SUNDERLAND put a flat pre-season behind them this afternoon when they ground out a point against an Arsenal side which flattered to deceive.
The Gunners always looked capable of blowing a hole in Sunderland’s defence and the Black Cats barely got out of their own half in the second 45 minutes, failing to muster a single shot on goal after the break.
But for all Arsenal’s superiority in possession and willingness to go for goal, they missed the rapier ruthlessness of departed Sunderland nemesis Robin van Persie and could not break through a dogged visiting rearguard which featured new signing Carlos Cuellar.
James McClean had a good early chance in the game but shot straight at Wojciech Szczesny and Jack Colback might also have got on the scoresheet.
But this game was all about organisation and determination from Sunderland as they frustrated the home side and profited from a lack of precision in front of goal from Arsene Wenger’s men.
In a day of positives, Stephane Sessegnon shook off his ankle injury to get an hour’s football under his belt and, when he went off, his replacement, Louis Saha, looked sharp, confident and composed.
* Full report and pictures in tonight’s Football Echo