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August 18, 2012
• Emirates Stadium, London
Referee: C. Foy
• Attendance: 60078
Well, that's it for today folks. Thanks for joining us this afternoon. I'm Tom McKeown and I hope to see you again for more action very soon.
Olivier Giroud had a golden opportunity to win it for the hosts and kick off his Arsenal career in style, but it wasn't meant to be. Meanwhile, Sunderland look like they will be very tough to beat, but will need to show more prowess going forward if they are to register some wins.
FULL-TIME! The corner is cleared and Chris Foy ends the game. Sunderland hold on for a point with some stoic defending. Frustration for Arsenal and everyone will be asking whether the lack of goals was down to the lack of a certain Dutch striker.
90' + 4'
Sunderland give the ball away and Ramsey works the ball to Gervinho. The Ivorian tries to find space to shoot but Richardson challenges well to clear. The ball is fired back in and Sunderland clear for a corner. One final chance?
90' + 3'
Jenkinson hits another cross which deflects for a corner, but the ball doesn't clear the first defender and the frustration goes on.
90' + 1'
The hosts have bodies in the box but can't get a shot away. It comes out to Carl Jenkinson who disappointingly overhits the cross and it goes behind.
Four minutes of added time at the Emirates Stadium. Not long left for Arsenal to win it.
Arsenal still trying to load the box, and Sunderland STILL shutting them out. Heroic defending from O'Neill's side.
Louis Saha showing all his experience there, stealing the ball in midfield and drawing a foul from Andrei Arshavin to keep the ball and buy the visitors more time.
It comes to nothing as the cross flies harmlessly past everyone in the box, and Arsenal stride forward.
The Black Cats are enjoying a very rare spell of possession. David Meyler has the ball in the corner and is fouled by Cazorla. Free-kick in a dangerous position...
I'm still in shock from that miss. Ramsey's pass was absolutely superb and deserved a goal on its own. Giroud will be praying the Gunners can find a winner now.
WHAT. A. CHANCE. Ramsey slots a fantastic inside pass into the path of Giroud but the Frenchman, with the goal at his mercy, blasts it wide. An absolute sitter.
Inside the last ten minutes here at the Emirates Stadium. Can Arsenal find the all-important winner?
Gervinho nearly finds Ramsey with a deft little chest down, but the visitors scramble it clear again. Sunderland starting to look tired; they've worked very hard this afternoon.
Cuellar makes another superb block as Giroud tries to reach Thomas Vermaelen's diagonal ball. A very impressive debut from the defender.
Cazorla latches on to a loose ball and works it into the box towards Olivier Giroud, but the striker can't get a shot away. Arsenal keep the ball and a cross is whipped in towards Giroud again, but the Frenchman volleys well over the bar.
There's a distinct lull in the game at the moment. It's all being played in midfield and Sunderland will be very happy to keep Arsenal at arm's length.
Boos ring around the stadium as Cuellar limps off very slowly for treatment. Mr Wenger looks distinctly unimpressed and tells the referee as much. Play gets back underway with the visitors in possession but they concede a free-kick and Arsenal look to attack again.
Gibbs wins a corner off Gardner, their fifth of the match. Cazorla whips it in but Sunderland clear their lines easily. Frustration ever-growing for the hosts.
Substitute Aaron Ramsey almost makes an immediate impact, picking up the ball 25-yards out and firing an effort towards goal, but Mignolet saves comfortably.
Ahmed El Mohamady
Cazorla gets hold of the ball in midfield again and works it wide to Gervinho, but Sunderland are holding their shape and are still keeping out the hosts, much to the home fans' frustration.
Gervinho has been very lively in this second half. The Ivory Coast forward darts inside from the left and drives low, but the ball is blocked and Sunderland continue to survive. Just.
This is as one-sided as it can get at the moment. Cattermole fouls Diaby and the Gunners press forward again. Richardson skews his clearance and it's whipped back across the six-yard box. The ball finds its way to Walcott, but he can't direct it and the ball slams into the side netting.
Gervinho makes another fine run towards goal but can't get a shot away. It falls to Cazorla who tries a left-footed volley first time, and it whistles just wide of Mignolet's near post.
The visitors are struggling to get out of the final third. They're standing firm but Arsenal keep pressing.
