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Sunderland’s escape: Tracking the key moments in Black Cats’ dramatic season

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With today’s win over West Brom, Sunderland became the first team since the 2004-05 Baggies to survive after spending Christmas at the bottom of the table. The close quarters of this season’s bottom helped the Black Cats, but over time, that will be forgotten. For years into the future, fans and pundits will be referring to this as the club’s great escape.

Here’s how Sunderland’s improbable  run played out, from August to May:

August 17 – The Black Cats open the season as victims of a smash-and-grab, with Fulham taking full points out of the Stadium of Light. Though they drew at Southampton a week later, a 3-1 loss at Selhurst Park in round three proved the turning point of Paolo Di Canio’s tenure at Sunderland.

September 21 – Sunderland’s 3-0 loss at West Brom caps a disastrous opening month of the season. At 0-1-4, the team’s Premier League obituary’s already being written, with famous Sundlerand fan Jonathan Wilson (author of Inverting the Pyramid) expressing the ironic hope the team can “best” the 15-point season that saw the club relegated in 2006.

September 22 – Paolo Di Canio is gone. Five games into the season, having won two of 12 since being brought in at the previous campaign, the former Swindon Town boss is fired. In search of its next manager, Sunderland would lose its next three matches.

October 8 – After two weeks’ speculation linking him to the job, former Brighton & Hove Albion manager Gus Poyet is appointed as Di Canio’s successor. After winning two of his first four games in charge, Poyet lost three of four, leaving Sunderland at the bottom of the table in mid-December.

December 14 – Sunderland ends a two-game slide with a 0-0 at Upton Park, a result that stirs discontent about Sam Allardyce’s job at West Ham. The result begins a seven week,  16-point run, with the Black Cats surviving in both the FA and League cups.

February 1 – Sunderland claims a 3-0 win over rival Newcastle at St. James’ Park, leaving the team unbeaten in four and 4-4-1 in its previous nine. It’d be 87 days before the Black Cats claimed their next Premier League victory.

March 2 – Sunderland lose the Capital One Cup final to Manchester City, but along the way  (and during an FA Cup run), the club piled up games in hand. For months, they’d prove supporters’ only consolation as their club struggled to find its form.

March 31 – If Sunderland can’t win these, they’re destined to go down. You’d forgive a supporter for thinking that after the team’s 2-1 home loss to West Ham. Though Gus Poyet felt his team “better in every respect,” West Ham still left with full points against the league’s cellar dwellers. It’s the third in a five-match losing streak Sunderland would carry into mid-April.

April 3 – Sunderland hear its penalty for playing an ineligible Ji Dong-won earlier in the season: a six-figure fine. The leniency surprised Gus Poyet, but the Black Cats’ survival hopes are bolstered by avoiding a points deduction (hopefully).

April 12 – An own goal by Wes Brown leaves the Black Cats 1-0 losers to visiting Everton. In last place and winless in league since Feb. 1, Sunderland’s matches in hand are the club’s only reason for home.

April 16 – Let the dream begin. In last place coming into the match, Sunderland gets two goals from Connor Wickham to briefly take a late 2-1 lead on Manchester City. A late Samir Nasri goal made it 2-2, but Sunderland still take a point from the then-title favorites.

April 19 – Handing Chelsea its first loss at home under Jose Mourinho in 77 matches, the Black Cats continue their climb out of the cellar, with Fabio Borini’s 82nd minute winner giving the team a 2-1 upset against another title frontrunner.

May 3 – Thanks to a Sebastian Larsson goal, the Black Cats take a 1-0 win out of Old Trafford. With a huge goal difference edge on Norwich, Sunderland needs only one point in its last two games to survive.

May 7 – Who needs one in two when you can claim three all at once? Goals from Jack Colback and Fabio Borini lead Sunderland to a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion, giving the team 13 points in its last five games. Going into the last round of the season, the Black Cats sit 15th, their four-game winning streak confirming another season in the Premier League.

Hart excited for Torino, but tells fans he ‘will struggle to replicate’ Man City joy

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Joe Hart of Manchester City waves to fans after the UEFA Champions League Play-off Second Leg match between Manchester City and Steaua Bucharest at Etihad Stadium on August 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
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Leaving Manchester City is proving difficult for longtime backstop Joe Hart.

