5 Reasons Why John Stones Will Be a Star for Everton in 2014/15
Poached from Barnsley in David Moyes' final foray into the transfer market, the young defender has already played a surprisingly significant role under Roberto Martinez.
His appearance against Arsenal was his 15th start of the season and 21st overall game.
Those numbers are only going to expand over the coming years, and—as early as next season—Stones can become a permanent resident in Everton's defence.
Here's a look at why 2014/15 can be a big year for the young defender.
Current Performances Belie His Age
First and foremost, Stones' progression will come primarily due to his ability.
Centre-backs rarely announce themselves until comfortably into their 20s. Composure and awareness are among the key traits which tend to develop late, subsequently slowing their emergence.
The fact Stones—at just 19—has enjoyed such a smooth transition into the Premier League emphasises the sheer scale of his potential. He already has a game to compete with, which suggests a rapid progression is inevitable.
His raw attributes of pace and power are important for any centre-back, but his anticipation, positioning and leadership skills—aspects that are still developing—already surpass many of his Premier League peers.
Stones is already comfortable in the top flight, but possesses a large scope for improvement. Everton will see a better version each season, which will make him a hard man to ignore.
Already a Hard Man to Leave out
At just 19, and competing with three seasoned veterans in Sylvain Distin, Phil Jagielka and Antolin Alcaraz, Stones is already making it tough to leave him out.
Injury to Jagielka has seen the youngster included in the past seven games, of which Everton have won six consecutive Premier League ties.
As Kristian Walsh discusses in the Liverpool Echo, his presence has brought success, and it's hard to justify his exclusion.
The fact Stones is already making such a strong case for selection suggests next season will bring far more regular sightings.
Versatile Enough to Allow a Flexible System
Another string to Stones' bow is his versatility.
He signed for Everton having spent a year in the Championship rampaging forward as a right-sided wing-back.
While his appearances as a full-back haven't been as convincing for Everton, this experience provides Martinez with some additional options.
Playing alongside Seamus Coleman, Stones can cover any space behind his team-mate, allowing his side to play with an especially attacking shape on the ball.
Additionally, his inclusion would make it easier for Martinez to introduce his favoured three-man defence. Stones' presence would create mismatches as he switches between full-back and centre-back duties, traits that his manager will adore.
Ideal Fit for Roberto Martinez's Approach
As well as his strengths as a defender, Stones' confident aura on the ball is also a perfect fit for his manager's style.
Everton look to build possession from the back, drawing their opponents onto them in order to find space in the final third.
In football's current era of lone strikers, this approach often allows one defender to benefit from additional time and space on the ball.
The better that player is in possession, the quicker his side can advance.
Given the ball, Stones is easily the Toffees' most competent defender in this role. He's armed with close control, a sharp touch and a wide range of passing that accelerates his side's tempo and overall transitions.
This is something Martinez won't be keen on leaving out for long.
Everton's Aging Defence Is Ready for Youth
Finally, away from Stones' ability, he's in a fortunate position for any promising young player.
Every direct rival to his position is considerably older than him. As they eventually regress, Stones will keep on improving.
Distin seems to defy science by maintaining his pace and strength at 36 years old.
He's only missed three Premier League matches this season, yet it's hard to imagine the Frenchman remaining such a prominent selection next year.
Antolin Alcaraz and Phil Jagielka are also both in their 30s and have endured long bouts of injury.
With extra games likely to accompany a European campaign, Stones has the perfect platform to become Everton's constant in defence.
Given that stage, don't be surprised to see the 19-year-old involved with his national team over the next 12 months, either.