Samir Nasri ensured Arsenal made a successful, if unconvincing, start to the new campaign as his debut goal secured a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion. The French playmaker, who signed from Marseille last month, took just four minutes to open his account for Arsene Wenger's side as he converted Denilson's pass from close range.
But Arsenal failed to build on that flying start and Albion, making their return to the Premier League after winning promotion last season, might have caused their illustrious opponents significant embarrassment had they applied a finish to some promising possession. Wenger will be satisfied with opening his 13th season at Arsenal with a victory, but the Frenchman's growing band of doubters will not have been assuaged.
Albion were able to harbour hopes of an unexpected point far longer than they should have, given the obvious gulf in quality between these two sides, and there was little evidence to suggest Arsenal had developed the cutting edge which stymied their title challenge last season.
The Gunners' lack of depth was also glaringly apparent from the quickest of glances at their team-sheet. They started the afternoon with a side boasting just one outfield player, captain William Gallas, over the age of 25.
Even allowing for the injury crisis which robbed Arsenal of four senior players, including Cesc Fabregas, it was a disconcerting sight for the home hoards which packed the Emirates stadium to bursting point. Wenger can at least point out that his callow youths are more blessed than most, and for 30 minutes at least, their performance was outstanding.
Albion were sliced open in the fourth minute when Gael Clichy's measured pass released Denilson in Arsenal's left channel. Some neat footwork took the Brazilian to the byline and a precise cut-back allowed Nasri to score with ease.
Arsenal smelled blood. Moments later, Theo Walcott's goal-bound header was blocked - fairly, despite the home protests - by Paul Robinson, while Gallas' 35-yard shot skimmed fractionally wide. Somehow Albion withstood the barrage and, with Arsenal's early fire sputtering out, the tie gradually became a genuine contest.
Chances for the visitors remained at a premium, but they were within inches of drawing level in the 30th minute, when Do-Heon Kim seized on Ishmael Miller's flick on. The Korea Republic international's low shot was bobbling towards the bottom corner until Manuel Almunia stuck out a left hand to turn it aside.
The interval did little to clear Arsenal's heads. An energised Albion started the second period in determined fashion and, within five minutes, Almunia was called into action again, the Spaniard blocking Miller's low shot. The rebound fell to Robinson, but his effort was cleared off the line by a tumbling Johan Djourou.
From then on, the game lurched to and fro at a dizzying rate. Emmanuel Adebayor should have given Arsenal breathing space when he was set clear by Nasri, only for the Togo striker to shoot just wide, while the muscular Miller was causing some anxious moments for the home defence.
Wenger, clearly ruffled by his team's failure to nail down an emphatic victory, dispatched Robin van Persie from the substitutes' bench and the Dutchman almost had an immediate impact, slicing wide from ten yards after being teed up by Adebayor. In the end, the miss was irrelevant, but Arsenal will need to improve - and quickly - if they hope to end their four-year wait for the title.