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Arsenal 4-1 Sunderland: Gunners score early and often to blast Black Cats (video)

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No Ozil, no problem.

It was never difficult for Arsenal, as the Premier League’s second-place team cruised to a 4-1 home win over relegation scrapping Sunderland.

“We had a very demanding week and we gave the right response today. We scored two great Arsenal goals,” Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. “”We showed today that we could respond [to the Bayern result].”

Premier League Roundup: Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Man United grab wins

Laurent Koscielny and Tomas Rosicky scored, while Olivier Giroud notched a brace in his return from controversy after reports of his infidelity ripped through the media.

“I had no hesitation about his strength of character,” said Wenger. “He did well.”

Mesut Ozil was held out of the match for a “dead leg,” presumably the one that caused him to miss a penalty kick against Bayern Munich in Arsenal’s mid-week UEFA Champions League match.

Arsenal opened the match in Sunderland’s half and spent nearly three minutes working the ball around before the Black Cats sniffed possession.

It wasn’t long after that the Gunners capitalized as a pretty bit of passing between four players ended with a slick cross-area feed from Wilshere to Giroud for the Frenchman’s 11th of the season.

Sunderland found their first true chance in the 16th minute when Marcos Alonso slid the ball from the top of the 18 to Fabio Borini streaking down the left side, but Borini’s low shot (or cross) was collected by Szczesny.

The majority of moments through the first half hour belonged to Arsenal, though, as Vito Mannone was forced into duty on several occasions. If anyone asks, point to a Lukas Podolski blast from 25 yards out in the 21st minute as proof. Per Mertesacker’s header on the ensuing corner led to nothing.

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Argentine defender Santiago Vergini was largely responsible for Giroud’s second, as he attempted a back pass to Mannone and learned of a major problem: Giroud was in between the two Black Cats. The Frenchman coolly made it a brace and it was 2-0 to Arsenal.

Sunderland picked up another assist when Rosicky attempted a 1-2 with Giroud but the return ball came off a Sunderland back. The bloodbath at the Emirates was all red and it was 3-0 before half, as Arsenal celebrated the dedicated of a statue to Gunners and Dutch legend Dennis Bergkamp.

“Rosicky’s goal is one of the best. It’s how we want to play and, when it’s successful, you’re happy,” Wenger quipped after the match. “Rosicky took the role of Bergkamp today.”

American forward Jozy Altidore was subbed off at halftime, and was virtually invisible in the first 45 minutes.

The second featured an early yellow card for Emanuele Giaccherini for a dirty move against Giroud.

The offense didn’t rest for Arsenal, or better put: the defense kept coming forward. Laurent Koscielny headed home a Santi Cazorla corner kick to make it 4-0 in the 57th minute. Koscielny left the match with an injury just under 10 minutes later.

Giaccherini ruined Szczesny’s clean sheet off a set piece in the 81st minute, as his low right footer headed left corner to make it 4-1.

LINEUPS:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny (Flamini, 67), Monreal (Jenkinson, 45), Arteta, Rosicky (Gnabry, 73), Wilshere, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud

Goals: Giroud (5, 31), Rosicky (42), Koscielny (57)

Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, Ki (Scocco, 73), Johnson (Larsson, 45), Colback, O’Shea, Altidore (Giaccherini, 45), Bridcutt, Vergini, Alonso, Borini

Goal: Giaccherini (81)

Robbie Keane still entertaining offers ahead of return

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Soccer Player Robbie Keane arrives at the Premiere of IFC Films' "Pele: Birth Of A Legend" at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
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Robbie Keane is still sorting out his future, and it seems unlikely he’s heading back to the past.

Keane is training in Dublin ahead of a return to the pitch. The 36-year-old striker left the LA Galaxy this offseason, and says he’s had several offers from Championship squads in England as well as a few clubs abroad.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Although he’s starred for Wolverhampton and Leeds, destinations where fans would welcome his arrival, Keane says not to hold your breath.

From TalkSport.com:

“I’ve had a lot of people asking me about coming back to Leeds and Wolves, and they’re great clubs I’ve played for, but you can’t go somewhere if people actually don’t offer you anything.

