ARSENAL’s Champions League ambitions were blown off course again as everything that could go wrong for Mikel Arteta did go wrong.
Twenty four hours after his team had been stranded on the tarmac at Luton Airport, Arteta walked smack bang into another storm all of his own making.
And now Gunners fans fear they will be made to count the cost of Arteta’s reckless streak after Bukayo Saka limped off 33 minutes into this first defeat of the season.
It was the third game in a row that the suffering winger had been forced off early and many were wondering why he was even involved in this game after appearing to be in so much pain when he was forced off at Bournemouth at the weekend.
There was no-one even close to Saka when he went down clutching his leg before being replaced by Fabio Vieira.
But Arteta’s gamble had backfired spectacularly and now Saka must be a major doubt for Sunday’s top of the table clash with Manchester City.
And that was not the half of it for Arsenal as they surrendered their early lead as well as control of their Champions League group.
Elye Wahi’s stunning 69th minute winner means they are now down to second place in Group B and with little margin for error going forward.
The young Frenchman became the second most expensive player to swap French clubs when he joined Lens from Montpellier for £30million in the summer.
And the lightning quick striker showed just why Lens were prepared to break the bank for him with a goal which could be worth its weight in gold.
Most read in Champions League
It was at Lens’ Bollaert-Deleli Stadium that Arsenal’s great Champions League adventure kicked off under Arsene Wenger way back in September 1998, before most of this current team were even born.
Now 25 years later they are back in football’s premier club competition and aiming to establish themselves among the European elite all over again.
The 4-0 win in their opening group game against PSV Eindhoven was certainly a statement of intent.
But now they had to back that result up against a Lens team who finished runners-up to Paris St.Germain last season but are currently 15th in Ligue Un.
Yet that poor start to the campaign had not dampened the enthusiasm of the home supporters, who were whipped into an absolute frenzy by the pitchside announcer before kick-off.
Their team almost took an early lead when defender Kevin Danso turned and shot just the wrong side of the back post after Arsenal had struggled to clear a fifth minute corner.
But it didn’t take the visitors long to establish their supremacy and after a prolonged spell of possession they took the lead in the 14th minute.
Adrien Thomasson’s terribly loose pass was picked off by Saka and when he fed the ball up to Gabriel Jesus the Lens defenders inexplicably backed off and allowed the Brazilian time to adjust his sights and drill his low shot in off the far post.
Kai Havertz almost caught Brice Samba by surprise with a sharp 20th minute volley which cannoned off the keeper’s knees as Arsenal looked to turn the screw.
But just when it looked as though they were in total control, they suddenly found themselves back on level terms in the 25th minute.
David Raya’s poor kick was intercepted by Deiver Machado and when his ball up to Elye Wahi was nodded out wide, Thomasson atoned for his earlier error with a magnificent sweeping shot into the top corner.
Trossard almost restored Arsenal’s lead just after half-time when he cut inside for a shot which Samba saved with an outstretched leg.
And it took another magnificent reaction save from the former Nottingham Forest keeper when Tomiyasu was allowed the freedom of the Lens penalty area to get on the end of Martin Odegaard’s 66th minute corner.
But it was Declan Rice, William Saliba and Gabriel Magalheas who were doing most of the heavy lifting for the visitors as the game wore on.
Abdul Samed grazed a post with a sharp first-time effort from Thomasson’s pull back and as Arsenal were pushed further and further into their own half a second Lens goal seemed inevitable.
It finally arrived in the 67th minute when Przemyslaw Frankowski galloped down the right wing and fired in a low cross for Wah to sweep home.