Olivier Giroud misses easy goal to give Arsenal sorry start
Only Santi Cazorla shines for Gunners in goalless draw while elsewhere there are 5-0 victories
Arsenal got a taste of life post Robin van Persie when they were held to a goalless draw at home to Sunderland. In front of an expectant Emirates crowd, the Gunners showed sporadic moments of class but it was Olivier Giroud, one of the two strikers brought in specifically to replace Van Persie, who squandered the best opportunity of the game.
Put through on goal by Aaron Ramsey on 82 minutes, the Frenchman blasted wide from point-blank range with only Simon Mignolet to beat. It was the sort of chance the Dutchman would have buried in his sleep and Arsene Wenger couldn’t hide his frustration as he watched from the dugout.
“We had no space, and the passing was not quick enough so it was difficult,” said the Arsenal manager later, who also confirmed that Alex Song has agreed terms with Barcelona.
Asked what difference Van Persie would have made had he played, Wenger was philosophical in his response: “We have played some draws at home with Van Persie, we have lost some games with Van Persie.”
Despite Giroud’s miss and the failure of the other striker, Lukas Podolski, to impose himself on the Sunderland defence, Wenger was cheered by the return of midfielder Abou Diaby, out for much of last season with injury, while Spanish international Santi Cazorla impressed on his debut. “Cazorla played very well,” said Wenger. “All the chances were created by him, basically.”
While it finished scoreless at the Emirates, elsewhere in the Premier League there was a surfeit of goals with West Bromwich Albion knocking three past Liverpool at the Hawthorns. The Reds managed none in reply and the sending-off of Daniel Agger compounded a miserable debut for new manager Brendan Rodgers.
“It was a day when everything went against us really,” said Rodgers, who saw his side concede two penalties, one of which was missed. “We just have to move on. We won't win every day. Today was a period of learning for us and we were not happy with some of the decisions, but we have to move on."
Zoltan Gera gave the Baggies the lead just before the break with a wonderful strike and after Shane Long had missed one penalty, up stepped Peter Odemwingi to make no mistake with the second on 64 minutes. Substitute Romelu Lukaku added a third 13 minutes from time but WBA manager Steve Clarke refused to get carried away, saying later: "It's a decent start…We kept shape and we had a threat going forward which is important.”
Rodgers’s former club Swansea enjoyed a bountiful start to the season, thrashing Queen’s Park Rangers 5-0 on the Londoners’ home patch. Michu opened the scoring for the Swans after just eight minutes and he added another in the second-half while there was also a brace from Nathan Dyer.
Scott Sinclair made it five on 81 minutes to leave new manager Michael Laudrup in a state of high excitement: "To start with a victory like that, never mind scoring five goals, but any away game on the first day of the new season… is fantastic!" exclaimed the former Danish international.
Rangers’ boss Mark Hughes was less impressed with his players, fuming: “ It's unacceptable. You can make all the excuses you want but it doesn't wash with me… we didn't deserve anything from the game so we have to improve remarkably."
Fulham also made hay in the sunshine, humbling Norwich 5-0 at Craven Cottage. The star of the show was Croatian striker Mladen Petric, who scored twice on his debut for the Cottagers, while there were also goals from Damien Duff, Alex Kacaniklic and a late penalty from Steve Sidwell.
West Ham United celebrated their return to the big time with a 1-0 home win against Aston Villa, Kevin Nolan scoring the all-important goal on 40 minutes, while fellow new boys Reading were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke. Michael Kightly gave the Potters an early lead only for Adam Le Fondre to grab a share of the points for Reading with a penalty on 90 minutes.
Finally, the evening game between Tottenham and Newcastle ended in a 2-1 defeat for Andre Villas-Boas in his first outing as manager of Spurs. Demba Ba gave the Magpies the lead on 54 minutes and though Jermain Defoe levelled for the Lilywhites, a late penalty from Hatem Ben Arfa sealed the three points.
But the main talking point after the game were the antics of Newcastle boss Alan Pardew. He was sent to the stands for pushing an assistant referee in a heated exchange over a decision, and he later offered no excuse for his behaviour.
“I have pleaded with my players to behave and follow the Olympic spirit [and] I can only apologise,” said a contrite Pardew. “It was ridiculous… I've been to see him [the assistant] and told him I didn't know what I was thinking.”