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Has John Stones fitness issues forced Guardiola to turn to Kyle Walker more often this season?

Has John Stones fitness issues forced Guardiola to turn to Kyle Walker more often this season?

This season has seen John Stones struggle to replicate his strong form from last season. The England international has had an injury interrupted campaign, which has seen him only make 26 appearances in all competitions for Manchester City. This season has been a frustrating one for Stones.

When fully fit, Pep Guardiola almost automatically selects John Stones given his skillset and the demanding role he plays. But has Stones fitness issues forced Pep Guardiola to over rely on Kyle Walker this season? It’s something that does warrant closer inspection as this season reaches its final stages.

With Stones out injured for so many games, it has had a trickle on affect amongst the Manchester City defenders. Last season as City claimed the treble Pep Guardiola’s preferred defence at times was Manuel Akanji, Ruben Dias, John Stones, and Nathan Ake. With the arrival of Josko Gvardiol last summer and John Stones spending a significant amount of this season injured, it has seen Kyle Walker play a prominent role for the champions. Given how hard Pep Guardiola fought to keep Walker at the club last summer, that may have already been in the City managers’ plans for this season.

READ MORE: Nathan Ake and Manuel Akanji have tightened up City’s defence.

John Stones’ unavailability has seen Guardiola use a mixture of defenders at the heart of City’s defence. Ruben Dias, Manuel Akanji, and Nathan Ake have all played through the heart of City’s defence. The flow on effect of this has seen Kyle Walker play right-back in nearly every big game for the champions. City’s captain has played 42 games in all competitions so far this season. Given Walker’s impeccable fitness base, it is something he is more than capable of doing.

Manchester City’s past two games have been a microcosm of Walker’s season as a whole. Walker was very good against Brighton but not as effective against Forest. He was well below his best during City’s hard fought 2-nil win over Nottingham Forest on Sunday. He was routinely beaten for pace by Forest full-back Ola Aina. It is something that rarely happens to City’s captain. Whether it was fatigue, a bad game, or a sign of Walker beginning to slow down remains to be seen. At his best, Walker is brilliant, but when he’s been off his game this season, his performances have dipped alarmingly. It may be a symptom of his age or that Walker just hasn’t been at his best this campaign. Perhaps if Stones was fit more often, this campaign it could’ve allowed Walker more opportunities to rest this season.

It will never be known if John Stones hadn’t had such an injury interrupted campaign if Kyle Walker would’ve been relied on so heavily this season. As his team’s captain Kyle Walker had a significant role to play for Pep Guardiola this season irrespective of Stones issues. But it would’ve been handy for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City if Stones could have gotten on the pitch more often to provide more opportunities to keep Kyle Walker fresh this season.