Manchester City defender Maicon has warned the Blues they cannot afford to fall any further behind their Barclays Premier League title rivals.
Tuesday's Capital One Cup defeat to Aston Villa means City are now without a win in four matches. Two of those games were in the Premier League, where the Blues have now drawn more matches than they have won, and it means they head into Saturday's trip to Fulham four points behind leaders Chelsea and three adrift of Manchester United.
Maicon said: "The beginning of the season is difficult and a lot of clubs are conceding goals. But I know that Roberto (Mancini) is very focused on it. He wants to improve and we have to improve quickly because we can't afford to have any more distance between us and the teams at the top of the league."
Mancini raised eyebrows in midweek when he fell out with Villa counterpart Paul Lambert. Lambert was annoyed at Mancini talking to the fourth official, and the Italian reacted to his objections.
It is not the first time Mancini has fallen out with the man in the opposite dug-out.
He almost came to blows with Everton's David Moyes two seasons ago, while during last season's crucial Manchester derby in April, Sir Alex Ferguson blew his top for the same reason Lambert got wound up on Tuesday night.
However, rather than view it as a sign of weakness in a manager struggling to work out why last season's champions have slipped so alarmingly during the early weeks of the current campaign, Maicon feels it is an essential factor in any high-profile manager.
"He can get passionate but that is the way he should be," said the Brazil full-back.
"If he gets angry he reminds everybody of the standards required.
"There is a minimum requirement that is always there. The players know they have to perform at that level."