City need to keep winning trophies – or run the risk of becoming, like Arsenal, wimps of the Premier League.
That warning came from the Blues’ new football ambassador – and old Gunners warhorse – Patrick Vieira.
The 35-year-old, who retired after City’s breakthrough season, believes the current Arsenal team is a better footballing side than the Invincibles who he skippered to the title in 2003-04 without losing a game.
But he says Arsenal were overtaken by City last season partly because the Blues have the right team balance – and Arsenal don’t.
City also train with a ferocious intensity which shocked Gael Clichy after his move from the Emirates and that has been flagged up as one reason why City have out-stripped Arsene Wenger’s side. Vieira feels there is some truth in that.
While Arsenal have tried to take the Barcelona route, City have gone for a blend more suited to the demands of the English game so are better equipped to challenge Chelsea and United.
Vieira said: “Since I left Arsenal there are new players, a new generation and maybe a new philosophy, because Arsenal play better football than we used to do in my time.
“They have the passing and the movement, and they are faster, but our team was more physical and responded better to the English game.
“We had physicality, we had creativity, we had everything, and maybe now Arsenal lack the physical aspect of the game.
“They lost that physical aspect but have gained in the technical aspect. Maybe it’s balance you need to find to win trophies.
“If you look at United, Chelsea and City, the physical aspect of the game is there. The season is really long and really hard with international weeks, and players get tired and perhaps need to work harder.
“The big problem in the last few years has been the physical difference between Arsenal and the other clubs. This Arsenal team play good football and creates chances.
“It is possible to play good football and win, but you need to believe in it. Arsenal believe in it, but they haven’t managed to win it yet.
“Barcelona have shown it is possible but the Spanish league is different to the English league, and in the Champions League how many teams are like Barcelona?
“It all depends on your philosophy of the game. In the end what is important is that when everyone works out who has won what in the last few years, even Arsenal have to believe they have played the best football but in the end they don’t win.”
Wenger is coming under increasing pressure after his six trophy-less years at Arsenal, but Vieira says City will now come under similar scrutiny after breaking their silverware hoodoo last season.
He says: “You can understand the situation of the Arsenal fans They are used to win and haven’t won anything for six years. For a big club like Arsenal it is difficult to go through a season without winning a trophy.
“It is the same for City now. We can’t go five, six years without winning a trophy, and neither can Chelsea or Liverpool because there is so much pressure at those clubs.” But Vieira feels there are exciting times ahead for the Blues – and the fact that they reached the Champions League was one reason why he decided to call it quits.
“This year will be exciting for City to play in the Champions League but it would have been difficult for me with my past injuries and at 35,” he said.
“We have made very big steps. More than winning the FA Cup, more than reaching the Champions League, it is to believe, and that is what is important after so many years without winning a trophy, to believe that things can happen at this club at long last. We’ve made a big, big step.”
The City of today is a very different animal to the team Vieira used to play against when he was at Arsenal, he says.
“We used to have to have some good games, and we used to score a lot of goals against them. I remember games after 20 minutes when were three or four-nil up and it was easy to play City but I think it has changed now.”
Vieira played a major role in that City transformation, as his wise old head and guiding hand in the dressing room were key in pushing City over the winning line in the FA Cup and in terms of Champions League qualification.
His new role as a football development ambassador involves community projects and mentoring youngsters in City’s academy.
But he will also continue to impart advice and have an influence on the first team, and one day hopes to move into coaching. “I am really close to the players still,” he said.
“I know them really well and I will be there any time they need something. I’ve been there, had good experiences, this is still a really young side. I’ve got a lot of experience to offer them. So I will be in and around the training ground any time they need me to be there for them.
“For instance, maybe they want advice on what to say to the manager and don’t know how to put it, maybe a player might be a little bit down because they get a red card or is out of the team.
“I know how difficult and frustrating it is to be on the bench because I had that for the last two years of my career. So I hope I can bring that to the players.
“It is important to have experienced players around clubs because we’ve had different phases in our careers. Maybe it is easier for players to come to me rather than the manager.”