Paul Merson led the vanguard of Arsenal critics last night following the Gunners’ contrivance to squander a 3-0 lead over grossly inferior foes Anderlecht and draw 3-3.
The Belgian outfit notched three times in the final half hour to earn a share of the spoils at the Emirates, as the north Londoners continued to attack in search of more goals, despite holding a commanding advantage.
Merson described the performance as ‘tactically clueless’, saying:
“They play for their countries, in World Cups, in the Premier League, and they are all bombing forward. Surely something in your head, if you know football, you say let’s stop here.”
In all likelihood, the draw probably won’t prevent Arsenal from qualifying for the Champions League last-16, but it almost certainly means they’ll finish second behind Borussia Dortmund.
Die Schwarzgelben’s 4-1 thrashing of Galatasaray took them to 12 points in Group D, five clear of Arsene Wenger’s men on seven and, with just two matches to play, it’s tough to envisage the Germans relinquishing their mantle.
This means that the Gunners will qualify as runners up for the fourth season in five.
Finishing second in the pre-knockout pool results in a last-16 tie with a group winner and this has cost the 2005/06 runners up in three of the previous four years.
Two successive meetings with FC Bayern Munchen over the past two campaigns prompted last-16 exits for Arsenal, while a silver medal in Group H in 2010/11 lead to a two-legged tussle with Barcelona that also ended in tears.
Sure fire group winners Bayern could be their post-Christmas opponent once again with another second-place finish looming.
Last season’s finalists Real and Atletico Madrid are also among the probable pool toppers the Gunners could face in the round of 16 as they bid to avoid a fifth consecutive elimination at this stage, an eventuality that looks ever more likely following their Anderlecht stalemate.
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