By Adeniyi Samuel (@seynx)
Arsenal started life without their former star striker and captain Robin Van Persie yesterday in a match against Sunderland which ended in a barren draw, despite the pressure mounted by the Gunners throughout the whole of the 90 minutes.
Manager Arsène Wenger handed Premier League starting debuts to summer signings Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla, with the German international part of a three-pronged attack alongside Gervinho and Theo Walcott. The Spaniard took his place alongside Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta in the centre of midfield. Due in large part to Cazorla’s presence, the Gunners enjoyed most of the possession but failed to utilize the opportunities.
Sunderland’s best opportunity fell to James McClean in the opening minutes but he was denied by a good save from Wojciech Szczesny. Shortly after the missed opportunity by Sunderland, Arsenal went straight on the counterattack and Santi Cazorla skipped past several defenders before firing a great left-footed shot at goal which was turned away brilliantly by the Sunderland’s goalkeeper Simon Mignolet .
Moments later, an excellent run by Gervinho nearly carved out a goal for the Gunners, as he beat Gardner with a sharp turn and danced past O’Shea before crossing for Santi Cazorla whose left-footed shot went wide. The gunners continued to press Sunderland deeper as Abou Diaby’s low, 20-yard effort was touched around the post by the man between the posts for Sunderland. Sunderland’s defense line remained solid throughout and Arsenal struggled to find a breakthrough during the first period.
The second half was no different from the first as the hosts were left frustrated by some solid defending by the visitors. Lukas Podolski was substituted in the 63rd minute by new boy Olivier Giroud. Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott also came off for Aaron Ramsey and Andre Arshavin, in the 68th & 77th minutes respectively. Sunderland continued to sit back but Arsenal failed to make the most of their possession. The main talking point and golden chance of the match came when Santi Cazorla played in Olivier Giroud with nine minutes left to play. Unfortunately and agonizingly for Arsenal supporters, the French striker, so clinical in Ligue 1 last season, fired wide from just 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. While there were plenty of positives to take from the work-rate of his side, manager Arsène Wenger will know there must be an improvement in conversion rate if Arsenal are to challenge over the course of the season.
What should we expect in the waning days of this transfer window from the board and Arsène Wenger?