Newcastle: Arsenal striker Gervinho was sent off on his debut after an ugly spat with Joey Barton as the Gunners launched their Premier League campaign with an uninspiring 0-0 draw at Newcastle on Saturday.
Gervinho's dismissal was the latest problem for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who sat through a largely toothless display capped by his new signing's red card 14 minutes from time for striking Barton, who had reacted furiously to the Ivory Coast international's dive in the penalty area.
The Gunners have endured a woeful pre-season, with widespread doubts about their ability to mount a serious title challenge given the imminent departure of skipper Cesc Fabregas and midfielder Samir Nasri.
The £60 million duo are set to seal high-profile moves to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively.
The inevitable disruption that will be caused to Wenger was clear as Arsenal enjoyed most of the possession without being able to carve out any clear chances and the club's 3,300 travelling fans showed their frustration by urging the Frenchman to "spend some money".
These sides famously fought out a remarkable 4-4 draw on Arsenal's previous visit in February, the hosts improbably fighting back from a four-goal deficit, but any repeat of such drama was always unlikely in a tense opening day affair.
There was a surprise start for Barton, who appears to have settled his differences with Newcastle that saw the former England midfielder transfer listed earlier this month.
Laurent Koscielny came closest to breaking the deadlock before half-time, when the defender easily out-jumped Newcastle keeper Tim Krul to a Tomas Rosicky corner after 30 minutes, only to see full-back Danny Simpson clear his downward header off the line.
Arsenal remained in the ascendency throughout the first half, and it took desperate blocks from Newcastle skipper Fabricio Coloccini to prevent Gervinho from having a clear run on goal as Andrei Arshavin pounced on an error by Stephen Taylor.
Taylor recovered and managed to divert a goal-bound shot from new Arsenal captain Robin Van Persie for a corner as the Dutchman took aim from 15 yards.
The pattern continued after the interval, as Van Persie's curling free-kick from distance landed on the roof of the net with Krul again looking uncomfortable.
The young goalkeeper then did well to gather Theo Walcott's low drive shortly after the England midfielder's introduction for the ineffective Arshavin.
Yohan Cabaye came close to a debut goal with Newcastle's only decent chance of the contest on the hour.
However, the Frenchman was unable to fully connect with an inviting Gabriel Obertan back-heel from close range to result in an easy save for the otherwise untroubled Wojciech Szczesny.
Any hopes of a morale-boosting victory for Arsenal went with Gervinho's red card, the forward unwisely slapping Barton after the midfielder took exception to the African diving under challenge from Cheik Tiote in a bad-tempered end to the contest.
Barton escaped with a yellow card, when referee Peter Walton would have been justified to order the controversial midfielder off for dragging former Lille star Gervinho to his feet in the ugly spat.