A dictionary-definition smash-and-grab saw Arsenal swipe the points from a grossly inferior Anderlecht last time out, but the 89 minutes of ineptitude in their performance depicts the difficulty they’ll face to maintain their status as perennial top-four finishers under Arsene Wenger this season.
The Gunners can be backed at 53/100 to be a part of the elite quartet once again at the end of the campaign, with 7/5 saying they have their lifetime membership revoked.
Based on the fact that no matter how bleak the situation has been before, the north Londoners have never finished lower than fourth under their long-serving French boss, plenty will refute any arguments against them doing it once more this term.
But their slow-start to the season shows no signs of abating and their victory in Belgium appears to be the perfect kind of paper with which to cover up gaping cracks.
Here are the reasons why this is the year, ladies and gentlemen, when we finally see the Gunners fall out of the top-four reckoning:
Their biggest strength is being able to retain the ball in non-threatening positions.
Recycling possession 50 yards from their adversaries’ goal isn’t going to win many points, yet is the only area in which Arsenal excel.
In Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck, they have signed two first rate attackers who have performed admirably in their fledgling Gunners careers.
But against Anderlecht, Sanchez provided almost all of the attacking threat by himself, with little help from his contemporaries.
Advanced-midfielders such as Santi Cazorla are technically excellent, but their application of this technique is nearly non-existent.
Their forward play is often too predictable and easily negated by savvy opponents.
Arsenal’s defence does little to compensate for this lack of penetration up top.
Three of their first-choice back five may have been absent for their trip to the Constant vanden Stock Stadium, but Wenger’s side were all too easily exposed on the counter attack by a team hardly renowned for their prowess in the final third.
Despite having 35 per cent possession, Anderlecht managed to have more attempts on goal than their flashier foes, which underlines just how straightforward it is to nullify Arsenal’s threat.
One clean sheet in ten is not the standard of defending that deserves the reward of Champions League qualification.
Players recovering from injury will help improve these figures, but history suggests once they recover from the current crisis, another will wrap its icy fingers around their throat and squeeze the likes of Damian Martinez into the team.
With just two league wins in eight, trailing in the race to top their Champions League group and eliminated from the Capital One Cup in their first outing, this has to be one of the greatest periods of sustained mediocrity in recent Arsenal history, so back against them finishing in the top-four this term.