The English No. 1 is heading out on loan to Torino after dropping down Pep Guardiola‘s depth chart at the Etihad Stadium after 348 appearances for City.

[ MORE: Deadline Day’s done deals ]

Hart needed to play, as he’s still in Sam Allardyce’s plans for England, and couldn’t wait around for a chance in Manchester.

That didn’t stop the 6-foot-5 keeper from a very emotional goodbye in his last City start, last week’s win over Steaua Bucharest in the UEFA Champions League.

Days later, the goalkeeper is trying to put it all into words, saying in a Facebook post that he will miss Manchester:

I am very grateful that Torino has given me this opportunity to play for their great club. But the feelings I felt during the recent Steaua Bucharest game will live with me forever. You can’t buy that and I will struggle to replicate them. So thank you for that and all the amazing memories.

Hart joins a Torino side with European aims, and is not the only big name loan on the books. Leandro Castan and Iago Falque have joined the Turin side from AS Roma.

Arsenal star Jack Wilshere signs for Bournemouth in shock deal

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AFC Bournemouth have secured the biggest signing in club history on Transfer Deadline Day.

Arsenal and England midfielder Jack Wilshere, 24, has signed for Bournemouth on a season-long loan deal at the Vitality Stadium.

Put your jaw back in its correct position.

[ LIVE: Every Deadline Day deal ]  

Wilshere only became available on Tuesday after holding talks with Arsene Wenger and the outcome was that he wouldn’t get regular minutes with the Gunners this season.

The England international is a star talent and as soon as he became available over 22 teams registered their interest in taking him on loan. Three front-runners emerged early on Wednesday with Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and AS Roma all keen on Wilshere.

However, tiny Bournemouth won the race in the Wilshere stakes to dish up the biggest shock of the transfer window so far.

This is a massive transfer coup for Bournemouth.

In only their second-ever season in the Premier League they have landed a star midfielder with vast UEFA Champions League and international experience.

Yes, Wilshere has a history of injuries but now he has the chance to prove everyone wrong and play in a sustained run of games for the Cherries (he was likely fifth or sixth on the depth chart in Arsenal’s midfield this season) as he aims to get his career back on track after several injury-hit seasons.

It is thought that Wilshere preferred playing for Bournemouth over the likes of Palace and Roma due to the style of play of Eddie Howe‘s side as the Arsenal academy product loves to pass and move the ball. He will fit in very nicely for the Cherries on the south coast and will become an instant hit with the Bournemouth faithful as his signing gives them a massive boost after a tough start to the season.

Nobody could’ve predict this move. The madness of Deadline Day lives on.

Leicester adds Algeria star Slimani for reported $38 million fee

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Tipped for several Premier League destinations, Islam Slimani has joined Algeria teammate Riyad Mahrez at Leicester City.

Slimani, 28, spent the last four seasons as Portuguese powerhouse Sporting Lisbon, scoring a career-best 31 goals last year.

[ MORE: Sissoko to Everton for medical]

He scored two his 23 international goals at the 2014 World Cup, netting against both South Korea and Russia.

Slimani said Mahrez helped with his decision:

He added: “My friend Riyad Mahrez spoke to me about the Club and about the atmosphere the Leicester fans create at King Power Stadium. I will give absolutely everything I have on the pitch for them and for my team-mates and I hope that together we can achieve something special.”

Get the jersey ready. Slimani, Mahrez, Vardy, and Musa could be a deadly bit of depth as Leicester strives to strike hard in the UEFA Champions League.

West Ham adds depth with accomplished Real Madrid back Arbeloa

STRATFORD, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31:  Alvaro Arbeloa is unveil as West Ham United's latest signing on August 31, 2016 in Stratford, England.  (Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Alvaro Arbeloa
Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images
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West Ham United has strengthened their flanks with the addition of two-time UEFA Champions League winner Alvaro Arbeloa.

The 33-year-old back played in the Premier League with Liverpool from 2006-09 before skipping town for Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Sissoko off to Everton for medical ]

Arbeloa has been with Real since, scoring six goals and making 233 total appearances. His appearance dipped to just nine last season, and he’ll finish his time at the Bernabeu with

He also was a part of Spain’s EURO-World Cup-EURO sandwich between 2008-2012.