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Pep Guardiola said he is delighted that Manchester City are seeing the best of John Stones again, but wants it to be a sustained resurgence of the England defender.
Since the weekend before Christmas last season, the Stones have started just eight Premier League matches and there have only been three substitute appearances sprinkled around them.
But Stones played early on in the last three consecutive league games against Burnley, Fulham and Manchester United, before Guardiola shuffled his package and selected Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias for the Premier League midweek draw with him. humble West Brom.
Stones looks confident again and ready to play a big role for City after injuries and off-field problems appeared to affect his career, and Guardiola pointed to both factors on Friday.
There is considerable competition for central defense roles at the club, with Aymeric Laporte also pushing for the selection, but Guardiola sees the Stones fit and focused as an important asset.
“But it’s only two or three games,” Guardiola pointed out. “So a defender has to be consistent throughout the season to feel good.”
The former Barcelona coach added: “Of course we see him happier and stronger because he is fit, he is not injured for two or three weeks and he has to stop for a month. That happened a lot.
“He has played very well and that is helping him to have the confidence to do it. Of course his personal life is now settled, he is much better, he is a guy who is very sensible and that now helps him to be focused. “
Guardiola said the 26-year-old Stones must take care of their body and mind for the rest of their career.
In the Manchester derby against United last weekend, the Stones recovered the ball 10 times, just one short of his highest record of Premier League matches in a City jersey.
The Stones only lost possession three times and had a passing accuracy of 96.51 percent, a healthy figure for the former Everton ballplayer.
City look good on defense, but goals have been unusually hard to come by this season. They will be looking to show some attacking fluidity at Southampton on Saturday.
Sergio Agüero has missed much of the season through injury and neither Gabriel Jesus nor Raheem Sterling have had a significant scoring streak.
Guardiola wants the City players to be seen as a collective, through their successes and failures, and said: “It is a big mistake to believe that there is only one player, two individual players, as the reason why we cannot score goals. , or say one player or two players why we concede few.
“I see football as a club and as a whole and we are all important for what needs to be done. The numbers speak for themselves, we did not score goals ”.
Guardiola said the answer is simply “to play better to create opportunities” and argued that City “can still have an incredible season ahead.”
He added that “many players here for a long time know exactly what we have to do,” and said it was to win and keep winning.
City headed eight points behind leader Liverpool into the weekend, albeit one game less.
“But you have to win it,” Guardiola said of that extra game. “We have to start winning games and games in a row to be there at the end. If we don’t, it won’t be possible. “