Gareth Southgate defends John Stones selection as Man City face injury crisis

Manchester City could be without Stones and Kyle Walker when they face Arsenal in a key fixture in the title race on Sunday

Jamie Braidwood
Wednesday 27 March 2024 07:17 GMT
Stones picked up an abductor injury early in the 2-2 draw against Belgium
Stones picked up an abductor injury early in the 2-2 draw against Belgium (The FA via Getty Images)

England manager Gareth Southgate defended selecting John Stones against Belgium after the Manchester City centre-back limped off with an abductor injury just days before his club’s pivotal Premier League clash with Arsenal.

Stones was substituted within the opening stages of England’s 2-2 draw at Wembley on Tuesday night after playing the full game against Brazil on Saturday evening.

England’s camp has been disrupted by several injuries to Southgate’s squad and the injury added to the defensive issues facing City, with right-back Kyle Walker also picking up an injury problem against Brazil.

Walker was forced to withdraw from England’s squad after feeling a tight hamstring but Stones was one of five outfield players who kept their place along with City team-mate Phil Foden, Arsenal’s Declan Rice, Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell.

Pep Guardiola’s side host Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday in a key game in the title race but Southgate insisted that England did not regret starting Stones ahead of the fixture.

“We measure everything,” he said after the 2-2 draw. “The first game wasn’t a game which was a high level in terms of intensity. We’ve done exactly what Holland did with Virgil van Dijk and Nathan Ake and what Norway did with Martin Odegaard and Erling Haaland. It only seems to fall on us when there’s a question on that.

"Of course, we’re disappointed if he’s got a problem. It looks like it’s in the abductor area. He came in on the back of not playing for two weeks, so it’s not about overload. But I hate sending players back to their clubs injured."

Further injuries to Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier and Reece James saw England select an inexperienced back-four, with Ezri Konsa making his first international start alongside Lewis Dunk.

Southgate praised Konsa, as well as fellow debutants Ivan Toney, who scored a first-half penalty, and 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo, who was named man-of-the-match after a standout display.

“The great thing is definitely some players have emerged positively from the opportunities they’ve had,” Southgate said.

“We’ve perhaps got more depth in one respect, but the injuries are a concern. We’ve got so many players missing at the moment, and we’ve still got the real heat of the season to come, with the intensity of the games, what’s resting on the games.

“We’re not going to know what we’re left with until right until the end but we’ll just have to make the best decisions that we possibly can.”

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