2020 has been a year of unforeseen events and you can add John Stones (£3.4m) reclaiming a spot in Man City’s starting line-up to the list.
The summer arrivals of Ruben Dias (£4.0m) and Nathan Ake (£2.9m) seemed to push the Englishman way down the pecking order at the Etihad.
With Aymeric Laporte (£4.4m) and Eric Garcia (£2.6m) already in residence, Stones appeared to be Pep Guardiola’s fifth-choice centre-back when the season commenced.
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However, since losing 2-0 to Spurs, City have kept six clean sheets in a row with Stones featuring in five of the shutouts.
By contrast, Laporte has played just once since City’s head coach believed he was culpable in the defeat to Jose Mourinho’s side.
Six months ago, plenty of neutrals would have placed the Frenchman behind only Virgil van Dijk (£5.1m) in the hierarchy of Premier League centre-backs but Guardiola deemed Laporte under par in November and subsequently dropped him.
Results indicate that Guardiola’s decision was entirely justified as Stones’ return to the first-choice XI has aligned with a new club record for consecutive clean sheets.
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The man once cheekily known as the Barnsley Beckenbauer has not been note-perfect during his comeback tour, he narrowly avoided a comical own goal against Fulham after playing a back pass without checking Ederson’s (£3.7m) position.
But he’s played well generally and Guardiola told the press this week that he sees no reason to reinstall Laporte while Stone and Dias are joining the dots.
In Dream Team terms, few defenders have performed better in the last month.
Stones is averaging 5.2 points per match this season, more than Thiago Silva (£4.4m), Kyle Walker (£3.8m), Gabriel (£3.5m) and a host of other popular defenders.
Saturday’s drab Manchester derby took him to 47 points for the season, an impressive tally when you consider he’s only featured in nine eligible fixtures.
City have a good opportunity to extend their clean sheet streak tonight as they welcome West Brom to Manchester.
A testing trip to Southampton comes before an EFL Cup quarter-final against stuttering Arsenal and another home league game against Newcastle.
Assuming he keeps his place in the team, Stones could break into the top ten Dream Team defenders before the end of the year.
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