A 0-0 draw with Sunderland is hardly an ideal start to any season, but after the summer’s spending so far, optimism was high ahead off their trip to the Emirates on Saturday.
While we didn’t lose, we didn’t win either and are really in need of a morale booster after RvP’s departure. However there are a number of positives that can be taken away from the match, so here are three things we learned from the goalless draw.
Three things we learned from Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland
1.) Cazorla is a potential player of the season
At times it seemed hard to believe that he had only just arrived at Arsenal only two weeks previously. Throw in the fact that he had played 90 minutes in far-flung Puerto Rico for Spain in a friendly on Wednesday and Cazorla’s almost beautiful performance against Sunderland suddenly becomes even better.
Last season as the likes of Aaron Ramsey toiled in an effort to replace Cesc Fabregas, wayward passes saw Arsenal fans sigh “Cesc would’ve made that”. In Cazorla, as Saturday proved, Arsene Wenger has finally found the Fabregas replacement he’s been looking for.
He looked the one player capable of real creativity against a deep-lying Sunderland defence and set up Giroud’s big chance with a beautifully weighted pass in behind the backline. Once fully up to speed, Cazorla can have as big an impact as David Silva for Manchester City.
2.) Robin Van Persie’s departure has ruined the summer’s feel-good factor
Before the announcement of Robin Van Persie’s controversial transfer to Manchester United, the Arsenal fans were awaiting the start of the season in good spirits and feeling confident about their team’s chances this campaign.
Van Persie’s departure may have been on the wall but his replacements were bought early and given time to bed in. Importantly, his replacements were experienced players of substance in the much-capped German Lukas Podolski and the prolific in France Olivier Giroud. By the time Cazorla had arrived with much fan fare, the Arsenal fans were quietly optimistic that if the new signings could gel, then perhaps a title challenge could be in the offering.
Indeed, what if Van Persie stayed? What then? The Dutchman’s departure to Man Utd has changed all that and the subdued atmosphere in the ground was telling. There were mitigating circumstances of course: Arsenal’s poor performance, the intense heat but there was just a feeling of uneasiness around the ground.
The club’s best player’s departure to one of their greatest rivals has hit supporters where it hurts and the eerie quiet around the stadium, even with the Gunners chasing a goal late on, was deflating.
3.) Early indications that Steve Bould is having an impact?
OK, so this was hardly the best game to use as an example for this point. Sunderland parked the bus and bar the first 10 minutes or so barely had the motivation to get out of their half let alone threaten Arsenal’s goal. Indeed, the Black Cats did not even start with a recognised striker up top.
However, there were some signs that the Gunners’ new assistant, defensive legend Steve Bould was having some effect as he attempts to shore up a defence that conceded 49 goals last season.
Sunderland’s Seb Larsson is one of the best set piece takers in the Premiership but saw any efforts dealt with comfortably by the Arsenal rearguard. Additionally, in James McClean, Frazier Campbell and Stephane Sessegnon Sunderland’s expected pace on the counter-attack was negated by some superb defensive challenges from Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs. Gibbs in particular seemed to have certainly improved in his timing of the tackle, a Bould trademark.
It is early days but perhaps the signing of Bould to replace Pat Rice could well be Arsenal’s best signing of the summer.