7 Truths: Kevin De Bruyne's injury cost Manchester City title; Arsenal have found star in Alex Iwobi
Manchester City have missed Kevin De Bruyne so much it has cost them the title; Arsenal have found a new star in Alex Iwobi; and five other Premier League truths.
De Bruyne’s injury cost City the title
On January 27, Manchester City were just three points behind Leicester and perfectly poised to seize control of the title race. But that was the day Kevin De Bruyne suffered a knee injury which kept him out of action for two months and since then Manuel Pellegrini’s side have imploded. Before thrashing Bournemouth away from home, they were a full 15 points back from the Foxes and clinging on to fourth place.
De Bruyne’s impact against Bournemouth was emphatic; his confidence on the ball and link up play a joy to watch. The Belgian’s ill-timed injury may well be the reason City have slipped up so shockingly since January, not that Pellegrini can use his absence as an excuse. Pep Guardiola will be desperate for a fit De Bruyne next season – his value to the City team has already been tested, and it’s absolutely huge.
Arsenal have a very exciting talent in Iwobi
Arsenal won’t win a trophy this season but that isn’t to say that 2015-16 has been entirely unfruitful. It’s been a familiar tale of disappointment in terms of results but in the emergence of Alex Iwobi there is a unmistakable beacon of light. Much as Marcus Rashford has given despairing Manchester United fans something to celebrate, Iwobi’s rise to first-team prominence allows some optimism to emerge from what has been a bit of a car wreck of a season for Arsenal.
After only four minutes of the match against Watford he set up Alexis Sanchez for the opening goal with a gorgeous cross, scored himself when a finishing smartly from a cut-back from Sanchez and also thumped the bar in the second half. Iwboi can make a big impact in the final third but, as shown with a cheeky nutmeg on Etienne Capoue, he also has wit and imagination and Arsenal have unearthed a player with a big future, even if they will end up empty-handed this season.
Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring the second goal for Manchester CityReuters
Newcastle have blown it
As spirited and doughty as Norwich were, Newcastle had a huge opportunity to take at least a valuable point from the crucial relegation 'six-pointer' at Carrow Road. However, as has been the case for much of the season, the Magpies blew it in some style.
When substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic netted his second late goal in the 86th minute, it seemed as though Rafael Benitez had inspired a gutsy draw for his side, but now they find themselves a full six points behind Norwich, and having played a game more than their relegation rivals. This could well be the match that Newcastle fans look back on as having effectively confirmed their fate.
Lloris is still very underrated
Hugo Lloris gets credit for his part in Tottenham's success this season, but certainly not enough. The Frenchman produced a string of outstanding saves against Liverpool, including one remarkable stop while falling backwards, to underline his value to Mauricio Pochettino's side once again.
There have been many distinguished performers for Spurs so far this season, but Lloris has been consistently outstanding and provided assurance and class behind a solid defence. He made five superb saves in the first half to thwart Liverpool and continues to be immense for Tottenham as they continue their Premier League title tilt. If they do end up pipping Leicester, Lloris will be a big reason why.
Aston Villa do not deserve to play out the season
It’s very hard to think of a more listless, lethargic and limp side in Premier League history than the one Aston Villa are cutting at the moment. Eric Black was hoping for at least a temporary boost from his players after taking over from the world-weary and dejected Remi Garde, but he was sorely disappointed along with everyone else.
Villa offered nothing against a Chelsea side able to coast through a 4-0 victory in second-pushing-third gear. Rarely has a team appeared so desperate for the season to end and it’s only a fault of the Premier League format that they can’t exit the competition with immediate effect and hand three points and four goals to every team they’ve yet to face twice.
Seven-man walls can’t stop Payet
Crystal Palace put a seven-man wall in place in a desperate attempt to stop Dimitri Payet from scoring from a free-kick – but even that was utterly futile. The Frenchman executed a quite stunning free-kick to net West Ham’s second with the ball dipping viciously at the last moment to leave fans – and indeed Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey – totally dumbfounded.
Payet has scored six goals and provided five assists in his last seven games for the Hammers, and when his goals are so special it’s easy to see why he’s not only the newly-crowned ‘king of free-kicks’ but also a firm fan’s favourite.
Sunderland's defenders have arrived too late
Sam Allardyce has seemingly bemoaned his defence ever since arriving at the Stadium of Light. Finally, his defenders stepped up for him on Saturday, but typically for a struggling side the goals then disappeared in the stalemate with West Brom.
Sunderland desperately needed a victory with Norwich pulling further away from the relegation zone with victory over Newcastle, but Allardyce's men could not find the crucial goal as they ended up with a goalless draw for the first time since May 2015 against Arsenal at the Emirates.