Belfast Telegraph

Toothless Gunners frustrate Wenger

Arsene Wenger accepted Arsenal lacked a cutting edge when they started life after Robin van Persie with a frustrating goalless draw against Sunderland at Emirates Stadium.

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 failed to find a telling pass to open up a stubborn Sunderland rearguard.

When a clear opening eventually came their way late in the second half, substitute Olivier Giroud, who netted 21 goals for Montpellier last season, fired wide. "We played with a good spirit, were serious and we put the effort in, but we lack sharpness and fluency at the moment to be dangerous in the final third," said Wenger.

"The few chances we had, we could not convert them. Sunderland defended very well for the whole game, and we lacked something - sharpness, also quality and accuracy in the final pass."

Wenger added: "The formula didn't work with three strikers up front and we were not well balanced, we did not create enough because they blocked our midfield."

Cazorla, however, showed he could well prove to be one of the signings of the summer having joined from Malaga. The Spain international almost opened his Arsenal account in the first half, when a fierce 20-yard drive was saved by Simon Mignolet.

Wenger said: "It is difficult not to be pleased with him because he played on Wednesday night, the whole [international] game in Puerto Rico. All the chances were created by him, basically."

For Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill, it was a point earned on the back of what had been an energy-sapping display in sweltering temperatures. "We were very tired from about 65 minutes onwards, but that game will bring us on immensely," said O'Neill, who hopes to bring in some more new players ahead of the transfer deadline.

"We have not been able to get our squad up to strength and I knew coming here was going to be difficult. We ran out of energy towards the end and we hanging on, but at least we are off the mark."

O'Neill added: "We should have done better in the first half, James McClean had a shot and Jack Colback got himself into a good position too, but in the second half Arsenal had most of the possession and we had to defend."

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