Wenger wonders who will score Van Persie's goals

Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0
  • @stevetongue

Life after Robin van Persie began with thoughts inevitably drifting towards him the longer a hot afternoon went on and Arsenal's attempts at breaking down a dogged Sunderland defence became less convincing.

Lukas Podolski and then Olivier Giroud, who came on as a substitute for him, had a go, the latter missing the one good chance that either had.

More promising, if ultimately unproductive on the day, was the other new signing Santi Cazorla from Malaga, with whom one or other of those new strikers will need to forge an effective relationship if the regular top-four place that Arsene Wenger has always achieved is to be maintained.

The manager will, of course, aim higher than that, but just like last season it may be necessary to improve on a slow start to the season as new signings bed in.

"We lack sharpness at the moment," he admitted. "Sunderland always play the same way against us. They defended well the whole game and we lacked accuracy in the final pass and our overall passing was not quick enough."

Like Arsenal, Sunderland had a bad start to last season – so much so that it cost Steve Bruce his job at the end of November – the difference being that they finished badly as well, winning none of the last eight games to drop from ninth to 13th. With only Carlos Cuellar and Louis Saha added so far, both on free transfers, while the leading scorer Nicklas Bendtner has left, this was a real bonus point, to the understandable delight of Martin O'Neill, the messiah who replaced Bruce last winter. He did agree that Van Persie is "a major loss" to Arsenal.

However neat the approach play remains, the Dutchman's 30 goals are going to take some replacing and it may be that Arsenal will be more successful in away games where the home team open up more willingly than Sunderland, who in the whole of the second half barely reached the opposing penalty area. When they did in the last two minutes and Arsenal attempted a counter attack, there were still five blue shirts crowding out Giroud.

Cazorla has already become a favourite, as his reception when jogging over to take corners confirmed.

Lee Cattermole was handed the daunting task of subduing him and came through without having added to last season's 10 yellow cards, one blatant handball being the worst of his offences.

Without Wes Brown and Phil Bardsley, there was a makeshift look about the Sunderland defence, in which Craig Gardner and Kieran Richardson were the full-backs.

Theo Walcott and Gervinho were unable to exploit that, while in the centre John O'Shea and Cuellar kept Podolski on a tight leash.

It was Cazorla's running from the position just behind him that promised more.

He came forward early on to hit a thunderous left-footed shot that Simon Mignolet pushed up into the air, drove a low effort wide after a cut-back by Gervinho and played Walcott through only for him to be denied by Richardson's late interception.

Driving a half-volley wide at the start of the second half, the Spaniard was equally threatening, again more so than Podolski, who soon made way for Giroud.

Sunderland, having barely left their half since the interval, brought on Louis Saha for Stephane Sessegnon, who had been doing duty as their forward line.

Only in the first 10 minutes had there been anything to worry Wojciech Szczesny, who held low drives by Jack Colback and James McClean.

Aaron Ramsey and Andrey Arshavin were both introduced for the last 20 minutes, but much of the spark had gone from Arsenal's game.

The visitors, meanwhile, had long since settled for holding what they had, which was a more than useful point.

They were almost denied it even then eight minutes from time when Giroud made an intelligent run on to Cazorla's pass but was always stretching for the shot and could only clip it wide.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Diaby (Ramsey, 69); Walcott (Arshavin, 77), Cazorla, Gervinho; Podolski (Giroud, 64).

Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Mignolet; Gardner, O'Shea, Cuellar, Richardson; Cattermole; Campbell (Elmohamady, 68), Larsson (Meyler, 78), Colback, McClean; Sessegnon (Saha, 63).

Referee: Chris Foy

Man of match: Cazorla (Arsenal)

Match rating: 6/10