Manchester City players held summit to revive their season

Manchester City's players in a huddle before their win at Everton

Manchester City’s senior players held a summit meeting last month to ensure no one played the “victim card” or made “excuses” in the wake of a poor run of results that threatened hopes of a fourth successive Premier League title.

Nathan Ake has disclosed in an exclusive interview with Telegraph Sport how the City captains’ group led by Kyle Walker, Kevin De Bruyne, Ruben Dias, Rodri and Bernardo Silva convened the crunch talks in a bid to kickstart their flagging season.

Three successive Premier League draws against Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, during which time City shipped eight goals, and a 3-2 Champions League comeback victory against RB Leipzig when they were forced to come from 2-0 down were followed by a 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa on Dec 6.

It led to City dropping to fourth in the table, six points adrift of then leaders Arsenal, and triggered a dressing-room inquest in echoes of the crisis meeting former captain Fernandinho called on Jan 1 four years ago that ultimately transformed their season.

“We had a big get together organised by the captains and we had a good talk with each other,” Ake explained.

“Not to hammer each other but to be honest that everyone has to look at themselves to see what we can do better because this is not what we want.

“We want to win games and get the season going again and we had to do it now while there were still so many games to go.

“The time was still there to do it because we would rather have had the conversation then than in five weeks when we could have been even more points behind.”

Back-to-back wins against Everton and Sheffield United over Christmas steadied the ship and last season’s treble winners have the chance to move to within two points of leaders Liverpool by beating Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Saturday.

Ake said there was an acceptance that City had been unlucky in some cases but the leadership group wanted to kill any possibility of self-pity or complacency.

Julian Alvarez celebrates with his Man City team-mates after scoring against Sheffield United
City have got back on track in the Premier League with wins over Everton and Sheffield United - Getty Images/Jan Kruger

“We talked a couple of times with the players together to get to grips with it,” he said. “We know we weren’t playing too badly. But we weren’t getting the points and all of us expect from each other that we get points, we defend better and look at yourself for why we are conceding so many goals.

“They weren’t necessarily great goals [from the opponents] - many were deflections or those kind of things - but it still happened so [we asked] why did it happen this year and not last year?

“We talked with each other about it to try to understand and make sure everyone was on the same page - that we don’t just play the victim card of deflections or a difficult moment.”

Ake disclosed that the floor was open for all players to speak and raise any concerns - as had been the case in January 2021 during what Fernandinho described as an “emergency” meeting that helped to inspire a 21-match winning streak and third Premier League title under Pep Guardiola.

“We have to do better as individual players and defenders but everyone was allowed to say whatever they wanted and we picked it up,” he said.

“We set the standards really high for ourselves. Obviously the manager [Guardiola] is on top of it but we want to achieve good things as well and always make sure that, no matter what, we want to keep the standards high and not let excuses or injuries creep in for performances. So it’s a good thing that we still have this character to keep going.”

Ake said City had been emboldened in part by their rivals’ failure to take full advantage of their five-week blip in form in November and December.

“We struggled a bit at one point but the gap is not too big so that motivated us as well,” he said. “[The attitude was] ‘Ok, win these two games [Everton and Sheffield United] and we’re there again and can compete again’, knowing normally towards the end of the season we start to kick on and hopefully we’re going to do the same.”

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