Manchester City and England international goalkeeper Joe Hart believes that his team must improve by a “million per cent” if they are to have any chance of beating title rivals Arsenal when the two teams meet at the Emirates on Monday night.
While talking to the Daily Mirror, Hart said: “We need to be a million per cent better against Arsenal.”
“We need to step up. We can be awesome when we want to be, so we need to be more consistent, that’s what we’re looking for.
“It’s a shame it needs the dragon to be poked before we come out of the cage.
“We know what we’ve got here and it’s frustrating when we don’t do it, but it’s a long season and we’ve got ourselves into a good place.”
The form of Manchester City – like many of the league’s big clubs – has been erratic to say the least, with losses to West Ham, Tottenham, Liverpool and Stoke hindering their desire to be runaway leaders, as was the case with Chelsea last season.
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Manager Manuel Pellegrini’s men used tiredness as an excuse in the 2-0 away loss at the Britannia Stadium to Stoke City two weeks ago, and Hart knows that they cannot use that excuse again should they lose to Arsenal on Monday night.
“We used that excuse [being tired] last week, so we can’t use it again this week,” said Hart.
“We probably were [tired against Swansea] but it’s not an excuse I’ll use. I refuse to use that.
“It’s easy for me to say that, playing in goal, but I don’t think the lads would want to use it either. We didn’t play well, but we won.
“We have to get our heads together and start playing properly again. We’re [near the] top of the league, we went through in the Champions League as group winners and in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup.
“We’re in a good place; we just need to start performing as we know we can. At least seven, eight of us. We know every couple of week’s people will have off days.”
Hart also admitted that the players need to get used to not having team captain Vincent Kompany around, after seeing the Belgium side-lined once more with a recurring calf injury (via ESPN).
Kompany last played in the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa back in early November and is not thought to be ready for the match against Arsenal.
“We have players who do the job filling in,” said the England shot-stopper.
“We appreciate that now, with Vinny, we’re not going to get 60 games a season out of him.
“He’s put himself through the mill. He’s 29 now; he’s played a load of games and had operations. As a squad with him in it, you have to appreciate there’ll be games when he can’t play now.
“You appreciate him when he does play and you want him to be in the best condition he can be.
“But I think Nico [Nicolas Otamendi] has come in and been a pretty special signing for us and Manga [Eliaquim Mangala] has got to grips with it now in his second season. Then Martin [Demichelis] is there if we need him.”
Monday night’s match could go a long way toward determining if Arsenal have got what it takes to carry them through the busy holiday schedule unscathed, with games against Southampton, Bournemouth, and Newcastle United all coming in quick succession.