Have you ever heard of the concept of a Post Turtle? ​

The quote, and it's been attributed to a whole heap of people throughout history, runs something like this. 

"When you're driving down a country road and you see a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle. You know he didn't get up there by himself. He doesn't belong there; you wonder who put him there; he can't get anything done while he's up there; and you just want to help the poor, dumb thing down."

John Stones

John Stones is the Premier League's Post Turtle. Except we know the name of the cruel bastard who put him up there, and it was the villainous Pep Guardiola. 

The bald-bonced baddy made Stones, the doe-eyed lynchpin of an Everton defence who had conceded more goals than any other team outside the bottom five the previous season, the second most expensive defender of all time, shortly after his 22nd birthday. That was Guardiola picking the Stones-Turtle up, glancing around and seeing a hunk of wood in the distance. 

Stones started 27 games that season before 21st February. He started his 28th on 21st February, against Monaco in the Champions League at the Etihad. After an hour and two seconds of that match, Thomas Lemar pinged a long ball forward to Radamel Falcao to break open a counter-attack. Ten seconds later, Stones was watching while sat on his skinny arse on the edge of the box as Falcao chipped Willy Caballero. 

Radamel Falcao,John Stones

The Colombian, one of the game's less mobile strikers at this point in his career, had isolated the boy wonder, turned him inside out and sat him down. And scored. In the Champions League. In front of everyone. That was the poor, helpless turtle sat atop his elevated perch, waggling his flippers about in what reptile specialists later speculated 'might have been turtle sign language for "what the bollocks is going on here, and why is the ground the wrong height?"'

The blame isn't on the turtle. The blame has to fall to the man who has a tracked, recorded history of picking up shelled animals and trapping them at heights they should never naturally reach. Or in English – Pep Guardiola is absolutely awful at buying centre-backs, and it's one of maybe three flaws that he has (the other two are his teams' habits of falling away after 2-3 seasons and baldness). 

Mehdi Benatia on a five-year deal for €26m at Bayern. Dmytro Chygrynskiy(!?!) for €25m at Barcelona. Martín Cáceres for €16.5m at Barcelona. 

Aymeric Laporte is the only centre-back Pep Guardiola has ever spent more than €10m on who could be considered even mildly successful. The man's been a first-team manager for more than a decade. 

He's made one good signing for the spot of 'first-team centre-back'. In more than a decade.


Wonder why Guardiola's teams fall away after two or three years? Maybe it's because he runs out of the good centre-backs the previous manager's left him and has to rely on his own transfer-market wiles, and they're sorely lacking in that specific position. 

Stones was bought on potential, and for his willingness to play out from the back (not quality of play out of the back, just the fact that he wanted to do it). He was the player we've seen a thousand times – the defender who looks good in a bad team, because they've got loads to do. 

Then Pep Guardiola's City paid £50m for him and stuck him on top of a fence post. 

Everything that City fans have seen from Stones in the last three and a half years is a direct product of this. None of this is really his fault, he was just elevated beyond his ability and put on display in front of the whole world – and the man who put him there doesn't know how to find someone to replace him. 

To answer the headline question, what's going on (buddy) with John Stones? He's not an exceptional defender. That's it. There's no deeper meaning, he hasn't suddenly dipped in quality at any point, he just isn't that good. When surrounded by worse players he looked better – especially when everyone but Everton fans only watched him a handful of times a season – and then when he was put into a good team and challenged, it became obvious that he was not good enough. 

John Stones

Any blame for Stones' career trajectory can be placed fairly squarely at the feet of Guardiola. A coach who 'improves players' hasn't made him any better in three and a half years of working together. He signed someone who wasn't good enough, and let his bad habit become so ingrained that now, at the age of 25, they're probably not fixable. 

Fancy him, Arsenal?

For more from Chris Deeley, follow him on Twitter at @ThatChris1209!