Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry admits the Premier League champions are finding it tough this season.
Although City are the only team currently unbeaten in the Premier League, three drawn games leave them third in the table behind Chelsea and Manchester United.
And with Roberto Mancini's men also on the brink of another early elimination from the UEFA Champions League, it has been an underwhelming start for a team that promised to kick on.
"The start of the season is completely different to what we experienced last year - not getting out of the blocks and not getting going," said Barry.
"But I think this season is what being champions is all about. You're going to find it tougher and the games will be harder. People want to beat you that little bit more, as we're finding out."
City edged past Swansea 1-0 on Saturday and some fans expressed their frustration with the players.
But Barry believes it is difficult for the same individuals to keep raising themselves to deliver week-in week-out.
"The third game of the week was never going to be easy," he added. "With the squad we've got at the moment, it's the same sort of players so there's no real freshness."