They may have been dismantled by Arsenal at the weekend, but Joe Hart maintains Manchester City are "ridiculously good".
City's manager, Roberto Mancini, claimed the loss only underlined his belief that City were among the best sides in the country and said his players ought to be proud of their performance, reduced to 10 men after Dedryck Boyata's early dismissal. Two of his players backed up Mancini's statement with their own.
England goalkeeper Hart feels the failure of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Pablo Zabaleta, England and Argentina internationals respectively, even to make Mancini's 18-man squad for the Arsenal game shows the depth the Italian has at Eastlands. Hart also saw the return to action of 20-year-old striker Mario Balotelli, who did not look fit after two months out with a knee problem, as a positive.
Hart said the reaction to the Arsenal defeat shows how far City, who are just a point better off than they were after nine games last season, have come, even though Cesc Fabregas insisted Arsenal would still have won if Mancini had been allowed to use 15 players.
"Shaun and Zaba were not even in the squad, and I was thinking how ridiculously good our squad is, with all those players at our disposal," Hart said. "Everyone's position is being pressed, and that's a real positive for the team. The games will come thick and fast – that's the good thing about being at this club, it's so exciting. We're not clear second in the table any more but we are still up there level on points – we're level on points, second in the league and people are devastated. What does that say about this club now?"
There was less exuberance from the victors on Sunday as Fabregas said that the truth about whether this Arsenal team had finally come of age after so many false-starts would only be known at the end of the season. The Arsenal captain said that he was fed up with questions about whether the team had matured or not.
Fabregas said: "It's still early in the season. After every win it's easy to say 'Oh you are more mature' and this and that. But it's just one more game, let's not get carried away. We just want to play against Newcastle [in the Carling Cup tomorrow] now. That's it. The time to talk about whether we are better is at the end of the season.
"In football, you know what people will say when you win, and you know what people will say when you lose. You just have to keep focused, in training and in the game, give everything for the team and the rest is not up to you. We have a very good team, with lots of young players. We have to make it a great time by winning things."