I woke up early for the Arsenal vs. Sunderland match on Saturday, anticipating the long awaited start to the 2012/13 campaign. The night before, I set my alarm clock to go off two hours before the match; and I made sure my DIRECTV was programmed to record. I was almost over-readying for the beginning of the Arsenal season opener. And then my electricity went out around 2:30 a.m., due to a transformer exploding near my house.
Thankfully, my power was restored about an hour before the match start time. I really didn't feel like going down to the local pub that opens at 7 o'clock; at that hour, I'm sure there are some rough and unsavory characters there. And turning one of the two aged, Panasonic televisions to football probably wouldn't have gone over too well.
In the pre-match show on ESPN, Ian Darke said that Arsenal fans were "shell shocked" about Robin van Persie's departure. "Shell shocked," maybe, but wanting to hear about the loss of RVP first thing…no. It was time for the new era to begin.
Arsenal's defense appeared a little sloppy from the start. In the 6th minute, Sunderland got an effortless shot on goal that Wojciech Szczesny stopped. It was a good save, but it was too close for comfort. Szczesny had to be on the mark again in the 11th on a shot from the edge of the Arsenal area from Jack Colback. He hit it low and hard, making it easy for Szczesny to grab.
Arsenal's tempo was slow in the first half. Sunderland passed the ball well in the back-and-forth play. In the 18th minute, on a clean pass from Gervinho, Santi Cazorla had an open shot from 20 yards that just went a yard or two wide. It should have been on target off Cazorla's left foot from there. It was one of many missed opportunities Arsenal had. Lukas Podolski and Abou Diaby all got open shots, but it looked as if they didn't put any power behind their attempts. The match was goalless going into the half, much to the discontent of the Gunners' fans in attendance at Emirates. A smattering of boos could be heard.
The Gunners didn't create much of anything in the second half. There weren't any chances, a lot of possession, but no chances. Sunderland's defense was near perfect anytime Arsenal had the numbers or an open look. It was like playing in a phone booth for Arsenal in the box. Every time the Gunners found themselves in scoring position, there were two or three blue shirts swarming them.
There will be ear-piercing restlessness toward the new-look Gunners on London talk radio all week, but it is only the first match of the season. They just weren't good enough to break it down. Over time, they'll find the openings that they missed against Sunderland.
What a debut it would've been for substitute Olivier Giroud if he had hit the 10 yard shot in the 81st minute. That one will haunt him and fans for a few days. The Gunners need to work on their crosses.
Note: I've been an Arsenal fan for nearly a decade. My cousin got me interested in the club at a young age.
- Sports & Recreation