Arsene Wenger made only one change from the team which beat Burnley at the weekend with Aaron Ramsey coming in for Mathieu Flamini. It signalled a change in approach from the last two games with Mikel Arteta as the sole player sitting in front of the defence. Ramsey increased Arsenal's attacking options though and they set out to get the win they needed.
The first half went well with Arteta scoring a penalty 25 minutes in after Danny Welbeck had been taken down and Alexis Sanchez doubling that lead four minutes later by volleying home the rebound from his own free kick. Anderlecht looked dangerous on the break but Arsenal's defence held firm and things were looking very good. When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain increased that lead 13 minutes into the second half it should have been game over as Arsenal were 3-0 up at home to a young and inexperienced team.
Up to that point the Arsenal players had followed the example of Alexis and closed Anderlecht down high up the pitch and cause them problems. When the third goal went in their was a visible fall off in the effort the players were putting in and I can only imagine they thought the job was done. They were able to find the energy to continue pushing forward, but not to chase back hard enough or close down opponents in the Arsenal defensive third.
The real turning point was the first goal as it gave Anderlecht the foothold in the game they wanted and it also saw Arteta limp off with a hamstring injury. The goal itself was so obviously offside that it was hard to believe the officials didn't spot it. Flamini came on for Arteta and Arsenal had 30 minutes left to see the game out.
They couldn't find their feet again though and it was Anderlecht who were looking the more dangerous. With just under 20 minutes left Nacho Monreal needlessly gave away a penalty and suddenly the Arsenal lead was down to a single goal after the penalty was despatched. Arsenal managed to find a little more and went close to scoring a fourth a couple of times, but they didn't do what any professional team should do as the clock ticked down.
Players were still pushing forward with no worries about their defensive duties and they continued to look for a fourth goal rather than sit tight and run the clock down. When Anderlecht attacked the Arsenal players stood off them and allowed them to get their passes to each other or their crosses into the Arsenal box. It was a cross from the Arsenal left which led to the equaliser and the player who crossed the ball had all the time in the world to pick out a player with his cross.
You could argue that the first Anderlecht goal was offside and their penalty was a little generous, but that would be unfair to an Anderlecht team who deserved their point. They took the game to Arsenal and never gave up and took full advantage when Arsenal took their feet off the gas. As an Arsenal fan I have seen the team do just that far too often, but yet again it happened right in front of me.
It's hard to figure out what was going through the players heads as they eased off in the last half hour in particular, but I have no doubt they thought their job was already done. Maybe things would not have gone so badly awry if the defence had been stronger or there had been a better player to play in front of them when Arteta went off. Those players weren't available due to injuries and crucially because of the lack of investment in the defensive part of the squad last summer.
That's only part of the reason though because all of the Arsenal defence are international players and they should have been able to do a lot better even if the likes of Monreal was asked to play out of position. I find it hard to believe the manager couldn't have instructed his players from the sideline to show some caution as the clock ticked down, but it didn't appear to happen to me.
As an Arsenal fan in one match you can go through the whole range of emotions most fans go through in a whole season or so it appears at least. When Anderlecht were coming back into the game we all knew it could go either way and the manner in which this team has capitulated in recent times meant it was more likely to go wrong. I was disgusted and annoyed when it did happen, but I really can't say I was overly surprised.
I'm sure Arsenal will still qualify from their group but it will be as runners up with the hopes of winning the group as good as gone. It will lead to a tougher draw in the last 16 and the chances are an exit at that stage too. The thing is if Arsenal are good enough to win the Champions League it wouldn't matter who they draw in the last 16, but we all want a better draw to progress to the last eight because that's probably the height of our Champions League ambitions this season.
I have to say I feel sorry for Alexis today as he continues his one man crusade to make Arsenal a better team in spite of the efforts of some of those around him. He must be wondering why he joined a club where the players are rarely prepared to put in the effort he puts in for every minute of every game.
From here it's a tough trip to a good Swansea team on Sunday for a very tricky game before the next international break kicks in. The momentum of winning their last three games was well and truly lost last night and there aren't too many changes that can be made for that game. The chances are most of the same players will be asked to play again and it's very hard to put your trust in players who have let you down so badly.
I'll be watching that game in the Dublin branch of the Arsenal supporters club along with many others at the Irish launch of Dave Seager's book on Arsenal legend Geordie Armstrong. It promises to be a great day and you can see all the details in the poster below. Let's hope the team can do their part and get get us the win we want to make it even better.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.