Sunderland put aside their transfer market frustrations to claim a hugely credible opening day point at Arsenal. Don't believe the media spin that this result was all about van Persie's departure to Manchester United. Fact is, it was a point well earned rather than a gift of circumstance.
For those that hadn't seen the feature over the summer, here's a bunch of things we noticed about the game in our new(ish) feature, Quick Kicks...
What The Gaffer Said
Martin O'Neill was in understandably bullish mood after seeing his side battling to an unexpected but well deserved point at The Emirates yesterday;
We were very tired from about 65 minutes onwards, but that game will bring us on immensely.
We have not been able to get our squad up to strength and I knew coming here was going to be difficult.
We ran out of energy towards the end and we hanging on, but at least we are off the mark.
We should have done better in the first half, James McClean had a shot and Jack Colback got himself into a good position too, but in the second half Arsenal had most of the possession and we had to defend.
So, happy happy happy, blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda yadda, etc. The REAL juicy snippet was saved for the BBC cameras:
We haven't got all our players in place, but we'll be adding to the squad very very shortly.
Seems a very odd piece of information for O'Neill to volunteer. Could there finally be a significant transfer breakthrough at hand?
Why Didn't We See It?
It has been a little bit lost in the clamour for signings, but Sunderland went into this season with a sense of genuine continuity for the first time in a good while.
It showed, too. This was a performance forged on the training ground through careful preparation and trust. O'Neill's men were well organised, well briefed, and incredibly well disciplined. Only once did Arsenal really carve open the Sunderland defence.
That was the kind and performance that was needed away at Arsenal but throw 4 or 5 new faces into a team and you can't really hope to get it. That said, much more will be needed in attacking areas next time out against Reading. (MG)
He may not have been a headline-grabbing acquisition, but Carlos Cuellar made a massive impression at The Emirates. He was composed and combative, as well as reading the game with a level of foresight that even a Jedi would deem CV-worthy.
It left us in mind of another Sunderland defender who once made an opening day debut against Arsenal and became an overnight cult hero - Stan Varga.
Lets hope Cuellar's form lasts a little longer. (MG)
No Titus, No Future?
It was interesting that, despite Wes Brown's injury and Michael Turner's departure, O'Neill opted to use a midfielder in the back four rather than turning to Titus Bramble.
O'Neill can give the press as many positive sound-bites as he likes about Bramble, but actions speak louder than words and this was hardly a vote of confidence for the former-Wigan man. (MG)
Jack Colback v2.0
I found Jack Colback to be very impressive down at the Emirates yesterday, a real stand-out performer. "Why is this even noteworthy, he's a fine player?" I hear you ask. Well, it's because usually he goes about his business and gets on with it very well and does it to a high level - this week, for the first time in a while, he REALLY stood out.
He's stated himself to the press that he was looking to get in more advanced positions and get more goals. I had rubbished this as merely nice soundbites, but Colback was advanced on plenty of occasions, taking up dangerous positions and could well have had a goal in the first half.
We wondered if he had this sort of game in his locker, and as it turns out, he just well might. Something worth keeping an eye on over the next few weeks. (SW)
A Captain's Performance
Lee Cattermole was magnificent. I had singled him out in the preview of the game, saying him against Cazorla would be the key to us getting anything from the game, and while the Spaniard had a few sights of goal, for the large part he was well marshaled by Cattermole who sat deep, helped his defence and was generally a boss in midfield.
It's only the first game, and it is a trend of Cattermole's to raise his game against the bigger teams, but we're looking for more performances like this and less of those which lead to silly suspensions. We're quick to criticise when those happen, so we have to give him praise where it's due too. An excellent game yesterday. (SW)