Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City are paying the price for having raised the bar in how many points it takes to win the Premier League.
Guardiola's men have won the title in the past two seasons with record tallies of 100 and 98 points, but travel to Arsenal on Sunday already 17 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool.
"I didn't want to think it too much in the beginning of the season but I thought will we be able to do it again?" Guardiola admitted in his pre-match press conference.
"When we arrived here the standard was 85 points to win. Now you have to reach almost 100 points to win the Premier League.
"That is why we helped Liverpool to make this step, buy incredible top players and now it is the level you have to reach. All the teams that are behind Liverpool, we know we have to make 100 points."
City denied Liverpool the title last season by winning their last 14 league games to become the first side to retain the Premier League in a decade.
Four defeats in 12 league games have led to much criticism of City's succession planning for the loss of captain Vincent Kompany and Guardiola's inability to patch up a makeshift defence.
However, the Catalan coach insists it is normal for his side to have a brief drop in standards after such a sustained period of success.
"Eleven years no one won back-to-back and then we did it, by winning 14 games in a row.
"That is why when people say we are not good, I cannot forget what this team has done, but sometimes it is a process. In NBA teams, in incredible tennis players, there are problems or periods in the season when you struggle a little bit.
"I would say that is normal, that the people can expect it. That is going to help us, the situation we are in is going to help us in the future."
Guardiola did, though, admit that after a clean sweep of domestic silverware last season, some measure of complacency may have cost City and warned his players they must prove he can count on them for next season.
"Maybe we believe something we are not and reality of sport is to make you (prove yourself) again and again and again," he added on the spectre of complacency.
"Unfortunately now, in the position we are in, we have to overcome that situation. It is tomorrow and the next games we prove how we are as a team.
"You have to evaluate if you are good enough as a manager to continue (winning), are the players good enough to try it again next season?"
Long way back: Manchester City are 17 points adrift of Premier League leaders Liverpool