After a troubled few days, Arsenal began their Premier League campaign with a disappointing goalless draw at home to Sunderland.
On a balmy day in London, there was a distinctly slow temp to proceedings as both sides still searched for optimum match fitness. It was a situation that suited Sunderland, though, as they made no attempt to hide their defensive first approach.
In the first match without talismanic captain Robin van Persie, the Gunners lacked an urgency and cutting edge for much of the contest. Yet, Olivier Giroud had a golden opportunity to make himself an instant favorite with the Emirates faithful. With just eight minutes to go the new signing from Montpellier sent the ball the wrong side of the post having been found in space in front of goal by Santi Cazorla.
While Giroud and the man he replaced, Lukas Podolski, failed to provide debuts to remember, fellow-new-signing Cazorla gave plenty of indicators to why he could well become a key player for the club.
The Spain international, recruited for a relative bargain fee from Malaga, looked to provide the creative edge at the head of a midfield three and was the source of much of Arsenal's good work.
Cazorla almost made a dramatic early impact as he struck a fierce left footed drive from 20 yards, but it was too close to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet who tipped over.
He was also trying to pull the strings for his new teammates. It was Cazorla's clever ball that freed Theo Walcott bursting into the area allowing the England international to try and find Podolski at the near post, but Sunderland defended well to force the ball behind. Cazorla was a busy presence, particularly in the opening period. Popping up on the left, he produced a cross that Walcott just got underneath to head over.
There were also encouraging signs of a better second season for Gervinho. So often a frustrating presence last season, the Ivorian looked the one player who might inject a pace and directness into proceedings.
It was he who created what would prove to be the best chance of the opening period. With a lovely touch just inside the Sunderland half, he burst clear of his marker before galloping past another defender on the edge of the box, but his pull back interested both Cazorla and Podolski and with little space the Spaniard struck a low left-footed shot wide of the upright.
With their weakness up front only too evident and new signing Louis Saha only starting on the bench, Sunderland boss Martin O'Neil clearly put a focus on their activities without the ball. It was an approach that became more and more entrenched as the game went on.
The Wearsiders did create a couple of half chances in the opening period as James McClean exposed up a gaping hole in Arsenal's defense before forcing a save from Wojciech Szczesny at his near post, while Jack Colback found the side netting from a tight angle on the right.
Saha did eventually appear off the bench, but that stage Sunderland were firmly entrenched on the edge of their own area.
To their credit they defended resolutely. Never more evident than when Gervnho twice had shots blocked in the area before Cazorla fired wide form distance.
When Sunderland's defense did stutter Arsenal failed to capitalize. A botched clearance from Kieran Richardson led to a Kieran Gibbs cross eventually finding Walcott at the back post, but the England international fired into the side netting when there were better options back in the middle.
It was to Giroud that the best opportunities would fall as the contest reached its conclusion. First the striker side-footed a volley over from Carl Jenkinson's cross before Cazorla showed all his quality to wait for the perfect moment to find him with a beautifully threaded ball into the box.
Unfortunately for last season's Ligue 1 joint top scorer the match will be remembered for his subsequent miss, something that will not enthuse Wenger as he looks to show that the Gunners can cope without a certain Dutchman.