Arsenal defeat was turning point for Manchester City, says Lescott
The external post-mortem as to how Manchester City had lost the Premier League title began exactly one month ago today.
It is worth remembering how much has changed inside four excruciatingly long weeks for supporters of both Manchester clubs. Then, following another City defeat, this time to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, a collective coming together happened inside what should probably have been, certainly judging by the subsequent reaction, a desolate dressing room.
Joleon Lescott and Vincent Kompany have been as pivotal certainly as Yaya Touré and his headline-grabbing goals in the dramatic turnaround, and the former, a player who was not quite written off at the start of the season, but was not expected to be this important, used telling words to describe the desire that Roberto Mancini has inspired among his players.
Lescott used the word "criminal" if anyone there had, as was suggested, readied themselves to throw in the towel. Such a word felt important in the aftermath of such a crucial victory at Newcastle to explain where the kind of drive to overturn an eight-point deficit and a two-goal reverse in goal difference inside such a short space of time had come from. "It would have been crazy to have given it up after the Arsenal game," Lescott said. "That would have been silly. There was no chance of that happening. No other word for it, it would have been criminal. I don't think there was any way that could happen because of the attitudes of the players. At this level of our careers we are not going to just give up when we get close to something like this. The lads I play with have a never-say-die attitude and it is there for all to see every week.
"It was more a case of hope back then [after the Arsenal result] because it was out of our hands. As the results started to favour us, the Wigan game and Everton, we started to believe, but back then it was out of our hands so all we could do was hope. We didn't believe in it, more hope, but it was a case that if they slipped up we had to capitalise on that. Just as they would do the same.
"When I first arrived here [in August 2009] it was more hope that we could win the league, rather than real belief. We have developed and got a lot more players in and we are all starting to believe. It has been developing over a period of time. The likes of Vincent Kompany coming and Pablo Zabaleta, coupled with the players we already had here, like Micah [Richards], means it has been a growing feeling."
Unity has fed the belief, and therein is perhaps Mancini's greatest achievement, making so many players care about each other so quickly.
"We have been together all season and listened to everyone's opinion," Lescott added. "We know how close we are as a unit and it has been great to be a part of that. It's still not over yet, though. I just think the boys have won big things and they won't get carried away. When we beat Manchester United the talk straight after was of beating Newcastle. We knew if we went to Newcastle and we weren't professional, then the win over Manchester United would have meant nothing.
"To the fans, [I would say] keep a lid on it this week and let's not get carried away. If it happens next week, they can celebrate then. It is a bit different for Yaya, although it means as much to him as it does to us. If you look at his CV there is nothing here to faze him as he has won the Champions League. He has won a number of trophies, so for him it is just another game.
"Nothing he does surprises me, to be honest, because big players do important things at vital times. He scored in the FA Cup semi-final last season, scored in the final, and in training this week he said it was going to be him scoring, just with a normal expression on his face. He believes in himself and he believes that it is his time to shine. When you get players like that you believe in him yourself, because he is so confident. Big players do big things and he has done it again.
"If we could close it out it would be unreal. You dream of these things. I never once thought, 'Yeah, I'm bound to win the Premier League', but it was always in my mind. It will be crazy days if we win it."
Crazy, but not criminal.