MANCHESTER ENGLAND - JANUARY 18: Yuki Abe of Leicester City competes with Patrick Viera of Manchester City during the FA Cup sponsored by E.On Third Round Replay match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the City of Manchester Stadium on January 18 2011 in Manchester England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
There is a nice interview with Patrick Vieira in yesterdays MEN, in which he primarily talks about the FA Cup and the meaning of the competition to players (particularly foreign ones) but provides a glimpse into the mentality of the City side:
"We are a group of winners. You can have all the talent but if you don't have winners in your team it is really difficult to win something.
"Vincent Kompany is a winner, Nigel de Jong is a winner, Carlos Tevez is a winner, Joe Hart is a winner, Aleks Kolarov is a winner. In every position, everybody wants to win. With these kinds of players, the fans can be proud.
"The future looks really good."
It is a very valid point that Vieira makes here and is a sign of a changing dynamic within the squad.
Of course, the riches that have arrived at the club allows you to bring in talent on the pitch, but it is important that this is coupled with the required mentality too. Vieira, who Mancini knows well from his time at Inter is a key part of this shift. Despite not featuring regularly (and when he has doesn't quite look up to scratch if we're being truthful) Vieira is a key component. Brought in as much for his off the pitch influence, It is highly likely his attitude and work ethics rub off on players like Micah Richards.
Vieira, when referring to 'winners' does not mean solely in the sense of trophies and awards (although the side does now possess plenty in this regard) but in terms of their focus, application and drive. To credit Mark Hughes, it was something he began to implement a couple of years ago after inheriting a largely directionless, and some would say listless squad. Tough decisions - not universally popular - were made, but he set the ball rolling; Shay Given, Craig Bellamy, Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong were added. This was built upon even further when the likes of Kolo Toure and Carlos Tevez arrived.
Roberto Mancini has come in and taken this a stage further, A bigger name in the mangerial world, his standing can bring better players in naturally, but Jerome Boateng, Aleksandar Kolarov, Mario Balotelli, David Silva and now Edin Dzeko all have huge upside in terms of potential and ability to get better as players, but as much as anything is was their mentality that attracted Mancini.
Despite continued reports of unrest in the camp and instances of training ground clashes, what cannot be denied is that on the pitch the side looks a focussed one, clearly buying into Mancini's ethos and instruction and appear to be a cogent, unified team. After all, would they be second in the table at this stge (not to mention enjoying Cup progression) if they weren't?
Whilt City have had good starts in previous seasons until around the Christmas period, they have often fell away; unable to sustain early promise. It is imperative that they do not stand still on what has been achieved this season to date but kick on at this stage at a time when you know that United, Chelsea and Arsenal traditionally come to the fore. This is where City are still novices, untried and untested when the pressure and expectation of mounting a title challenge really kick in.
If Vieira's assertion is correct though, this City side has the necessary smarts as well as the ability to go far.