Arsenal boss accepts his side are unlikely to catch Dortmund after Anderlecht setback
23:16 04 November 2014
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Arsene Wenger has acknowledged that his side’s hopes of topping the Champions League group are all but extinguished following their 3-3 draw with Anderlecht.
Arsenal led the Belgian champions 3-0 with half an hour remaining at the Emirates on Tuesday, but had to settle for a point after conceding three goals, including a last-minute equaliser.
That leaves the Gunners five points behind Group D leaders Borussia Dortmund, who will be their next European opponents at the end of this month.
But Wenger admits they have little hope of catching their German rivals and will have to concentrate on securing the point they still need to seal qualification for the knockout stage.
“Maybe [before] there was still a good chance for winning the group,” said the Frenchman. “Now that’s almost impossible.
“You have to give Anderlecht credit – they were fighting until the end. We had a poor defensive performance from the first to the last minute and we got punished.
“Defensively across the pitch we were very poor. I think we dropped off too much and didn’t go into the challenges, we didn’t stop the crosses and in the second half it was bad defending more than being outnumbered.
“Maybe we underestimated Anderlecht subconsciously. After 60 minutes, at 3-0 up, you can think the game’s won – but it’s the Champions League and you have to be at the right level mentally.”
Captain Mikel Arteta put the Gunners in front with a questionable penalty midway through the first half, after the referee ruled that Danny Welbeck had been fouled by Chancel Mbemba.
Alexis Sanchez volleyed the second goal five minutes later and Arsenal seemed to be cruising towards a guaranteed top-two place when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made it 3-0 early in the second half.
But Anthony Vanden Borre escaped an offside flag to pull a goal back just before Arteta limped off with a hamstring injury, and then made it 3-2 with the second dubious penalty of the night when Andy Najar went down under Nacho Monreal’s challenge.
And, with the Gunners defence growing ever more nervous, Anderlecht snatched a point in the last minute when substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic headed in Najar’s cross.
Wenger added: “When we lost Arteta we lost big – he was one of the few defending well and that didn’t help. I don’t know how long he will be out for.
“The first goal was offside clearly, but defensively our performance was not good enough. It’s very disappointing but overall in the two games [against Anderlecht] we got four points.”