By Jack Gaughan for the Daily Mail
Published: 22:31 GMT, 1 February 2019 | Updated: 22:31 GMT, 1 February 2019
Pep Guardiola made it clear on Friday that the script is as follows: Manchester City can forget about defending the Premier League title if mediocre performances continue.
Tuesday night's defeat at Newcastle, a one-paced, lethargic display, acted as a shock to those on the outside. But others closer to the squad worried it had been coming for a while.
Liverpool's anxious home draw with Leicester 24 hours later only exacerbated the frustration felt in the away dressing room at St James' Park.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola stressed his team must improve if they are to win the title
'It's much better,' Guardiola said of City's outlook following Leicester's draw at Anfield, meaning the champions can move within two points of the leaders by beating Arsenal tomorrow.
'But immediately I'd say, 'How will our level be?' If our level is like the last game, it doesn't matter if (the gap is) five points or two points or one, because we are not going to win. You are satisfied for the (Liverpool) result and that's all. We have to improve our game, that's the issue.
'We've done it before and I know we can do it again. If we don't do what we have to do, we will not be contenders until the end.'
That is the message Guardiola sent to his players during a 30-minute inquest in the North East, one of the longest of his three-season reign.
City were left dejected following their surprising defeat to Newcastle in midweek
Sportsmail has learned the manager