Arsenal flattered to deceive at Sunderland on Sunday afternoon, drawing 0-0 after a few half-chances, some minor scares, and a penalty appeal for each side.
The same team that beat West Brom in midweek started well, taking advantage of Sunderland’s nerves to dominate possession in the opening stages.
That did wear off before too long, though, with the hosts fully aware of what the game meant as they fight to stay in the Premier League. As Sunderland improved defensively, Arsenal looked a little out of ideas. The closest the Gunners came was when Vito Mannone had to tip an Alexis Sánchez free-kick around the post.
Encouraged by their work at the back, Sunderland started to move further forward with more men. Their very own free-kick from distance struck the outside of the post as Petr Čech was left stranded.
The biggest talking points of the first half, one at either end, saw both sides denied a penalty for handball. First Jermaine Defoe’s effort struck Per Mertesacker’s hand at point blank range. Then, DeAndre Yedlin blocked an Alex Iwobi strike, first with his leg and then his arm.
In truth, it would have been harsh to award either spot kick.
Čech had to be alert at the start of the second half, twice keeping the scores level before Arsenal came back into the match. With plenty of the ball but little threat, the Gunners struggled to test Vito Mannone at the other end.
A clever attempt to lob Čech almost saw Defoe give Sunderland the lead with just over an hour on the clock, an effort which livened up the home fans and, in turn, their team.
The introductions of Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott did little to inspire Arsenal as Sunderland dug in and a lethargic display continued. The third substitute saw Jack Wilshere, replacing Mesut Özil, come on for his first appearance of the season.
A straightforward save to deny Alexis with four minutes to go was Mannone’s last involvement.
Picking up a point keeps Arsenal in fourth, level on points with Manchester City but behind on goal difference with three games to go. It looks like a clash at the Etihad Stadium on 8th May will decide who grabs the third Champions League place and avoids a play-off at the start of next season.