Player: John Stones #26
Games Played: 23; Games Started: 23; Goals: 1; Assists: 0; Shots: 5; Fouls: 6; Fouls Suffered: 11; Yellow Cards: 1; Red Cards: 0
2014-15 was a struggle for Everton as a whole, but John Stones is among the few Toffees who ought to remember it fondly. Stones, who turns 21 today, entered the season as a promising youngster who would likely split time with Sylvain Distin for the right to play alongside Phil Jagielka at the back.
By mid-season though, Stones had put a firm grasp on a starting position, starting all but two of Everton's Premier League matches in 2015.
In recognition of his breakout season, Stones was named the Player of the Year at the Supporters' Clubs Awards and awarded with the Young Player of the Season award at Everton's 10th Annual End of Season Awards.
What He Did Well
Stones, to put things simply, proved this season that he is a smart, effective defender. He committed only six fouls in 2044 minutes of Premier League play this season. To put that number in perspective, consider that Antolin Alcaraz committed five fouls in 527 minutes of Premier League play.
It is hard to quantify a defender's contributions, particularly a central defender's contributions, but one particularly interesting way to look at what Stones meant to Everton this season is to see what happened in matches in which Stones did not play. Nearly every exceedingly poor match Everton had at the back during 2014-15 occurred with Stones out of the lineup.
He did not appear in September's 6-3 loss to Chelsea, nor the 3-0 loss to Southampton and 3-2 loss to Newcastle during the holiday period. He did not play in the Toffees' 3-0 loss to Swansea in the League Cup, nor the 5-2 embarrassment in Ukraine against Dynamo Kiev.
Everton conceded more than two goals in seven games this season. Stones played 90 minutes in only one of those matches. So, it seems safe to say that Stones was vital to Everton's defensive success (or lack thereof in his absence).
What He Could Have Done Better
Stones is an incredibly confident player whose history as a right-back is evident when he has the ball at his feet. But, he does occasionally get himself into trouble while trying to make a play in possession. His ball skills are impressive, and he ought to use them, but Stones does have a little work to do in terms of learning when is not the right time to take a chance with a pass or dribble.
Additionally, given Stones' size (6'2"/188 cm), he ought to be a bigger threat on set pieces than he was this season. His only goal of the campaign came on a corner kick in a 3-0 victory against Manchester United, but Roberto Martinez will surely hope he can be a more constant threat in those situations next season.
In fairness, these are two relatively small qualms to raise against a central defender, particularly one who is still as young as Stones is.
What do you think of John Stones' season?
In the poll below, give the young English defender a grade from A+ to F, with 'A+' being absolutely remarkable, 'C' being average, and 'F' being completely unacceptable.
Also add your comments below!