Podolski whips the free-kick left-footed over the wall, but it's too high and goes a yard over the bar.
Walcott is in full flow, cutting inside and is cleaned out by Richardson. Arsenal have a dangerous free-kick here, around 25 yards out.
Sunderland are starting to give the ball away cheaply. Gervinho is the grateful recipient of a loose pass, but overruns it down the left flank and it rolls for a goal kick.
Cazorla can't quite thread it through to Gervinho in the box but Arsenal keep hold of possession. Pressure building here on Martin O'Neill's side.
Cazorla finds more space in midfield and attempts another 25-yarder, but Cuellar is there once again to get in the way and the ball goes clear.
Gervinho picks up the ball at halfway and nearly sets Podolski free with a through pass, but it's cut out superbly by Cuellar who sprinted across to make the interception.
Podolski brings the ball down in the box but can't get his shot away. Cazorla's effort is blocked and the visitors move forward. Arteta gives Larsson the lightest of nudges halway inside the Arsenal half and the referee gives a free-kick.
Kieran Gibbs is caught by Fraizer Campbell in midfield, but it's a fairly pedestrian start to the half.
Both sides are unchanged as Sunderland start the second half.
Well, I wasn't sure if I dared say it, but Mr Clarke has gone for it. Can Arsenal move on from the loss of Van Persie? Gunners fans will certainly be hoping so in this second half. The players are out and we're moments away from the restart.
Josh Clarke reports: “An intriguing encounter at the Emirates with Arsenal arguably the better of the two as we reach half-time. The hosts have dominated possession, with Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski both going close to netting on their debuts. That’s not to say Sunderland aren’t threatening the Gunners though, with Martin O’Neill’s team demonstrating their potency on the break whenever possible. Arsene Wenger won’t be too upset with how things have gone, but it’s clear to all that the clinical nature of Robin van Persie isn’t easily replicated.”
Santi Cazorla almost certainly the stand-out player in that half. He's looking a lively prospect for the Premier League this season. Sunderland will be happy to go into the break without conceding, but they've had a few chances of their own and will need to take them if they want anything from this game.
45' + 1'
And that is in fact half-time. Fairly frustrating for the Gunners as they fail to get the breakthrough they've been pressing for, but Sunderland's tactics mean they'll see plenty more of the ball in the second half.
Sunderland keeping the ball now. They just want to get into the dressing room for a breather.
Arsenal still probing and pushing forward, but it's all been a bit frustrating so far. We're about to enter stoppage time, and there will be just one minute.
CHANCE! Walcott receives the ball in the area and skips past a challenge, pulling back to Podolski, but Craig Gardner produces a fantastic challenge to put it behind and stop the new Arsenal man giving the Gunners the lead. Great defending.
Semi-chance for Sunderland. Colback is found on the right-hand side of the box and drives the ball low towards the near post from a tight angle, but it can only find the side-netting.
Lee Cattermole flies into a challenge to win the ball - fairly, I might add - and Sunderland pick up possession. Sessegnon's long-range effort is blocked by the lofty Per Mertesacker but the Black Cats keep the ball.
Sebastian Larsson is clearly not liking the sun. He's just given the ball away twice in succession, and the second time nearly led to a chance as Gervinho looks for Podolski, but it's just behind the German's stride.
Podolski chests down beautifully to Cazorla as the new boys link up well, but the lively Spaniard gives the ball away cheaply and the Gunners have to start again from the back.
The sun is still beaming down on the Emirates Stadium this afternoon. Only the players on the near side are getting any respite thanks to the shadow from the roof, and Arsenal have just slowed things down a bit as they look to press forward again.
Richardson gives it away cheaply, and tries - somewhat cheekily - to block Gervinho off. Referee Chris Foy is no fool, and gives the free-kick 35 yards out. Mikel Arteta is on the end of it, but blasts his shot high, wide and definitely not handsome.
Walcott has moved over to the left wing, and is almost in straight away. Cazorla is in the mix again, poaching the ball and rolling it into Walcott's path, but the England international strays inches offside and the Black Cats survive.
Sunderland camped in their own half at the moment, with the hosts completely monopolising possession. If it carries on like this, it's surely a matter of time before the Gunners break the deadlock.
