LONDON, May 11: Manchester City succeeded Manchester United as English Premier League champions on Sunday after winning 2-0 at home to West Ham United.
Here, AFP Sports selects five players who played pivotal roles in City’s second Premier League title triumph in three years.
PABLO ZABALETA (ARG; right-back)
With 34 appearances, only Yaya Toure has played more times in City’s triumphant league campaign and the Argentine’s impact has been almost as significant as his more celebrated team-mate. As well as his ferocious tackling and impeccable reading of the game, he is capable of lung-bursting forward runs that often unhinge opposing defences, as Aston Villa found out when two Zabaleta crosses produced the crucial first two goals in Wednesday’s 4-0 victory. ()
YAYA TOURE (CIV; midfielder)
Possessing a languid style that can sometimes be mistaken for disinterest, Toure has lulled many opponents into a false sense of security before destroying them with his muscular frame and delicate touch. City never looked the same this season whenever the Ivorian was sidelined and he can currently claim to be the Premier League’s most influential player. Fortunately for manager Manuel Pellegrini, Toure, who scored 20 goals in 35 league appearances, returned from injury at the exact moment Liverpool began to splutter and his dynamic displays against Crystal Palace, Everton and Aston Villa helped them regain the title.
DAVID SILVA (ESP; midfielder)
The Spaniard was never given the freedom to thrive in Roberto Mancini’s cautious line-up last season, but he has been let off the leash by Pellegrini and the results have been devastating for City’s title rivals. Possessing sublime technique and vision, Silva, who has seven goals in 27 league appearances, has often wreaked havoc with his slide-rule passes and perfectly weighted flicks. A Rolls Royce of a player who has hit top gear whenever the occasion has been most important.
SERGIO AGUERO (ARG; striker)
Although he was often sidelined by injury this season, the diminutive Argentine still managed to score 17 times in 23 league appearances. His fitness problems have been more debilitating in the second half of the season and he has scored just twice since the end of January, but prior to that he was almost unstoppable, scoring 14 goals in 13 appearances, creating countless opportunities for his team-mates, and keeping City firmly in the title chase while the team was still adapting to new coach Pellegrini’s philosophy.
EDIN DZEKO (BIH; striker)
After growing tired of his bit-part role under Mancini, it appeared Dzeko’s time at Eastlands could be over, but Pellegrini is a big fan of the powerful targetman and made it a priority to convince him to stay. It proved a shrewd move for both player and manager as Dzeko has risen impressively to the challenge of deputising for Aguero. He has scored 16 goals in 31 league appearances, and crucially nine of those strikes — including doubles against Everton, Aston Villa and Manchester United — have come when the pressure has been highest towards the end of the season.