Exclusive – Arsenal could offer John Stones an escape route from Manchester City in the summer with Pep Guardiola’s side willing to sanction the sale of the centre-back.
First team minutes have been hard to come under the Spaniard’s tutelage for the former Everton defender, who has made just 54 Premier League appearances since the beginning of the 2017/18 season.
Injuries have played their part during that period, but it is form which has been the predominant factor in limiting Stones’ playing time. Errors have become alarmingly frequent when he has played, none more so than his mistake in the Carabao Cup final that allowed Aston Villa to score their only goal in the Citizens’ 2-1 victory.
Signed from the Toffees for £50m during the 2016 summer window, he remains Guardiola’s fourth most expensive acquisition during his time in England, but inadequate performances have failed to match his supposed potential – or indeed his price tag.
Due to that, a source has told 90min that Stones has failed to convince Guardiola of his quality over the course of his City career, and the club are now ready to let the England international leave.
It is understood that Arsenal would be willing to provide the avenue for a career resurgence, with their defence coming under some considerable criticism in recent seasons.
Mikel Arteta is someone who knows Stones well from his three-year spell as assistant manager at the club, and believes there is still room for potential in the 25-year-old defender. Recent performances wouldn’t suggest that, but given the amount of time the pair spent together, Arteta would appear to think differently to his former boss.
If indeed Arsenal are to make a move for Stones, then they would need to fork out the full £50m that City initially spent on the Englishman to lure him from Goodison Park. Stones’ deal runs until the summer of 2022 and, given the length of his contract remaining, it would appear City are happy to accept what they paid and move on.
That is part in due to the club eyeing defensive reinforcements of their own. 90min has been told that City are seeking two central defenders durin the upcoming summer, with Stones and Nicolas Otamendi allowed to leave the club in order to overhaul their backline.
Neither player has impressed this season, with 34-year-old Fernandinho being tasked with slotting into an unfamiliar defensive role. The fact Guardiola has shown more confidence in the Brazilian to fill the void left by Vincent Kompany than Stones is a strong indicator of his preferences.
A move to north London could provide the renaissance Stones’ career so desperately needs, with Arteta himself looking to galvanise an Arsenal squad that have fallen by the wayside over the last three seasons and are in desperate need for an injection of quality.
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