Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal’s performance in Tuesday night’s 3-3 draw with Anderlecht was “poor” defensively.
The ‘Gunners” watched a 3-0 lead slip as Aleksander Mitrovic’s last-minute header leveled scores for the visiting Belgian outfit on the nick of full-time.
“You have to give them (Anderlecht) credit. They did fight until the end and we had a poor defensive performance from the first to the last minute,” said a frustrated Wenger.
“From the first to the last minute. We never felt comfortable and we got punished. Our performance was not good enough to do it.”
Arsenal would have clinched qualification, if they had held on to three points at full time, but now look to take just a point from their remaining two matches to progress into the round of 16 of the Uefa Champions league.
Mikel Arteta converted from the penalty spot and the in-form Alexis Sanchez doubled the hosts’ lead with what was the 500th goal at the Emirate Stadium.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain added the third two minute to the hour mark but Anthony Vanden Borre had some tricks up his sleeves, as some sloppy defending in a closing half-hour of sustained pressure cost the north London outfit the game. The defender pulled two goals back for the visitors in 12 minutes before Mitrovic capped a late rally by the reining Belgian Pro League champions with a spectacular diving header equaliser.
Wenger said: “At 3-0 there was a combination of switching off and thinking the job was done and also fatigue, you could see we were not competing for the challenges.
“Maybe we underestimated Anderlecht subconsciously. That’s Champions League- you need to be at that mental level and we were not. After 60 minutes, at 3-0 up, subconsciously you can think the game is won.”
Arsenal will entertain Borussia Dortmund in three weeks’ time in their final home game of the group stage and requires only a draw to join the German Bundesliga outfit in the knockout stage.
We have to win our next game and see if we have a chance of winning the group,” Wenger added.
“I’m confident because one point should be enough but it’s not done. Everybody is really down tonight.”
Dortmund marched on to the second round for a third consecutive season following a 4-1 win over Turkish club Galatasaray.
Third-placed Anderlecht must now win their remaining games- starting with Galatasaray visit to Brussels- and hope Arsenal loses theirs to stand a chance of progressing.
Vanden Borre, who sparked the ‘Purple& White’s’ revival under a rainy Emirate condition, said it was “incredible” but thinks the match gives them that “confidence” to roar on.
“I don’t think we have played badly in any of our games in the Champions League and playing a game like this will really give us confidence above all because we have a young team,” he reckoned. “Now we have to take on Galatasaray and show that it is not by chance that we are here.”