EPL

Kyle Walker focused on the future after unforgettable year for Manchester City

By Sports Desk December 28, 2023

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.

 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Kyle Walker (@kylewalker2)

 

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.”

Related items

  • 'Anyone would have him!' – Casillas excited to see Mbappe at Real Madrid 'Anyone would have him!' – Casillas excited to see Mbappe at Real Madrid

    Former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas believes the European champions have brought in someone special with the signing of Kylian Mbappe.

    France star Mbappe announced he was leaving Paris Saint-Germain in May before making the move to Madrid earlier this month, ending a years-long transfer saga involving the two teams and the striker.

    The 25-year-old has signed a five-year contract with the winners of LaLiga, who he will join as a free agent in July after his contract with PSG expires, with Brazil sensation Endrick also set to arrive in the Spanish capital.

    With Mbappe joining a side containing a wealth of talent already, which recently captured the Champions League, Casillas is impressed by the squad that Madrid have put together.

    "Mbappe is a very good player," Casillas said. "Everyone wants to have him; anyone would have him in their respective team.

    "Real Madrid have a brilliant president and brilliant people around them. Forming a team like this is something impressive.

    "You can learn a little from the past and in that sense give some continuity to the team as a great club with great players.

    "Real Madrid has them. We will see how they continue to mesh and how they can continue giving joy to the fans."

    Mbappe was tipped to be one of the most influential players at Euro 2024, but his tournament looked in danger of ending early when he suffered a broken nose in France’s opening game against Austria.

    "With Mbappe out, France may suffer a little," two-time Euros champion Casillas added, with Mbappe's status for France's next matches uncertain.

    "But France have a team with very good players and there has been a bit of a revolution by Didier Deschamps.

    "So France can certainly still be a contender and get to the final of the Euros, but we now must see if France can play as well without him."

    Spain are the only team to win back-to-back editions of the European Championships, with Casillas captaining the side in both 2008 and 2012, while also leading them to World Cup glory in 2010.

    This year, Spain have a more youthful look to the squad, with Lamine Yamal becoming the youngest-ever player to appear at the Euros at 16 years and 338 days old.

    The teenager got an assist in Spain’s 3-0 win over Croatia in their first match of the tournament, and Casillas is pleased to see Luis de la Fuente giving young players a chance on the big stage.

    He said: "It is good to see that young players continue to emerge in football in Spain and are being considered stars of the future. It is good for the entire team.

    "Only [Yamal] can prove if he will be a great player - solely and exclusively, him, and of course, the trust and effort that goes in.

    "Let's see, with the confidence and maturity he has, plus the other team-mates who will support him, if he can become a very good player for Spain.

    "We know that the strength of the team comes from the depth and we need to continue having these players emerge."
     

    Iker Casillas is a brand ambassador for Hisense's UEFA EURO 2024 campaign BEYOND GLORY which celebrates the relentless pursuit of excellence shared by professional footballers aiming for EURO honours and Hisense’s commitment to pushing boundaries in the home appliance industry.

  • Spalletti: Italy will not make 'mistake' of underestimating Spain Spalletti: Italy will not make 'mistake' of underestimating Spain

    Luciano Spalletti says Italy will be true to their identity but will not make the "huge mistake" of underestimating Spain in their heavyweight Group B clash.

    Italy opened Euro 2024 with a 2-1 win over Albania on Saturday, coming from behind after conceding the fastest goal ever scored in the tournament's history after 23 seconds.

    Spain, meanwhile, cruised to a 3-0 victory over Croatia, leaving both sides joint-top of the group going into their meeting in Gelsenkirchen on Thursday.

    The winner of the tie will take a big step towards qualifying top of the group, earning the theoretically easier pathway through the knockout stages.

    Asked how Italy were planning to deal with the threat Spain posed, Spalletti instead chose to praise their opponents for their style of play.

    "We have the utmost respect for Spain's history and prestige and the quality of this current crop of players," the head coach said. "But we mustn't think that you're better than you actually are. That would be a huge mistake.

    "We are dressed in Giorgio Armani and Giorgio Armani is world-famous. So, we go there with the same suit, try and be true to our identity and play the same way.

    "But, of course, we need to show the same desire as our opposition to test ourselves against one of the best footballing philosophies in world football.

    "Once we are off the pitch, we need to make sure we have no regrets. We need to try and play our own game in our best clothes, but we are willing to scuff up our suit if required."

    Spalletti was able to use Nicolo Barella in their opening game, with the midfielder starting and scoring after emerging as a major doubt through injury in the build-up to the tournament.

    The 65-year-old was keeping his cards close to his chest about his team selection for Thursday's game.

    "I've not had any news on who's starting for Spain," Spalletti added.

    "It is one of the most important matches of my career. I've already been through some important games, but this is certainly one of those that's right up there.

    "We all have a story to tell. And when the players get to my age, they will know that they need to have stories to tell, and this is one of those matches which could give them a tale to tell in the future."

  • Croatia 2-2 Albania: Gjasula the hero as he salvages late point for Eagles Croatia 2-2 Albania: Gjasula the hero as he salvages late point for Eagles

    Klaus Gjasula went from villain to hero for Albania after cancelling out his own goal with an equaliser in stoppage time to salvage a point in a 2-2 draw with Croatia.

    It looked like Ante Budimir had inspired Croatia to a comeback win, playing a part in two goals in two minutes after Qazim Laci's early strike, but they could not hold on.

    Albania led after just 11 minutes as Jasir Asani curled a delightful cross into the near post for Laci, who glanced his header past Dominik Livakovic at his near post.

    They should have been 3-0 up at the break; Croatia were cut open by Asani's throughball, but Kristjan Asllani's drilled effort was straight at the goalkeeper, who later held onto Rey Manaj's flicked header.

    Zlatko Dalic's side came out determined for the second half, but it was not until Budimir's introduction in the 69th minute that it all came together.

    Five minutes later, he deftly flicked the ball to Kramaric, who wrong-footed Thomas Strakosha to slot an equaliser into the bottom corner to mark his 33rd birthday.

    Just like against Italy on Saturday, Albania struggled to regain their composure. Moments later, Budimir's cutback was struck by Luka Susic, but Berat Djimsiti's block bounced off the unfortunate Gjasula and into the back of the net.

    Deep into stoppage time, Gjasula atoned for that incident, latching onto Mario Mitaj's cross to sweep a low shot past Livakovic and into the bottom-left corner.

    Data Debrief: Substitutes light up the game

    Gjasula is just the second player to score a goal and an own goal in a single game at the Euros, after Anton Ondrus for Czechoslovakia against the Netherlands in 1976.

    Despite only playing for 21 minutes, Budimir's introduction also proved an inspired choice by Dalic. Only Andrej Kramaric (three in 90 minutes) created more chances for Croatia than the substitute (two).

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.