Liverpool legend Graeme Souness believes Manchester City‘s failure to sign a centre-back last summer cost them dearly in the Premier League title race. City lost legendary captain Vincent Kompany at the end of his contract before the start of this season. However, the Etihad club decided against replacing Kompany in the transfer window.
City then lost star centre-back Aymeric Laporte for over five months due to a knee injury.
Influential midfielder Fernandinho was forced to play at the back, with John Stones struggling with injuries and form.
Laporte returned to fitness towards the end of January but the damage had already been done in the title race, with Liverpool ultimately claiming top spot with a record-breaking seven games of the season remaining.
And Souness says Laporte was the last player Guardiola would have wanted to be without from his squad.
“Even if Kompany had stayed, getting 15 to 20 games out of him, they were still a centre-half short.
“So with Kompany going and Laporte having his long-term injury, that cost them dearly, big time.”
Stones was given a start for the visit of Bournemouth on Wednesday.
Souness says the 26-year-old is a top player but is missing one vital ingredient as a defender.
“I think he’s got everything to be a top, top player except one thing, which is his decision-making at the right time,” Souness added.
“He’s quick, he can head the ball, he’s athletic, he’s very good on the ball but it’s that decision-making.
“I would imagine he’s really got to show that he can step up.
“But I’ll come back to it, I think he’s got everything in his locker to be a top, top player.
“There’s nothing he can’t do except that critical decision-making at vital times.”
Guardiola said it was an opportunity for Stones to prove his worth.
“Yeah, of course [it is an opportunity],” Guardiola told Sky Sports.
“He knows that we trust a lot with him but there were many, many, many months injured and it’s difficult to take the rhythm.
“But he played the last [few] games, last game 30 minutes, the game before playing 90 and today he is going to play again. So it’s good for him.”
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