John Stones hailed the defensive shift Manchester City put in against Chelsea to secure a valuable 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.
Riyad Mahrez’s goal in the 63rd minute moved Pep Guardiola’s side five points behind leaders Arsenal, with City bouncing back after a disappointing 1-1 draw against Everton on New Year’s Eve.
While there has been an abundance of praise for City’s attacking play this season, and the devastating form of Erling Haaland, it was at the other end where the defending champions had to make their mark.
The display from Stones was an integral part of Thursday’s performance as he made a number of crucial interventions, and the England international revealed defence has been an area of focus in recent training sessions.
“It’s a big three points for us. After the other day, the overriding feeling from the game was that we’d dropped two points and we should have got more out of the game,” Stones told Sky Sports.
“We wanted to put it right today and how we played in the second half especially was brilliant. To come away with three points is just what we needed.
“We rushed a lot of our play in the first half, we had too many crucial passes that got cut out, and we didn’t retain the ball as well as we usually do.
“We spoke at half-time, we knew we had to use the ball better and wait for spaces to open. Credit to Chelsea, they played really compact, we couldn’t get too many balls through the lines, we had to play wider, and it all came together in the second half.
“There were a few big moments, blocks and defending that we’ve been working on in training, and it came off today.”
1 – Against Chelsea, John Stones had the most touches of any player (102), completed 98% of his passes (85/87), won all of his aerial duels (4/4), and made the most clearances of any Manchester City player (4). Rock.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe)