Kyle Walker pays tribute to City’s winning mentality

KYLE WALKER has spelled out the importance of Manchester City’s experience and winning mentality as Pep Guardiola’s men close in on a fourth successive Premier League title.

Tuesday night’s 2-0 win at Tottenham took City two points clear of Arsenal ahead of Sunday’s final game, with City hot favourites to confirm another title with by beating West Ham at home.

But Walker is also mindful that City were in a similar situation two years ago and went 2-0 behind to Aston Villa before Ilkay Gundogan scored twice to seal a 3-2 win that pipped Liverpool to the title.

After beating his former club Spurs, Walker warned City’s fans. “We all know what it means to us as players, and to this great football club we represent that we’ve given ourselves the opportunity on Sunday to win in front of our home crowd. But that’s far from me saying it is done.

“I was there on the bench when Villa went and scored two against us and we were scrambling, looking for moments of genius so we’re full of focus. We’ve got three days to prepare for another final to finish off a tough graft of a season, 38 games.”

Walker admitted he barely slept before the Spurs game, adding: “I think that maybe sometimes people forget we’re humans and the emotion, the nerves, the adrenaline, everything’s running through your body. I couldn’t sleep on Monday night. Everything’s going through your head, and I tried to get an hour at the hotel before kick-off.”

Walker said Guardiola’s half-time pep talk made a difference after an indifferent first half at Tottenham. “He said as long as we can look each other in the eyes come the end of the game and say that we’ve done our best that’s all that he asks. He’s not going to judge us on this one game. Because what we’ve done, you know as a collective over the last number of years has been fantastic. But go out and make sure that you give it your all and you leave everything on the pitch.”

And Walker paid tribute to City’s mentality and experience again. “Obviously experience helps. We’ve been there with England where you go from certain phases of the journey that you come through together. As soon as you look to your left, look right, up at the top you’ve got experienced players that have won a lot of things with you either at club level or country as well.

“So you lean on other people as well. People probably look to the more senior members that have been here for a number of years that have been very fortunate to win it a few times. But it’s a collective game out there. We are all a team. It’s not tennis. It’s not a solo sport. And you can see that from the contribution from Jeremy Doku when he came on and won the penalty, the contribution from Stefan Ortega, he made a massive save, we’re all in it together. And it’s not just the 11 that start you know, it’s a collective thing.

He added not sleeping is not unusual for him. “No, it’s the excitement and nerves, and there have been numerous nights where I can’t sleep because I’m excited for the game. If you don’t like playing in these games shouldn’t play football. These are the pressure games that you want to play in and this is what separates really good players from average players, that you can cope with the tense atmosphere and the pressure of the club on you. They pay us well, we’re professionals and we need to provide for this club like we have done over the last number of years.”

To avoid another Villa scenario, Walker had a simple tip: “Don’t go 2-0 down! Don’t put yourself in that situation where you’re scrambling to get something or for Gundo to come up with Zidane moments. It’s as simple as that.”

And he revealed how he, as a senior player, sometimes has to chivvy along others. “There’s always points in the season where you need to have some sort of words. You don’t go a full campaign with everything going well. So there are times where you lean on certain players around you, and you’re going to have a quiet word with another individual or collectively.

“It’s not because it’s a personal thing and sometimes, other members from the captains group or anyone can come in and have a word with me if they don’t think I’m pulling my weight. All I want is the best for the club, the best for for each other. When there are times we don’t get the result that we want, they are still working their socks off but no-one sees that. They see the Instagrams and that, but no-one sees the graft that these loads have to dedicate themselves to live every day competing in all the competitions. We’re travelling here, there and everywhere to win the competitions that we’ve been fortunate to win. And it’s hard work.

“I’m not saying Arsenal don’t do that – they do do that as well because I know Mikel Arteta and the lads there, and they will put in the hard work and dedication. So whoever wins the Premier League come Sunday, it’s because they deserve to win it. So may the best team win.”

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