By Ian Chadband
Arsenal crushed Watford 4-0 and Manchester City hammered Bournemouth by the same score on Saturday as the faltering big guns breathed fresh life into their faint hopes of lifting the Premier League title.
Not even another free kick masterpiece from Dimitri Payet could inspire West Ham United in their push for a Champions League spot as they had Cheikhou Kouyate sent off in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.
At the other end of the table, Aston Villa’s disillusioned fans made a long, loud protest as their side were humiliated 4-0 at home to Chelsea and now stand on the verge of relegation.
Newcastle United are hot favourites to join Villa in playing Championship football next season, going down 3-2 at fellow strugglers Norwich City, who celebrated a 93rd-minute winner from Martin Olsson.
Newcastle’s great north-east rivals Sunderland are also in deeper trouble, now four points adrift of safety after a goalless home draw with West Bromwich Albion.
After losing three home games in a row, Arsenal rebounded to dominate Watford, who had knocked them out of the FA Cup at the Emirates Stadium last month, with Alexis Sanchez, Alex Iwobi, Hector Bellerin and Theo Walcott all on target.
Manchester City had lost four of their last six games but stopped the rot with a blistering start at Bournemouth, Fernando, Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero scoring within 19 minutes.
Arsenal are third, still eight points behind leaders Leicester City and three adrift of Tottenham Hotspur who are playing at Liverpool in Saturday’s late game.
Manchester City are four points behind Arsenal in fourth, with West Ham now three points behind Manuel Pellegrini’s side in fifth.