Adam Johnson has warned Manchester City's rivals that this is a club with plenty in reserve and one that can only get better. The England winger said that Roberto Mancini's influence was now being felt on and off the pitch and that, as the season moved into its business phase, excitement within the home dressing room at Eastlands was building.
Tuesday night's defeat of Leicester in the FA Cup was the fourth time Manchester City have scored four in the last two months and with Wayne Bridge offloaded to West Ham, Roque Santa Cruz returned to Blackburn and Shaun Wright-Phillips on the verge of a move to either Fulham or Newcastle, Mancini is starting to trim the fat from the squad he inherited 13 months ago.
"We are improving week-in and week-out and I am sure there is a lot more to come," Johnson said in the wake of their 4-2 defeat of Leicester. "Sometimes the final passes have let us down but some of the football has been different class and it all seems to be clicking for us.
"We are getting better with each game. Every game we win is a step closer. Excitement is building now; all the lads can feel it. We just want matches to keep coming now. Hopefully, it will lead us to win one of the cup competitions or the Premier League."
There is a determination to bring some form of silverware back to Eastlands, whether that is the Europa League, the FA Cup or the Premier League title. It is partly to thank Abu Dhabi United for an investment that on Tuesday night produced the most expensively assembled side ever to take part in the FA Cup but also for the supporters. Mancini is aware of the banner at Old Trafford's Stretford End that now reads that City have gone 35 years without a trophy.
They are 4-1 favourites with William Hill to win the Europa League, 5-1 second favourites for the FA Cup – behind Manchester United – but 6-1 third favourites for the Premier League, where they are level on points with their Manchester rivals at the top; albeit having played two games more.
An analysis of City's results shows a disciplined and very Italian pattern. Mancini's team have won only one of their half-dozen matches against the Premier League's top six and have scored only once in nine hours of football. Against the rest, they have won 12 of their 17 fixtures, scored 36 times and registered a positive goal difference of 21. When Joe Cole joined Liverpool, he said that Jose Mourinho's mantra at Chelsea had been to beat the bottom 10 home and away – the other fixtures could take care of themselves.
City's rivals might hope that the collection of expensive egos in the home dressing room at Eastlands will create so much friction that the whole project comes crashing down. But, although critics point to the clashes between Carlos Tevez and Mancini over training methods and time off, Johnson argued that anyone who doubted the unity within the club should spend some time in the dressing room.
"Edin Dzeko's English is brilliant so he has settled in straight away with the boys and with the banter," he said. "He set up a goal on Saturday against Wolves and was disappointed not to get on the scoresheet. But he is only going to get better.
"Ever since I signed from Middlesbrough, I have felt the spirit has been fantastic. I know a lot's been made of it [the public rows] but if someone comes into the dressing room they would see the spirit and the banter we have – and the better we do, the closer the lads are going to get."