- Arsenal remains in fourth, even with Manchester City on 64 points
- Sunderland is out of the relegation zone on goal differential
- Olivier Giroud has not scored in his last 14 league appearances
The Gunners had the opportunity to jump into third place with a win, but instead came up empty at the Stadium of Light as they were held by a feisty Sunderland side that also missed big moments.
There were plenty of opportunities for both teams to snatch the win, but neither side was lethal as both failed to capitalize. While Arsenal remains in fourth, the point for Sunderland has them out of the relegation zone, level with Norwich City on 31 points but holding a better goal differential.
Arsenal surged onto the ball early on, as Alex Iwobi found space and rifled a shot just wide three minutes in. Sunderland responded immediately, with Jermain Defoe forcing a save from Petr Cech and earning a corner. The Black Cats kept up the pressure in the 15th minute as Yann M’Villa beat Aaron Ramsey and rifled a shot that deflected off Laurent Koscielny and went for another corner. That produced a Lee Cattermole shot that skittered just wide.
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Patrick van Anholt just missed with a free-kick in the 21st minute, a beautiful effort that clanged the corner of the post and off.
Then it was Arsenal’s turn to turn up the heat. Past the half-hour mark, as things appeared to be slowing down, a corner swung in to Olivier Giroud at the near post, and he headed it across the face of goal. Iwobi was waiting, and catapulted up above the defense to power a header on goal, just kept out by a critical block from DeAndre Yedlin who was glued to the post.
Arsenal poured on the pressure as the half came to a close, and another chance went begging as Mesut Ozil lofted a ball in to Giroud, who touched back for Iwobi in acres of space on the penalty spot, but again his low shot was blocked.
Each team had a penalty shout before the halftime whistle sounded. Per Mertesacker handled the ball on a close-range shot from Defoe, but referee Mike Dean waved off the protests as Mertesacker had little time to react and his arms were being pulled in on contact. Arsenal had one down the other end as an Iwobi cross hit Yedlin’s hand as he slid to block, but the referee said no again.
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Following the halftime break, Arsenal looked the most dangerous side until the 65th minute, when Sunderland took control. Defoe had a brilliant chance to spring Borini all alone in front of net, but saw his cross blocked. The resulting corner was another key moment as Laurent Koscienly inexplicably ducked under the ball, but Lamine Kone, expecting Koscielny to head it away, stopped and missed his opportunity to touch home.
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Arsenal brought on Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck for the stretch run, and the chances flew in for both sides. Welbeck had a go with eight minutes left, but his low effort was right at Vito Mannone. It was Sunderland who had the chances as time wound down, with a host of corners in added time. Kone went for an acrobatic bicycle kick, but it went just over the bar.