Arsenal’s quarter-final League Cup exit at the hands of minnows Bradford City left manager Arsene Wenger questioning the power of his strike force but the Frenchman refused to label the defeat as an embarrassment. Despite playing almost an hour with five attackers, Arsenal failed to break down the League Two club who went on to claim Tuesday’s match 3-2 on penalties after a stubborn defensive display.
Wenger started German international striker Lukas Podolski alongside Gervinho and finished the match with attack-minded players Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Marouane Chamakh and Tomas Rosicky on the pitch, but it was left to captain and centre back Thomas Vermaelen to send the match into extra time when he equalised in the 88th minute. Gervinho squandered a glorious chance in front of goal and Francis Coquelin hit the woodwork in the 38th minute. The end-of-match statistics showed Arsenal had registered 28 shots with 12 on target compared to Bradford’s five shots with three on target. “We played with a very offensive team. What is disappointing is (we played) basically over an hour with five strikers and couldn’t score,” Wenger told club website www.arsenal.com. “We created a lot of different situations. You have to say they defended very well. It’s difficult to play this kind of game.
“I know people will say: ‘it’s League Two’, but a cup game is a cup game. In football you always have a chance if you give everything.” Asked whether he was embarrassed by the defeat, Wenger said: “You feel embarrassed when you don’t give everything. I feel the team did fight and will be more disappointed and frustrated. “I cannot fault the effort. We have put the effort in (and) have given absolutely everything until the last minute. It was a typical English cup game and Bradford got on top of us in the end. We missed three penalties – that’s a lot to take.” Arsenal have not won a major trophy since the FA Cup in 2005 and the latest setback in a disappointing season could trigger another departure at the club with Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reporting on Wednesday that Manchester United have their eye on Theo Walcott. Walcott, who did not play against Bradford, has yet to commit to Arsenal after contract talks broke down in August and the 23-year-old becomes a free agent at the end of the season when his current deal expires.
EU court adviser backs free TV cover of finals
Britain and Belgium should be allowed to ensure free-to-air TV coverage of the World Cup and Euro football finals as they consider them of major public importance, an adviser to Europe’s highest court said on Wednesday. World football’s governing body FIFA and its European counterpart UEFA argued that the two countries had interfered with their property rights by restricting the broadcast of both competitions to free-to-air TV channels, preventing pay TV companies from bidding to screen them. TV broadcasting rights for the finals of the major tournaments, each held every four years, account for a significant source of revenues for FIFA and UEFA. In club football, for example, the English Premier League has became the most richest domestic competition in the world game thanks to live TV deals with BSkyB and other pay TV companies. FIFA and UEFA appealed to the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (ECJ) after the General Court, Europe’s second-highest, last year threw out their challenge to a European Commission ruling backing the British and Belgian decisions.
Bradford bask in glory of Arsenal upset
Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson hailed his penalty-kick kings after they dumped Arsenal out of the League Cup quarter-finals with their ninth straight shoot-out success. Bradford, playing in the fourth tier of English football, went through to the last four on Tuesday after beating the Premier League side 3-2 on penalties at a packed Valley Parade after the sides had finished 1-1 after extra time. Arsenal had needed an 88th minute equaliser from Thomas Vermaelen to force extra time but despite putting Bradford under immense pressure they could not finish their numerous chances to kill the hosts off. Bradford, who last played in the English top flight from 1999 to 2001, had won their last eight shoot-outs and made it nine in a row when Vermaelen missed Arsenal’s final spot-kick. “To be only three minutes away from beating a team of Arsenal’s calibre says it all,” Parkinson told the club’s official website. “The talk after the game might be about the penalty shoot-out win and our run of penalty victories, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the lads’ performance.”