Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0
So Arsenal’s first game is in the bag except, come the end of round one, the bag proves frustratingly empty. No points to be found. Well, no holes either and there’s something of a “Did that happen?” feeling about Arsenal’s 0-0 home draw with Sunderland.
Arsenal were bright from the open—plenty of possession, glimpses of the sure-feet of Santi Cazorla, and decent mopping up at the back save the twice “hold this line, no this line” confusion between Mertesacker and Vermaelen. Meanwhile, up top, Podolski proved lively (perhaps so much that he eventually ran himself out of the game) and Gervinho looked a gear faster than last season. My sense, however, is that our big signing of a year ago still lacks enough variety in his movement to be consistently dangerous. We had a couple exciting moments—most related to Santi—and if Walcott would have chipped a tight, return ball instead of playing a blanketed Podolski, Cazorla might have had the easiest header of his life and Arsenal a one goal lead.
The main talking point of the second half seems to be Giroud. Everyone rues the great chance he missed, but surely one doesn’t expect a new striker to score what amounts to his first quality shot on goal in the new shirt. And to be fair: the chance fell to his weaker foot. I read somewhere among the Twittersphere that the lad scored nearly 90% of his goals last season with his left. His goals will come.
For me, the lasting memory of the second was yet another wasted assist-opportunity from Theo. Our England winger chose to slam a volley into the side net as opposed to square to a wide-open Podolski who could have tapped in a goal.
Sensing a theme here? Yes, Theo didn’t play well nor appear all that useful against a defense sitting back. And, frankly, he didn’t look too committed to the cause Saturday. I’m certain the player comings and goings, as well as Theo’s active European summer, must have taken some toll. But he’s also in the midst of a contract situation, and there are signs—worrying ones—that he may be the next to jettison the club. I’d say it’s no more than 1 in 3 he leaves, and that depends on other players, other clubs making some moves. Don’t get me wrong: I’d love Theo to stick around and hope he does.
One player who didn’t stick around (beside, of course, the man to remain nameless who plays for a team with zero points to date) is Song. It was great to watch him develop and I’m thankful for some good memories, but don’t think the club will miss him as long as a defensive midfielder arrives to fill the gap. We’re currently hearing a lot about Nuri Sahin—a fantastic player—but he is a playmaker and really cover for the injured Wilshire. (Hence the loan: if Wilshire recovers and finds form we can allow Sahin to return to Madrid). No,the midfielder I believe we’re in for is Yann M’Vila; I expect him in the shirt before the window closes in just under two weeks’ time.
But, alas, back to match. Sadly it was a bit less compelling than the transfer whispers this weekend. And, in the end, our Gunners withered on what was a blistering day at the Emirates against a determined, defensive side. A goal simply wasn’t in the cards; we must take our point and build from there. One positive: Sunderland did absolutely nothing to trouble us at the back for most of the game. A clean sheet is something to be proud of and a run of them can get our defensive minds in the kind of place that leads to stalking trophies. So onward and upward Gooners. There are points out there, ones to be won and stuffed in the old bag.