EPL 2012: Arsenal held by Sunderland
London: Arsenal started life without Robin van Persie with a 0-0 draw against Sunderland as the Gunners could not find a breakthrough against a resolute Black Cats defence.
Arsene Wenger`s side`s best chances of the game fell to new boy Olivier Giroud who somehow fired an effort past the post with only Black Cats keeper Simon Mignolet to beat from inside the box. Santi Cazorla also had decent efforts but could not find a way past the Belgium international.
The Wearsiders` best opportunity fell to James McClean in the opening minutes but he was denied by a good save from Wojciech Szczesny. Arsene Wenger’s side pressed late on but could not force a winner as both teams settled for a point.
Wenger handed Premier League debuts to summer signings Podolski and Cazorla. The German international was part of a three-pronged attack alongside Gervinho and Theo Walcott while the Spaniard joined Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta in the centre of midfield.
Alex Song was not named in the squad, with a move to Barcelona agreed, while Thomas Vermaelen took the captain’s armband replacing Van Persie as skipper, the Gunners` third captain in three years.
Martin O’Neill handed a debut to Carlos Cuellar who partnered John O’Shea at centre-back while Craig Gardner and Kieran Richardson started at right and left-back respectively. Fraizer Campbell was preferred to Louis Saha in attack and played just in front of Stephane Sessegnon.
The visitors started the game in confident fashion and could have taken the lead through McClean in the opening minutes as he was played through one-on-one with Wojciech Szczesny but the Irishman could not beat the Gunners keeper who made a good save with his feet.
Arsenal went straight on the counterattack and Cazorla jinked past several Black Cat defenders before firing a vicious left-footed shot at goal which was turned away brilliantly by Simon Mignolet as the ball was swerving away from him.
Brilliance from Gervinho nearly carved out a goal for the Gunners, as he beat Gardner with a swift turn and jinked past O’Shea before crossing for Cazorla whose left-footed shot went just past the post of Mignolet.
Arsenal were becoming more threatening as the half progressed and Mignolet had to be at his best to deny them as Diaby raided forward from midfield and looked to place the ball in the bottom corner but the 24-year-old shot-stopper was there to turn the effort past the post at full stretch.
The second-half started in the same way as the first ended as the Gunners dominated possession but struggled to break down a resolute Sunderland defence with O’Shea in particular good form at the heart of the rearguard action.
Gervinho, was having an impressive game on the wing with jinking runs inside at times confusing the Black Cats, and on this occasion he cut onto his left-foot and shot, his effort was blocked but the rebound fell to Cazorla who fired his half-volley just wide of the post.
O’Neill’s side were struggling to get out of their own half as Arsenal were beginning to turn the screw but they still could not carve out a clear-cut opportunity with blue shirts around them at all times when they approached the penalty area.
The Gunners kept knocking at the door and pressing forward and thought they had had found their way through at last when Cazorla found Giroud in the box with a lovely pass leaving him one-on-one with Mignolet but he somehow blazed his effort past the post.
Arsenal continued to press but could not find a breakthough as Sunderland held onto claim a point at the Emirates Stadium.