MATCH REPORT: Sunderland scrap their way to point at Arsenal

Arsenal's Santi Cazorla and Sunderland's Frazier Campbell (right) battle for the ball.
Arsenal's Santi Cazorla and Sunderland's Frazier Campbell (right) battle for the ball.

MARTIN O’Neill was delighted that his under-rated, under-strength Sunderland side were able to fight and scrap their way to a point at the Emirates on Saturday.

But he hopes to reinforce the squad in the next 10 days to ensure rearguard actions don’t become the norm.

“At this moment in time, we haven’t yet got our squad up to strength and I always felt coming to the Emirates, first game up, was always going to be difficult,” he said.

“That proved to be the case as the game wore on.

“We got to the point where we were very, very tired and after the hour mark, the game took its toll on Stephane Sessegnon in particular, who has done very little all summer since his return.

“We managed to look dangerous on a couple of occasions relatively early on in the game and maybe James McClean or Jack Colback might have threatened more with chances in the first half.

“But we started to run out of energy and, let’s be honest, we were holding on at the end.

“I’m sure though that that game will bring us on immensely.”

It was a lively start by the hosts, but Sunderland remained dangerous on the counter through Stephane Sessegnon.

On six minutes, the Arsenal defence was opened up as James McClean slipped into the penalty area, but his shot was blocked smartly by Wojciech Szczesny

Spain international Cazorla, signed from Malaga, almost made himself an instant hero when he charged forwards and unleashed a 20-yard effort which Black Cats keeper Simon Mignolet beat away.

Sunderland created another decent opening when the ball was worked to Jack Colback at the edge of the Arsenal area, but his low effort was straight at the keeper.

Gervinho skipped away down the left and rode a couple of tackles before cutting the ball back across goal, only for Cazorla to drill it wide.

Arsenal continued to press Sunderland deeper as Abou Diaby’s low, 20-yard effort was touched around the post.

The visitors, however, set up with two banks of four and were hard to break down.

Sunderland also looked to get forwards themselves, with the best success again coming down the left flank though Sessegnon.

Arsenal finally pulled some passes together as Theo Walcott was played into the right and his cutback to the near post was hacked behind before Podolski could get there.

The second half opened the same pattern, with the hosts were left frustrated by some stern defending as much as their own poor choice of final pass.

On 57 minutes, Kieran Richardson upended Walcott some 25 yards out. Podolski took the free-kick, but the German’s effort flew just over.

As the hour mark passed, Sessegnon was replaced by Louis Saha, signed on a free transfer after he left Tottenham.

The Gunners also made a change when Giroud came on for his debut, Podolski making way.

Wenger then aimed to inject some fresh ideas into midfield as Wales captain Aaron Ramsey - part of the Team GB Olympic squad this summer - came on for the hard-working Diaby.

Sunderland continued to sit back, but Arsenal failed to make the most of their possession heading into the final 15 minutes, when Walcott was replaced by Andrey Arshavin, the Russian whose future remains uncertain following a loan spell at former club Zenit St Petersburg last season.

With nine minutes left, Cazorla played in Giroud, but the French striker, so clinical in Ligue 1 last season, fired wide from 10 yards.

Arsenal pressed in search of a winner during four minutes of stoppage time, but had to be content with just a point - which was greeted by boos from some home supporters.