The ball slid comfortably into the soaking net. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wheeled off in joyous celebration. The Arsenal bench were up-lifted, on their feet, as were the fans. 3-0 up with Anderlecht looking finished, it would surely be three points for the Gunners. Arteta injured but replaced by the war-horse, Flamini. Anderlecht pushed on, Arsenal retreated and stepped back. 3-1. 3-2. 3-3. Just like that. A traumatic half an hour for Arsenal, eroding away like rotting wood. A stale finish, a stale finish that would not be forgotten. It should not take four home goals to defeat an opponent like this. Young and energetic, but short of experience, this Belgian side sure did show European football how easy it is to make Arsenal capitulate. What a fine job they did at it too. With Arsenal gaining just one point from the tie where they could have secured qualification, it is certainly necessary to depict what really went wrong.
1) Mikel Arteta’s time may be coming to and end
It was a fairly impressive half for the ageing Spaniard. Back into the XI next to Aaron Ramsey, he was stuck on defensive duty as his partner looked goal hungry. Unfazed, he did his job well. His distribution is very pivotal at Arsenal, as he often begins a move from deep allowing us to gain momentum when striding into the box. On a couple of occasions, this was the case. He even got a goal, a cheeky Paneka spot-kick to round off a stellar half for the midfield maestro. The older side of Arteta is evident though. Sometimes slow in the turn, allowing players to run past him as he tries to backtrack. Experienced in the PL, he lacks it in Europe, and at the elite level he is certainly nothing to go by. 3-0 up and comfortable, Arteta was enjoying a lot of the ball before a hamstring pull looked to occur. Arteta signalled to the bench, he was taken off. This is a problem for Arsenal, as without the defensive cover they need, a player like Arteta is actually quite necessary against the lesser sides. Seen yesterday as his absence saw 3 goals conceded, Flamini is not quite the answer. His body now looks too old and rusty to function. Not being able to play ninety minutes at the top level and his long-balls and turn-rate are hindering his fitness. Maybe it’s time to throw in the towel Mikel before you come under more scrutiny. Nevertheless, he hopes to be back in 3 weeks. The MLS is made for a player like Arteta, who in this day and age, won’t survive the relentless challenge the Premier League or Champions League provides.