Southgate questioned for playing Stones so close to Man City’s Arsenal showdown

John Stones is a doubt for Man City vs Arsenal (Imago/David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)


Joe Gomez replaced John Stones in the first half of England's friendly with Belgium at Wembley (Imago/David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Southgate questioned for playing Stones so close to Man City’s Arsenal showdown

Seye Omidiora 10:57 - 27.03.2024

The Englishman went off early against Belgium on Tuesday, prompting ex-Chelsea midfielder Craig Burley to criticise the Three Lions boss for starting the defender in another friendly.

England manager Gareth Southgate has come under fire for his decision to start John Stones against Belgium on Tuesday.

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John Stones' injury

The Three Lions centre-back was withdrawn 10 minutes into the game at Wembley Stadium, with Joseph Gomez replacing the Manchester City man in the eventual 2-2 draw.

John Stones
Jeremy Doku checks on Man City teammate John Stones before the defender's substitution in England's friendly with Belgium (Imago/David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Southgate divulged at full-time that the 29-year-old seemingly suffered an adductor problem, forcing last year's treble winner off after 10 minutes.

"John also came in on the back of not having played for two weeks, so it’s not that it’s an overload situation,” said Southgate after the 2-2 draw.

“The first game (against Brazil) for him wasn’t a game that was a high level in terms of the intensity. Of course, we’re disappointed if he’s got a problem, it seems to be in the adductor area, so we just have to see.”

When will John Stones return?

No update has been provided at the time of writing, and the Man City man will be assessed after international duty to determine the severity of the issue sustained on Tuesday night.

Burley criticises Southgate for overplaying Stones

Southgate’s explanation has not stopped the England manager from receiving blame, with former Scotland and Chelsea midfielder Burley bemused by the Three Lions boss starting the Stones in back-to-back friendly games.

“What’s he learning from John Stones playing?” questioned the former Chelsea midfielder. “Is he thinking maybe Stones and Lewis Dunk could be a partnership? What’s he learning from the guy playing two friendlies in a row?

“He could have played two of the less experienced players at the back to have a look at them. Now he’ll have a club manager ringing him going ‘What the hell, two friendlies!”

Ex-Scotland and Chelsea midfielder Craig Burley pictured in 2012 (Imago/Allstar)

What comes next for Stones?

The centre-back returns to Pep Guardiola’s group after the international break, keen to help the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League holders to mount a successful defence of last season’s triumphs.

If passed fit for City’s next league game, Stones should start against title-contending Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on March 31, when the hosts seek to maintain their unbeaten home streak against the North London side since January 2015.