GREAT SAVE! Diaby receives the ball in midfield, shimmies to create himself some space and rolls it low towards the left-hand corner. Not much pace on it but Mignolet is at full stretch to tip it wide.
Cazorla cuts in from the left and whips a superb cross into the box. Theo Walcott does well to get on the end of it but can't direct the ball anywhere near the goal and it drifts harmlessly off target.
Sunderland clearly have a game plan here: stay organised and break forward quickly. Arsenal having more and more of the ball now as the hosts decide to take charge of the match.
Podolski nearly sneaks one in at the near post but it's scrambled away by the Sunderland defence for a corner. Carlos Cuellar then does well to snatch the ball from Abou Diaby as he tries to reach the resulting corner.
A couple of great chances for the Spaniard in this match already. He'll be very happy with his debut so far. As we approach the halfway mark of the half, we're still goalless and it's pretty even.
GREAT CHANCE! Gervinho shows some fine skill to skip a challenge and burst into the box from the left. He pulls back towards Cazorla, but the debutant doesn't quite wrap his foot around the ball and it zips just wide of the near post.
Sunderland moving around nicely with the ball, showing a lot of fluidity in possession. Mr Wenger definitely has his work cut out this afternoon.
Colback flies down the right-hand side to latch on to a long pass. He's looked lively so far, but slips a disappointing pass inside towards Sessegnon and the ball is easily cut out. Sunderland probably the happier side so far though.
The Black Cats are starting to get a foothold in the game as the hosts go through a spell of sloppy passing. Sunderland enjoying more possession but not making any inroads yet.
Commentator's Curse almost strikes immediately as Sunderland have a great chance. Stephane Sessegnon rolls the ball square to Colback who drills low from 20 yards, but an Arsenal leg takes the pace off the strike and Szczesny is able to save with his legs.
Still all Arsenal as we reach the ten-minute mark. Martin O'Neill's side are standing firm and looking organised though. Could be a long afternoon for the Sunderland defence.
Abou Diaby strides forward after pinching the ball from Jack Colback, but couldn't quite find an Arsenal man in the box. Encouraging post-RVP stuff from the Gunners though.
That was a lovely darting run by Cazorla. He looks good, this chap. Arsenal are starting to take charge. Plenty of possession for the hosts in these early minutes but Cazorla's strike is the only real chance for them so far.
Chance! James McClean springs the offside trap to latch on to Kieran Richardson's pass, but drills low into Wojciech Szczesny's feet. At the other end, Santi Cazorla shows some skill and blasts a 25-yarder which Mignolet parries away.
It's a fairly quiet start as the players acclimatise to the heat. It's a sweltering day in London. Simon Mignolet scrambles to clear a weak backpass but danger is averted.
Arsenal get us underway.
The opening day always serves up drama. The Black Cats haven't won at Arsenal since November 1985. Is it time to end the run? Well, the teams are out, and we're moments away...
Five minutes to go until kick-off. The players are making their way into the tunnel, the fans are finding their seats, it's a glorious day in north London and I'm getting very excited already.
Rule out Sunderland at your peril, though, my friends. They'll be looking to cause the Gunners some problems in the air this afternoon. 28 per cent of their goals last season came from headers; the highest proportion of all teams in the Premier League.
Can Arsene Wenger's side fill the huge void left by a certain Mr van Persie? Well, they're unbeaten in their last 11 opening day fixtures and have only lost once in 17 league games against the Black Cats. The odds certainly look to be in their favour for making a winning start today.
So, we have Gunners debuts for Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski, while Olivier Giroud has to make do with a place on the bench. Carlos Cuellar makes his Sunderland debut but Louis Saha is among Martin O'Neill's substitutes. Fifteen minutes until the Premier League season kicks off. Excited yet?
First up, a look at today's teams... Arsenal: Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Diaby, Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott, Gervinho; Podolski. Subs: Mannone, Djourou, Coquelin, Santos, Ramsey, Arshavin, Giroud. Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, O'Shea, Cuellar, Richardson; Larsson, Cattermole, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon, Campbell. Subs: Wickham, Kilgallon, Meyler, Bramble, Saha, Elmohamady, Westwood.
Good afternoon and welcome to our LIVE! coverage here from the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal kick off their Premier League campaign against Sunderland and begin life without Robin van Persie. I'm Tom McKeown and I'm here to take you through all the action.
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