John Stones can go from strength to strength next season
There is no doubt in the mind of anyone that Everton’s appointment of Roberto Martinez as manager was the right decision. Narrowly just missing out on a top four place last season, they are 13/2 to achieve it next time around.
One of many success stories of last campaign was 20-year-old centre back John Stones. His rise has been meteoric and is a star in the making. Having moved to Everton in 2012 from Barnsley for £3m, Martinez eased him into the first team gradually. When Sylvain Distin sustained an injury, he got his big chance in January, and he didn’t disappoint.
Overall he made 26 appearances for the Toffees, 21 coming in the Premier League. The fact that he was selected in Roy Hodgson’s provisional England squad for the World Cup says it all. Already he has the touch and composure on the ball of Rio Ferdinand, and shows the same fearlessness, determination, and aerial ability as John Terry in the tackle. His development needs to be honed gradually and sympathetically.
Martinez has helped a number of young players evolve throughout his career. While at Wigan he brought through the likes of James McArthur and James McCarthy, with the latter joining him on Merseyside.
The Spaniard is renowned for propagating attractive attacking football at the teams he has managed, with an emphasis on high pressing and possession. Ironically, however, as a player, Martinez plied his trade as a defensive midfielder. His ability to read the game and hit 40-yard passes meant that he didn’t need to tackle which, he admits in his autobiography, wasn’t the strongest part of his armoury.
For Stones, he probably couldn’t wish for a better manager to continue his development under. Groomed in the Catalan mould, this is the philosophy Martinez has tried to ingrain in the players that he has coached. Perhaps Stones might be comparable to Barcelona’s Gerard Pique in a couple of years time. Elegant on the ball, an ability to anticipate the pattern of play and a general rock at the back, Stones also has the potential to step into a captaincy role, as he matures.
England’s newest centre back will experience European football next term, with Everton having qualified for the Europa League. No doubt he is going to pick up where he left off for the Toffees, and can become a major part of the Three Lions’ Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in the process. Martinez’s last act as Wigan manager was winning the FA Cup, proving that he is adept in knockout competitions. There is no doubt that he can emulate that success with Everton, who are 16/1 to do so next season, as Stones et al prepare for their latest assault.