City will return to competition under a new manager in August - in all likelihood outgoing Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini - after Roberto Mancini paid the price for last season's perceived underachievement.
Zabaleta feels the players must shoulder some of the responsibility for falling below expectations and has promised improvement next term.
City surrendered the Barclays Premier League crown they won last year to Manchester United, failed to make an impression in the Champions League and were beaten by unfancied Wigan in the FA Cup final.
Zabaleta said: "It is hard when you don't win trophies and when you look at the squad you probably expect to win trophies.
"We missed the FA Cup, that was the only competition we had a chance to win.
"It is hard but now we need to move on, wait for the new manager and keep working hard to come back stronger next season.
"When we look at the players we have got, we have got great individual players but that is not enough - we need to keep working hard to keep the winning mentality going.
"This is something probably we didn't show this season. We need to learn from our mistakes and try to do better next season."