Arsenal humbled by lowly Bradford

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The Independent Online

Arsenal were knocked out of the Capital One Cup quarter finals by League Two side Bradford after being taken to a penalty shootout. The Premier League side were held 1-1 before Paul Parkinson's side completed an historic ninth consecutive victory on penalties.

Thomas Vermaelen missed the decisive kick to complete a humiliating night for manager Arsène Wenger.

It was the Belgian who had rescued Arsenal from defeat in normal time, with an 88th-minute header to take the tie into extra time at 1-1.

On a frozen night in West Yorkshire, what was on paper one of the strongest sides Wenger could have chosen had its weaknesses exposed by Bradford City in much the same manner in which Premier League opposition have been exposing the Frenchman's teams all season. Arsenal were quite astonishingly poor. Unsteady at the back, particularly when trying to deal with set-pieces, unfocused in midfield and lacking in any cutting edge. While Wenger may be unlikely, as the Bradford fans joyfully suggested might be the case, to be "sacked in the morning", there appears to be a lot of questions to which at this moment in time he has no answer.

Wenger's acknowledgment that the days when he could afford to treat this competition as an opportunity to blood youngsters are over took the form of a starting XI the strength of which must still have pleasantly surprised the club's frustrated supporters.

The home supporters made plenty of noise as the game got under way, not least because City took the game to their opponents in some style. The pace of Nakhi Wells, a 22-year-old Bermuda international, troubled the Arsenal centre-backs from the start, and the manner in which he brushed Vermaelen aside in the fifth minute before forcing Wojciech Szczesny to dive to his right to save gave Wenger immediate cause for concern. Wells' running again caused problems when chasing down a long clearance to win a free-kick close to the right quadrant. Gary Jones' delivery was flicked on by Rory McArdle for Garry Thompson ,coming in at the far post, to volley decisively past Szczesny.

The gloom of the Arsenal fans was evident in their silence, but they perked up eight minutes before half-time when Francis Coquelin dribbled into the City penalty area and hit a dipping drive that bounced away off the outside of the post.

Coquelin's replacement by Marouane Chamakh shortly after the hour was surprising. The Moroccan striker went up front with the hapless Gervinho pushed wide right, but the essential problem – Bradford being first to most of the 50:50 balls – remained unaltered.

Introducing Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the final 20 minutes represented Wenger's last throw of the dice. It nearly came off straight away, Oxlade-Chamberlain's first touch being a sidefooted shot which City goalkeeper Matt Duke beat out when he might have tried to make the catch.

That looked to be that until Vermaelen stooped to head home Santi Cazorla's cross and take the game into the extra half hour which provided no more joy for Arsenal than the shootout.