These errors have become all too common for a central defender that club sources were talking up as possessing the attributes required to become one of Europe’s finest early last season.
John Stones put the Carabao Cup final howler behind him against Sheffield Wednesday
While the defender was not imperious, he became increasingly more assured at the back
Now, 18 months on, City are having to start all over again as they attempt to coax back some semblance of his best form.
It offers context to the big man hug Stones received from Guardiola on the Wembley turf, a double embrace to underline how pleased he was that the 25-year-old had reacted positively following the mistake.
The loss of form is largely owing to a mental block and one that Stones has not yet recovered from; he needs encouragement.
Perhaps the most significant and enduring example of a confidence dip is how Stones is now a defender who does not maraud out from the back, taking risks when progressing into midfield.
The defender was relieved to see his mistake against Aston Villa didn’t cost City the game
That change in perspective would have been unthinkable when he arrived from Everton for £47.5million four years ago.
Stones was not even named on the City bench at Real Madrid. Wednesday night was his first start alongside Nicolas Otamendi since the shock defeat at Norwich City back in September.
Yet he has to hope that the coming weeks – with Aymeric Laporte again sidelined through injury and Fernandinho’s workload being managed – can kickstart his time at the Etihad Stadium, particularly with the European Championship on the horizon and England’s dearth of genuine defensive quality.
Errors have become too common for the defender City hoped would be one of Euope’s best
It would be wrong to claim that Stones looks completely sure of himself right now, with nervous misplaced or under-hit passes prevalent during the early exchanges of this tie.
He did, however, become increasingly more assured and only flustered when on the half-turn.
Stones competently swept up on the cover when Sheffield Wednesday broke and made sure aerial battles were won.
Wednesday were by no means menacing on a fairly quiet night but for Stones, it is about baby steps.
Stones competently swept up on the cover when Sheffield Wednesday broke