The difference between the Manchester City that were struggling so badly as Roberto Mancini's reign faded meekly to the one that has been reinvigorated by Manuel Pellegrini is clear. Verve and vigour in attack has replaced dysfunction, with City's play now defined by freedom and fluidity.
Mancini's exit was like a weight being lifted, and players who were performing way below par last season are flourishing this. Pellegrini's man management style appears to have worked wonders with the majority of the squad, and the summer signings have been very successful, particularly Fernandinho, who has been City's biggest revelation this season.
Little was known of a player who had spent the majority of his career playing in Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk, having moved there in 2005 from Atletico Paranaense in his native Brazil. A few eye-catching Champions League performances aside, most English football fans had seen little of the midfielder before his arrival. His energy and passing were relatively untold.
Things started well. He waived £4 million worth of bonuses from Shakhtar to ensure the move went ahead, after City baulked at a transfer fee above £30 million. Shakhtar wouldn't budge and wanted £34 million. Only Fernandinho's decision to forgo what he was entitled to saw the deadlock broken.
That kind of selflessness is all too often missing in football, and the City fans were buoyed by the fact that a player was so desperate to play for the club.
However, some lacklustre showings in the first three or four matches saw doubts raised, with his £30 million transfer fee often used as a stick to beat him. In an age where social media tends to dominate football discussion, and instant results are constantly expected, it seemed that patience was wearing thin after just a few weeks.
How silly those people who were rash in their opinions must feel now.
Suddenly, he found his feet and emerged as one of City's most important players, recovering possession with his tireless tackling and starting attacks with his magnificent range of passing.
Yaya Toure was freed, and it was all because of a Brazilian midfielder with seemingly never-ending energy who could run all day and then run some more if it meant winning the ball back one more time.
His two goals against Arsenal in City's 6-3 home win—one of the great Premier League matches in recent memory—finally saw people sit up and take note. Here was the league's best performing midfielder getting recognition from all angles, and deservedly so.
Gareth Barry was a fantastic player for City and will always be thought of highly by their supporters, but very few would doubt that Fernandinho has been an upgrade. He will take some stopping when it comes to the end of year awards. He's firmly in contention for City's Player of the Year, and he will surely feature in the Premier League Team of the Year.
A £30 million price tag that was once central to any debate around Fernandinho is now largely irrelevant. He's been that good.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!