge question mark. Lampard was let down massively by his defence last season, with Chelsea conceding the most goals out of the top 10 teams in the league.
Adding to that, Lampard had a difficult time trying to find the best centre-back partnership, constantly swapping and changing the two centre-backs. Kurt Zouma was the one Lampard relied on the most, having made 28 appearances in the league – second behind only Cezar Azpilicueta. The remaining three centre-backs (Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and Fikayo Tomori) had the minutes split fairly evenly between them. It implies that Lampard has major doubts as to who should be the first choice centre-backs.
At times, the former Chelsea midfielder went with the tactical formation involving three central defenders. If Stones is indeed going to end up at Chelsea, this could suit his playing attributes even better. The English centre-back could use his qualities when bringing the ball out from the back, while still having additional protection from the other two on each side.
Pep’s patience with Stones has seemed to run out and the Manchester City boss is no longer speaking the kind of positive words about him he used to when Stones was first signed.
Whether the Chelsea boss is eyeing Stones for his quality or a low transfer fee remains a question in doubt. Nonetheless, if the deal is to go through, it may work out as a good move for both parties.