Arsenal kicked off their 2011-12 Premier League season against Newcastle at St James' Park Saturday—less than a year removed from the scene of last season's 4-4 meltdown, when the Gunners coughed up a four-goal lead.
The build-up to the fixture was certainly less than ideal, due to the impending departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, and the manager Arsene Wenger recently coming under fire for an unusually-belligerent pre-game press conference on Friday, in which the Frenchman was short in his response to questions surrounding those two want-away players.
Arsenal's lack of signings in the defensive department has also been a cause for much grief among the supporters, so it was paramount that the team defend well from front to back against Newcastle.
The match was a scrappy and ill-tempered affair, ending 0-0 with precious few chances.
Newsigning Gervinho was sent off for Arsenal (looks like the no. 27 shirt has found a new home) after a scrape with Joey Barton, and eight other players from both teams received yellow cards.
For Arsenal, the result was somewhat disappointing, but what would have been a greater cause for worry was the lack of creativity in the team. Without Fabregas and Nasri pulling the strings in midfield, they found it difficult to create a clear-cut chance over 90 minutes against the hard-working, industrious Magpies.
And this absence of a creative spark will be magnified even further should those two afore-mentioned midfielders fly the Emirates coop.
With a tricky Champions League tie against Udinese looming, things only get tougher from here.
However, amid the doom and gloom, one must bear in mind that this was only the first game of the season, coming after a tumultuous preseason. There were a number of pleasing aspects to Arsenal's performance.
Here are five positive themes to emerge from the opening fixture...