Pep Guardiola feared a Manchester City performance of the like they delivered in losing to Southampton was coming this season after years of success, and he is now calling on his team to "recover who you are".
City exited the EFL Cup, a competition they have won four times under Guardiola, with a 2-0 defeat at St Mary's Stadium on Wednesday.
That quarter-final elimination was concerning beyond simply the result, however, as Guardiola's side failed to record a shot on target for the first time in almost five years.
City have little time to recover as they face rivals Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday. Guardiola said his team had gone through "normal preparation for the next game" despite his concerns at what he saw against Southampton, but he had a response when it was suggested fans might be concerned by Ilkay Gundogan's post-match comments.
Gundogan, the City captain, suggested they were missing "a special recipe" as "the desire and hunger is maybe not as it was in recent years".
"City fans cannot complain about what this team is able to do, has done and will do," Guardiola said in a press conference on Friday.
"We cannot talk on behalf of the City fans, because there are millions; I don't know what every single City fan thinks.
"Saying that, what happened didn't surprise me. We tried to avoid it. It happened, unfortunately.
"Hopefully it's not going to happen again, but it's happened because we've done four Premier Leagues in five years. Sometimes you have to reset.
"This competition, the [EFL] Cup, showed me exactly in terms of consistency that we were able to do it. This was our strength as a team, as a club in the previous seasons. After back-to-back two times, this could happen.
"It's normal it happens. We were not ready to go there and be ourselves. I'm not talking about winning the [EFL] Cup, I'm not talking about winning games, we must be ourselves, behaves how we have to in every single game.
"Unfortunately, I was a little bit concerned this season that it could happen. Unfortunately, it happened; I don't know if it's going to happen again.
Guardiola is at least confident there will be no repeat against United, adding he was "not concerned at all" about City's desire ahead of the derby.
But the wider implication of what the match might mean for the Premier League title race was not of interest to the City manager.
"After what happened after Southampton, the last thing I'm worried about is titles, these kind of things," he said. "It's to recover who you are game by game."