Arsenal held to 0-0 draw by Sunderland

Arsenal lacked cutting edge up front in the first game since

Robin van Persie’s exit, drawing 0-0 with Sunderland on Saturday

despite dominating its opening match of the Premier League


Some jeers rang out around Emirates Stadium after the final

whistle, a day after Van Persie completed his move to rival

Manchester United. And after the frustrating draw, Arsenal

announced another key player was leaving, with midfielder Alex Song

joining Barcelona for ?19 million ($23.4 million).

Strikers Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, who were signed to

fill the void left by Van Persie, squandered their few chances.

”The few chances we had we couldn’t convert them … they

defended the whole game very well,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

said. ”We lacked something I would call sharpness and quality, and

more accuracy in the final pass.

”The formation didn’t work with three strikers up front. We

were not balanced and we did not create enough.”

Despite Arsenal overwhelming Sunderland, Podolski struggled for

service up front as another new signing, midfielder Santi Cazorla,

was more of a danger in front of goal.

”I will not deny we lost a world-class player who is very

difficult to replace,” Wenger said of Van Persie. ”Podolski is

not ready yet physically, he lacks the change of pace … maybe we

needed one more creative player and to be more accurate in the

final third.”

Wenger’s big task is maintaining morale at the Emirates Stadium

after seeing two more players leave just as they are reaching their

peak, a year after Cesc Fabregas joined Barcelona.

While former captain Van Persie only had one year left on his

Arsenal contract, there was no pressure to sell Song, who had three

seasons remaining.

”It is frustrating but we have learnt to deal with that,”

Wenger said. ”The financial potential for some clubs is massive

and that makes the difference.”

By signing key players before the season, Wenger hopes to avoid

a repeat of last season’s woeful start, which was Arsenal’s worst

for more than 50 years.

But the hosts left too much space for Sunderland to expose them

on the counterattack early on.

Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was forced into action to deny

James McClean and he had to be alert to repel Jack Colback’s low


But there were promising signs from Arsenal, with Cazorla

looking dangerous in his first competitive match since joining from


The versatile Spaniard saw a rising shot tipped over by Simon

Mignolet after five minutes, and he struck wide in the 20th after

Gervinho did the hard work by powering down the left flank.

”All the chances he created basically,” Wenger said of


Podolski’s best opening came at the end of the first half,

knocking the ball wide in a crowded penalty area after Theo Walcott

burst down the right flank to the byline before teeing up the

Germany striker.

Arsenal, though, was in complete control after the break – but

with little to show for it.

A free kick from Podolski flew over the crossbar and his

replacement, Giroud, squandered a golden opening from close range,

sweeping the ball wide after being set up by Cazorla.

”It was a greatly missed opportunity,” Wenger said. ”It is

also frustrating in the game when you have so much possession and

so little points.

”Overall our passing was not quick enough in my opinion – I

don’t think that is necessarily linked with Robin (leaving).”