Raheem Sterling revealed Manchester City “had a word” among themselves before getting back to winning ways at Southampton.
The England forward got the only goal at St Mary’s as City’s 1-0 win over the early-season high-flyers gave Pep Guardiola’s team a foothold in the title race.
On a day when Liverpool scored seven at Crystal Palace, the narrow win for Manchester City was encouraging for the visitors after back-to-back draws against Manchester United and West Brom.
And for Sterling, who admitted his own form has dipped beneath the levels he would expect, it was particularly satisfying.
He told Amazon Prime Sport: “To win games and score goals has been really, really difficult for us, but we knew how important today was and we’re just happy to get the three points.
“I just feel we had a word with ourselves. We’ve got to dig deep and find something within, because this is not the football club that we’re at. We’re a top team and we need to be competing every game.
“One of the things that’s let us down in the past couple of weeks has been our aggressiveness.
“Normally we’re a team that’s really aggressive on the front foot, no matter whether that’s on the press or with the ball. I think we play at our best when we’re on the front foot.”
It was not vintage City but they edged most areas, and will hope future games see them hit fluent scoring form.
Sterling has played exactly 1,000 minutes this season in the Premier League but has only scored four times.
His shot conversion rate is just 16 per cent, which looks distinctly average when compared to some of the early-season leading scorers. Tottenham’s Son Heung-min has put away 47.83 per cent of his chances.
However, Sterling can look at Son’s club-mate Harry Kane if he wants encouragement that his own record is not as mediocre as it may appear. Nine-goal Kane’s conversion rate is surprisingly only 18 per cent.
Sterling is level with Riyad Mahrez at the top of City’s league scoring chart this season and will hope there are many more goals to come.
“It’s a team sport,” Sterling said. “Of course, you have to look at yourself as an individual and I’m constantly doing that.
“I know I haven’t been at the level I should be, but it’s a work in progress and the team has taken a step in the right way.
“At the end of the day, it’s unpredictable and not every year you’re going to be at your best. Sometimes, you need to dig deep and that’s what makes you a player.”
Sterling insisted City were not looking at chasing the title but at building up momentum, echoing recent messages from Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.