Arsenal held to 0-0 draw by Sunderland

BY foxsports • August 18, 2012

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 season.

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 shot.

But there were promising signs from Arsenal, with Cazorla looking dangerous in his first competitive match since joining from Malaga.

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 Cazorla.

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).''


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