A Robin van Persie-less Arsenal were held 0-0 at the Emirates by a reasonably impressive performance from Sunderland. It wasn't a great game -- there weren't that many clear-cut chances and the game was mostly played around the edges of the Black Cats' box. But with the Gunners having to bed in so many new signings at once, a quiet draw to start the season isn't much of a surprise.
The first half was mildly entertaining, with some chances for Sunderland swimming in the quagmire of blown Arsenal opportunities. Santi Cazorla had a neat shot from range which Simon Mignolet was forced to bat aside, leading Martin O'Neill to deploy Lee Cattermole as the new acquisition's personal marker/fouler. Cazorla was probably the hosts' best player in the first half, and the only one capable of threading passes to a front three that was actually looking reasonably lively.
That said, new acquisition Lukas Podolski was clearly miscast as a centre forward. He was dropping far too deep and then failing to pounce on the opportunities that presented themselves. Twice the ball broke to him in the six yard box, and a more natural striker -- yes, I'm going to invoke van Persie's name here -- would probably have notched at least one. Podolski got clean contact on neither.
There were some concerns about Arsenal's defending, with Per Mertesacker looking particularly inept, a worrying sign when he was deployed next to Carl Jerkinson. But as the game went on and the Gunners turned the screws, the threat of Sunderland actually scoring a goal diminished, and the match became a question of whether or not Arsenal would actually be able to break down the visitors' defence.
It turned out that no they could not. Arsene Wenger tried to change things up by introducing an actual centre forward in Olivier Giroud, and the former Montpellier striker did make a difference, exploiting the space between Sunderland's centre backs and generally giving the Black Cats far more trouble than did his predecessor. But even when he did get into that space, he wasted it.
In the 76th minute, both Giroud and Cazorla did fantastically. The former looped around John O'Shea with an excellent run, and the latter found him with an equally excellent through ball. And then, with only Mignolet to beat, he blasted well wide from eight yards.
It's not a good start to the season for new-look Arsenal. But there's plenty of time for things to get better... oh wait they've just confirmed that Alex Song's been sold. Uh oh.