Arsenal were 3-0 up and cruising after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored on 58 minutes against Belgian side Anderlecht in the Champions League last night, but they took the foot off the gas and finished with only a point, all but assuring the London club of their eighth consecutive season finishing as runner up in their Champions League group after Borussia Dortmund beat Galatasaray to extend their lead atop the group to five points.
Many questions have been asked about Arsenal's tactical nous and ability to finish off opponents, and Per Mertesacker believes that the back four are not getting the protection they need from the rest of the team, namely the attackers in the opposition third.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, Mertesacker said:
When we drop sometimes everyone has to be involved to defend. You can't afford for just five or six players to defend, or just the back four. That is what we lacked especially in the final third and in the last 20 minutes.
The German defender then continued:
We have to defend better as a team. We did not stop them [Anderlecht] playing and they are good at it. As you could see, even in the final third, when you do not put them under pressure, they can deliver good balls through the middle. They can cause trouble and we just left them playing. So in general that was the problem.
Arsenal can still mathematically win top spot of Champions League Group D, but with Dortmund in near-perfect form so far in the competition (a stark contrast to their Bundesliga exploits), it seems a big ask. Second place seems much more likely and Mertesacker will be hoping his plea for defensive help from the whole team will be heard.