Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Joe Bray

Jack Grealish and Nathan Ake have just told two Man City signings how to change Pep Guardiola's mind

Erling Haaland has ripped up the record book this season and also emphatically proved wrong a few misconceptions about Manchester City.

Of course, City can play with a number nine, and are better with Haaland in the side. Those two notions were never really in doubt, but have been used as a curious stick to beat him with. In truth, anyone suggesting Haaland is making City worse or is at the wrong club clearly hasn't seen them play this season.

Maybe the only trend he's successfully bucked is making such a significant impact so soon in his City career. He only needs to look around the team for players who needed time to adapt, when it took Haaland all of one Community Shield outing. In that respect, Haaland is a significant outlier in a group of similar cases.

ALSO READ: Jack Grealish wants even more Man City game time after repaying Pep Guardiola faith

Of the City regulars this season, almost all can admit they needed around a season to fully adapt to Pep Guardiola's demands. Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, Rodri, Aymeric Laporte, Jack Grealish and Nathan Ake all struggled initially when they first signed. Phil Foden was given as much time as he needed to get ready for first-team football under Guardiola, while the likes of John Stones, Kyle Walker and even Kevin De Bruyne have had to re-adapt their game at times to the manager's demands.

Even Sergio Aguero - a candidate for City's greatest-ever player - had to re-learn and mould his game to Guardiola rather than vice-versa. Haaland hasn't needed to do that.

But the flip side of Haaland's brilliance is that many players have to be given the time to adapt to their new surroundings, new expectations, and a manager like no other. Grealish has started 13 of City's last 15 games, but before that was firmly second choice on the wing. Until this season, Ake has never been given the luxury of regular starts or a regular position.

Only now have both been given a run of games are they showing what they have learned.

“In the back of my mind the fact that Pep is trusting me in big games helps the confidence,” Grealish said this week. “And I do feel I have repaid him, played my part, done well. And I think that is why he is keeping me in the team.

“When you feel fit and you are playing a lot of games, you just feel good in yourself and that’s what I’m doing at the moment. When you are playing week in, week out, it is so much easier to have a rhythm. That’s what I have at the moment.

“I think it’s a confidence thing really. At the moment, I feel like one of the main players, and I’m the fittest I have been. That comes down to playing a lot of games on the bounce and playing in big games."

Fitness is something Guardiola has praised Ake for, as well as his impeccable attitude. By keeping fit, maintaining a positive outlook, and working hard behind the scenes, the Dutchman has become a key figure in the defence this season and a revelation at left-back.

When Ake was discussing his City form on international duty this week, his boss Ronald Koeman interrupted to add: "I want to add something. I find it incredible the way Aké has developed himself. He is an example of what we want."

Guardiola has also praised Ake's self-resolve, as he and Grealish have both shown the value of biding their time, and taking their chances when it comes.

For players like Kalvin Phillips and Sergio Gomez - both a year or two behind in learning the ropes and in similar positions to where Ake and Grealish have been - they must take confidence from the fact that there is a pathway to regular starts, even if it appears unlikely now.

Guardiola clearly notices how players are acting when not in the team, and rewards those who put the work in. Don't expect Grealish or Ake to relinquish their places after working so hard to earn them - however they can also be used as case studies for anyone in the same position they were 12 months ago.


Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.