Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits he fears for his proud Champions League qualification record after the Gunners’ grip on a top-four finish loosened at relegation-threatened Sunderland.
Forward Alexis Sanchez’s first-half free-kick was perhaps the closest the visitors came to beating their former goalkeeper Vito Mannone, while the hosts went close through ex-England striker Jermain Defoe.
A point lifted Sunderland out of the Premier League’s bottom three but left Arsenal behind third-placed Manchester City and only five points ahead of Manchester United, who have a game in hand.
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“We care about that and we worry about it as well because it’s a fight,” said Wenger, who is aiming to guide the Gunners into Europe’s top club competition for a 19th successive season.
“It leaves us having to win the next game, as always. We fight against teams who fight not to go down and we know how important being in the Premier League is.”
Full-back Patrick van Aanholt skimmed the Arsenal post with a free-kick before Sanchez’s set-piece forced Mannone into a scrambling low save.
Referee Mike Dean refused penalty appeals from both sides before half-time, while Gunners keeper Petr Cech was forced to tip wide from a Defoe volley and Wahbi Khazri’s shot.
Defoe beat Cech with a lob but it landed inches wide while Mannone got a strong had to another low Sanchez drive in the dying stages.