Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0: Life after RVP proves hard to bear as Gunners draw blank
16:05 GMT, 18 August 2012
Arsenal started life after Robin van Persie with a frustrating goalless draw against Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium.
The Holland striker – whose 30 goals had dragged the Gunners into third place last season – yesterday completed a 24million move to Manchester United, having made it clear earlier in the summer he would not be signing a new deal.
Arsene Wenger's side, boasting summer signings Lukas Podolski, the German striker, and impressive Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla in the starting XI, enjoyed plenty of possession, but lacked a killer instinct in the final third.
No way through: Arsenal dominated possession but were unable to force their way past Sunderland
ARSENAL: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Diaby, Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott, Gervinho, Podolski. Subs not used: Mannone, Andre Santos, Giroud, Ramsey, Djourou, Coquelin, Arshavin.
SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, Gardner, Cuellar, O’Shea, Richardson, Larsson, Colback, Cattermole, McClean, Sessegnon, Campbell. Subs not used: Westwood, Wickham, Kilgallon, Meyler, Bramble, Saha, Elmohamady.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
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When a clear opening eventually came
their way late in the second half, substitute Olivier Giroud, who netted
21 goals for Montpellier last season, fired wide.
While there were plenty of positives
to take from the workrate of his side, manager Arsene Wenger will know
there must be an improvement in conversion rate if Arsenal are to
challenge over the course of the season.
New skipper Thomas Vermaelen received
a warm welcome from the returning Arsenal faithful, along with summer
signings Cazorla and Podolski in the starting line-up.
It was a lively start by the hosts, but Sunderland remained dangerous on the counter through Stephane Sessegnon.
Bright start: Lukas Podolski put in a solid hour-long shift up front for his new club
On six minutes, the Arsenal defence
was opened up as James McClean slipped into the penalty area, but his
shot was blocked smartly by Wojciech Szczesny.
Spain international Cazorla, signed
from Malaga, almost made himself an instant hero when he charged
forwards and unleashed a 20-yard effort which Black Cats keeper Simon
Mignolet beat away.
Sunderland created another decent
opening when the ball was worked to Jack Colback at the edge of the
Arsenal area, but his low effort was straight at the keeper.
Attacking threat: The likes of Abou Diaby, Gervinho and Santi Cazorla all banged on the Sunderland door
Gervinho skipped away down the left
and rode a couple of tackles before cutting the ball back across goal,
only for Cazorla to drill it wide.
Arsenal continued to press Sunderland deeper as Abou Diaby's low, 20-yard effort was touched around the post.
The visitors, however, set up with two banks of four and were hard to break down.
Sunderland also looked to get forwards themselves, with the best success again coming down the left flank though Sessegnon.
Running man: Theo Walcott was a thorn in the side of the visitors' defence for the most part
Arsenal finally pulled some passes
together as Theo Walcott was played into the right and his cutback to
the near post was hacked behind before Podolski could get there.
The second half opened the same
pattern, with the hosts were left frustrated by some stern defending as
much as their own poor choice of final pass.
Old friends: Sebastian Larsson, formerly of Arsenal, tried his best to give Sunderland a presence in attack
On 57 minutes, Kieran Richardson
upended Walcott some 25 yards out. Podolski took the free-kick, but the
German's effort flew just over.
As the hour mark passed, Sessegnon was replaced by Louis Saha, signed on a free transfer after he left Tottenham.
The Gunners also made a change when Giroud came on for his debut, Podolski making way.
Wenger then aimed to inject some
fresh ideas into midfield as Wales captain Aaron Ramsey – part of the
Team GB Olympic squad this summer – came on for the hard-working Diaby.
Don't forget us: Jack Colback was at the heart of the good things being done by the Mackems
Sunderland continued to sit back, but
Arsenal failed to make the most of their possession heading into the
final 15 minutes, when Walcott was replaced by Andrey Arshavin, the
Russian whose future remains uncertain following a loan spell at former
club Zenit St Petersburg last season.
With nine minutes left, Cazorla
played in Giroud, but the French striker, so clinical in Ligue 1 last
season, fired wide from 10 yards.
Arsenal pressed in search of a winner
during four minutes of stoppage time, but had to be content with just a
point – which was greeted by boos from some home supporters.