Defender Kyle Walker insists Manchester City have now drawn a line under their stellar achievements in 2023 and have set their sights on a strong second half to the season.
Capturing the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia last week “finished the piece” in Walker’s eyes in a year when a first Champions League title followed Premier League and FA Cup triumphs, with the UEFA Super Cup added for good measure in August.
Questions have been asked about whether Pep Guardiola’s side are lacking something this season after a run of one win in six Premier League matches, but the come-from-behind 3-1 win at Everton showed they are a long way from giving up on their title defence.
And Walker believes with 20 matches still to come, trailing leaders Liverpool by five points, now is when City will come into their own.
“On the back of winning the Champions League we desperately wanted to win (in Saudi) and finish off the piece. It was good to go and finally tick that off the list,” said the 33-year-old.
“It’s important now to draw a line under it and it’s a big end to the season when we’re in the competition we want to fight for again.
“I don’t think there was many things going wrong on the field except the results. We were playing well, but this game is about winning and we weren’t doing that.
“But that’s football and in the Premier League you can never let your guard down, you’ve got to keep going until the last minute.”
The winning mentality of City’s players is one thing which is not in question after the consistency they have shown over several seasons and that was in evidence again at Goodison Park after falling behind to the Toffees’ first attempt on goal in the first half despite dominating.
Brilliant goals from the impressive Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva either side of a Julian Alvarez penalty turned things around to move City back into the top four and set their sights on the summit again.
“I think it shows the determination and belief in this squad. That’s what this team is all about, digging in, not quitting,” added Walker.
“We’re all good players, we can all play out there, but when the going gets tough it’s about a collective team performance that gets each individual if they’ve made a mistake or they’re doing well, to get you out of that stuff.”
Foden’s performance, playing centrally, was certainly a major factor in the turnaround and not just because of his goal.
In the extended absence of Kevin De Bruyne, who is edging closer to a comeback after a hamstring injury sustained in August, City have at times lacked that creative spark and the England international is one who can give them that.
“Phil’s unbelievable, the talent that boy possesses is incredible, but with this manager and this team and the calibre of players we’ve got, Phil needs to do it week in and week out,” said Walker.
“I think this season he’s really come into his own and took the responsibility on, where we’re missing Kevin or Gundo or Riyad (departed duo Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez).
“But I’m not patting him on the back. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing because I think the sky is the limit for him.
“Resting on a couple of good games is not going to put you in that calibre of the best footballers in the world.
“He’s got the potential, he needs to make sure the drive is still there, he keeps concentrating, keeps putting in the performances that he is doing.”