BRADFORD — Arsene Wenger refused to criticise his Arsenal flops despite suffering one of the most humiliating nights of his career as League Two minnows Bradford beat the Gunners 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the League Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday.
Wenger’s side thought they had got out of jail when defender Thomas Vermaelen forced extra time with an 88th-minute equaliser after Garry Thompson’s shock 16th-minute strike for the hosts at Valley Parade.
But Arsenal could not find the winner and Bradford went on to book their place in the semifinals for the first time after Vermaelen hit a post with the decisive spot kick in the shootout following earlier misses by Santi Cazorla and Marouane Chamakh.
It was the latest in an increasingly long list of chastening defeats for Wenger this season and is sure to lead to more criticism of the Frenchman, yet he stuck by his players even though they had let him down yet again.
"In the second half and extra time it was all us, but it’s an English cup game on a difficult pitch," Wenger said.
"Overall, I cannot fault the effort of the players. It was a traditional English cup game and Bradford got on top of us.
"The pitch was a bit slippery. Bradford defended very deep and played the ball forward. There was not much space.
"When it goes to penalties you know what can happen. When you miss the first penalty of course it is difficult," he said. "We played a very offensive team and for over an hour we played with five strikers and created many goal-scoring situations. But they defended very well and it was difficult to play this kind of game.
"We lost on penalties against a team who defended well.
"I cannot fault the effort of our team and you have to give credit to Bradford."
The lacklustre nature of Arsenal’s exit, combined with the team’s seven-year trophy drought, gave this defeat an even darker context for the struggling north London outfit.
But, with his club now in the midst of a full-blown crisis, Wenger still insisted he was not embarrassed by the manner of the loss. "You feel embarrassed when you don’t give everything," he said. "I think the players are more disappointed and frustrated.
"When you go out it is never good enough for Arsenal, but we’ll get over this. It’s part of our job," he said.