Roberto Mancini joked he wanted to punch Samir Nasri following Manchester City's 4-0 win over Newcastle on Saturday after the Frenchman emerged from a slump in form to star for his side.
Nasri, 25, has come under fire from Mancini for his performances this season, but responded well following the international break, playing a key role in City's attack at the Etihad.
Mancini praised the midfielders efforts but was critical of his inability to find consistent form for City.
"I would like to give him a punch, because a player like him should play like this always. Every game. Maybe one game sometimes he can play badly," Mancini said.
"I don't know what was different. I can't understand how a player with his quality doesn't play like today every game. The second year is always difficult to win the title again. And sometimes the player can think it is enough to play 50 per cent. We've probably had this problem this year. I think that every player is intelligent. Samir knows that he played very well."
Mancini admits Nasri's diminished influence for City since their title win last May is indicative of the club's current culture, with the manager accusing his players of expecting their Premier League defence to come easily.
"The club was born more than 100 years ago but as a strong team we were born two years ago," he said. "And every year you need to improve your team. Maybe sometimes some player can think: 'Ok we can play maybe not like last year but we will still win because we are good quality players'. But this is not true."
Vincent Kompany's decision to play for Belgium last week despite his recent calf injury was a talking point at City as Mancini claimed the naitonal team should have allowed him to recover.
But the Italian denies there was a rift between him and Kompany.
"Did I speak to him? No. For what? Vinny knows his behaviour was not good," Mancini said. "He is important for us. I am happy that he played well and played without any problem in his calf. I hope it will be like this for the next two months."
Kompany proved his fitness with a goal in his 73 minutes on the park for City and is confident he is able to help his side finish the season on a positive note.
"I have taken the right amount of time and I have put in the right amount of work as well," he said. "We have a brilliant medical staff at Manchester City and also with Belgium. I have done everything I need to do and more. You can blame me for a mistake I make in a game but that is a different one. You don't choose to be injured.
"It is important as a group for everyone to take responsibility. Collectively it is disappointing but there is still a lot to look forward to. I remember the way we finished the season when we won the FA Cup. We finished equal points with Chelsea and secured a place in the Champions League. The year after that we won the title. The end of one season has an impact on how you start the next one."