“Until it’s actually in writing to me I can’t comment much on it, but I definitely haven’t heard from Leeds or Wolves.”

Whether Stateside or in England, Keane can still have an impact on a team’s fortunes. We look forward to seeing him back on the field, and to hear some more quips as well.

Consider his answer to whether he’d entertain an offer from China:

“If they gave the money Diego Costa was offered, I’d walk there now,” Keane said.

Galaxy adds center mid from Portuguese top flight

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LA Galaxy’s roster reformation continues with the addition of Joao Pedro, a day after formalizing a deal with USMNT midfielder Jermaine Jones.

The 23-year-old center midfielder was with Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal’s top flight, and comes to the club as a “Special Discovery Player” with Targeted Allocation Money.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Pedro has a goal in 17 appearances this season, as Vitoria Guimaraes sits fifth in the Primeira Liga.

From LAGalaxy.com:

“Joao is an extremely talented midfielder who has experience playing at a high level in Portugal,” said Galaxy general manager Peter Vagenas in a written statement released by the club.

“He is only 23 years old and has the best years of his career front of him. We identified him as a top target this offseason and we think he can immediately help strengthen our midfield. We look forward to welcoming Joao to Los Angeles as we continue to prepare for the upcoming season.”

Pedro was a regular for Vitoria Guimaraes but is far from a certainty to star for the Galaxy. We do know that Vagenas has probably done his research as to whether Pedro fits with Jermaine Jones.

AFCON wrap: Senegal clinches first knockout round slot

Senegal's, Sadio Mane, right, is challenged by Zimbabwe's, Willard Katsande, left, during the African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match between Senegal and Zimbabwe at, Stade de Franceville Stadium, in Franceville, Gabon Thursday Jan. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Senegal has advanced to the knockout rounds of the Africa Cup of Nations, leaving three teams to work for the second Group B slot come the final day.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Senegal 2-0 Zimbabwe

Sadio Mane (Liverpool) and Henri Saivet (Saint-Etienne) scored within the first 13 minutes as Senegal clinched Group B with a win over Zimbabwe. There were 48 shots between the two teams, 24 for Senegal, in a fairly open affair. As for the Warriors, they’ll need to beat Tunisia on Monday.

Algeria 1-2 Tunisia

Tunisia rebounded from a loss to Senegal without scoring from the run of play. Lille mid Naim Sliti scored a penalty after an Algeria own goal made it 1-0. Anderlecht midfielder Sofiane Hanni scored for Algeria.

Friday’s matches
Ivory Coast vs. DR Congo — 11 a.m. ET
Morocco vs. Togo — 11 a.m. ET

Wenger concerned Chinese wages become benchmark for players

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 15:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks on during an Arsenal press conference ahead of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match against Barcelona at Camp Nou on March 15, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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LONDON (AP) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is hoping the high quality of competition in Europe will keep players from leaving for the financial gain in China.

Wenger is facing regular questions about the future of both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and the big money on offer in the Chinese league can complicate negotiations.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Argentine striker Carlos Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua last month in a deal worth $40 million over two years.

“The danger (is) that the Chinese offers become the benchmark for Europe,” Wenger said Thursday. “You cannot compete with that, but I still think that, when you’re a footballer, the first thing is that you want to play against the best players in the best teams.”

Wenger said players that want the best compensation for playing in the best quality league need not look to Asia.

“I think that combination is the best in England at the moment, so I don’t see why the players should leave the English Premier League,” Wenger said.

Wenger, whose team is fourth in the standings, has made only one signing in the January transfer window, picking up defender Cohen Bramall from non-league club Hednesford.

Arsenal has also decided to keep captain Per Mertesacker for another season. Wenger announced Thursday that the club has taken up a one-year option to extend the contract of the 32-year-old German, who has not played this season because of a knee injury sustained during a friendly in July.

Mertesacker faces a fight to get back into the team because Shkodran Mustafi, an offseason signing from Valencia, has built a strong partrnership with vice captain Laurent Koscielny at the heart of Wenger’s defense.