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].”

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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)

England international Delph expecting child in middle of World Cup

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England international Fabian Delph could face quite the dilemma if England advances past the group stage of the World Cup.

Delph’s wife Natalie is expecting the couple’s third child on June 30, which is two days after their pivotal group stage match against Belgium, and two days before the squad would take the field July 1 for its Round of 16 game should they win Group G. If they finish second in the group, they would play their Round of 16 game on July 3.

When asked what his plans are, Delph joked that his wife would manage on her own. “She’s tough, she’s a Yorkshire lass so she’ll deal with it,” Delph said with a smile.

He then coughed up the truth: they’re not quite sure what the plan is.

“We’re not 100% certain, with a game on the 28th there might be an opportunity to fly back and then get back fast,” he said. “[England manager] Gareth [Southgate] has been fantastic. There’s nothing more important than family to me – family always comes first and always will.”

There’s another dilemma that Southgate must navigate involving Delph. The 28-year-old is a natural winger, but played wing-back in Pep Guardiola‘s title-winning system for much of the year and saw a massive uptick in form in the new role, playing in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Southgate must decide where he wants to deploy Delph – if at all – and if he wishes to fit his formation and tactics to mold Delph’s season under Guardiola.

Authorities drop assault charges against Hope Solo

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KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state have dropped domestic violence charges against former U.S. national team star goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Solo was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in 2014 after police said she assaulted two family members at a home in Kirkland, east of Seattle. The case was delayed by appeals.

KING-TV reports that city prosecutors dropped the charges Wednesday, saying the witnesses in the case wanted to move on with their lives and did not want to participate in a trial. An attorney for Kirkland, Melissa Osman, wrote in court documents that the circumstances were unlikely to be repeated.

The longtime national team goalkeeper and two-time Olympic gold medalist recently ran unsuccessfully for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She has called for equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women’s team.

Mark Hughes signs new long-term contract at Southampton

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Mark Hughes has gone from Stoke City outcast to Southampton savior in little under six months time.

The Welsh boss was let go from Stoke City with the Potters 18th in the table and headed towards eventual relegation, but he was picked up by fellow relegation candidates Southampton after the departure of Mauricio Pellegrino. He steered the club to safety, finishing three points above the drop in 17th.

With the Saints in the top flight for another season, the club has announced the signing of Hughes to a new three-year contract.

“Mark, Eddie and I are thrilled to have signed long-term contracts with the club. It was the only option we considered, having spent the last eight weeks with the club,” Hughes said of himself and his assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. “Now it is vital that we take the unbelievable support we received from the fans during the last few games into next season. The staff and the players will work hard every day to deliver the success this club deserves, and with everyone pulling together we will achieve our goals.”

Hughes guided Stoke City to three consecutive ninth-placed finishes, the highest the club had ever finished in the English top flight, but they finished 13th last year and regressed even further this campaign. The sale of playmaker Marko Arnautovic was particularly damaging, and the club scored just 35 goals in 38 games as a result.

At Southampton, Hughes took over a club that sat in 17th with just eight matches to go. He lost three Premier League games in a row to start his tenure and only won two league matches with Saints the rest of the way, but managed to keep the club barely afloat.

Reports: Arsenal nearing deal for Lichtsteiner on free transfer

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According to multiple reports in England, including the BBC, Arsenal is looking to sign Juventus right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner on a free transfer this summer, potentially becoming the first signing under new manager Unai Emery.

Lichtsteiner is out of contract at Juventus this summer, having been with the club since 2011. Lichtsteiner has played in Italy since joining Lazio in 2008.

The Swiss international will captain his country at the World Cup this summer in Russia and will earn his 100th cap in his second match at the event.

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Lichtsteiner has been a mainstay in a Juventus squad that has won seven consecutive Serie A titles, but at 34 years old has been slowly phased out. He has made less than 30 Serie A appearances each of the last seasons, despite a nearly spotless bill of health since undergoing heart surgery in October of 2015. Last season, Lichtsteiner completed just nine full 90 minute performances, including just three after November. Lichtsteiner may have had an even smaller role this most recent campaign had Mattia de Sciglio not struggled with injuries for much of the season.

The Gunners have Hector Bellerin as the club’s main right-back, with the Spaniard leading the squad in total minutes played this past season. However, Bellerin’s level of performance has regressed considerably since proving one of the best young Premier League players in his first full season in 2015/16.

Lichtsteiner has also been linked with a move to Borussia Dortmund, where Lukasz Piszczek mans the right-back spot, but talks between the clubs reportedly broke down.