Belfast Telegraph

Frustrating start for new-look Arsenal

Arsenal started life after Robin van Persie with a frustrating goalless draw against Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium.

The Holland striker - whose 30 goals had dragged the Gunners into third place last season - completed his move to Manchester United on Friday, having made it clear earlier in the summer he would not be signing a new deal.

Arsene Wenger's side, boasting summer signings Lukas Podolski, the German striker, and impressive Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla in the starting XI, enjoyed plenty of possession but lacked a killer instinct in the final third.

It was a lively start by the hosts but Sunderland remained dangerous on the counter through Stephane Sessegnon. On six minutes, the Arsenal defence was opened up as James McClean slipped into the penalty area but his shot was blocked smartly by Wojciech Szczesny.

Spain international Cazorla, signed from Malaga, almost made himself an instant hero when he charged forwards and unleashed a 20-yard effort which Black Cats keeper Simon Mignolet beat away.

Sunderland created another decent opening when the ball was worked to Jack Colback at the edge of the Arsenal area but his low effort was straight at the keeper. Gervinho skipped away down the left and rode a couple of tackles before cutting the ball back across goal, only for Cazorla to drill it wide.

Arsenal continued to press Sunderland deeper as Abou Diaby's low, 20-yard effort was touched around the post. Arsenal finally pulled some passes together as Theo Walcott was played into the right and his cutback to the near post was hacked behind before Podolski could get there.

The second half opened the same pattern, with the hosts were left frustrated by some stern defending as much as their own poor choice of final pass. On 57 minutes, Kieran Richardson upended Walcott some 25 yards out. Podolski took the free-kick but the German's effort flew just over.

As the hour mark passed, Sessegnon was replaced by Louis Saha, signed on a free transfer after he left Tottenham. The Gunners also made a change when Olivier Giroud came on for his debut, Podolski making way. Wenger then aimed to inject some fresh ideas into midfield as Wales captain Aaron Ramsey came on for the hard-working Diaby.

With nine minutes left, Cazorla played in Giroud but the French striker, so clinical in Ligue 1 last season, fired wide from 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.

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