Wigan manager Roberto Martinez was left to rue his side's defensive shortcomings this season after Latics' relegation to the Championship was confirmed with a 4-1 humbling at the hands of Arsenal on Tuesday.
Injuries have ravaged Wigan's backline in recent months and their frailties were evident as the Gunners edged closer to a Champions League spot thanks to a Lukas Podolski double and goals to Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott.
Wigan looked a changed side from the one that trumped Manchester City to lift the FA Cup four days earlier and Martinez admitted his "shock" at being relegated, but insists his defender's brought the result upon themselves by conceding a league-high 71 goals this season.
"I know from the outside you could see it was possible but I never thought for a second it would happen," Martinez said. "I was confident this team could win the last two games. It is difficult to describe the feelings. It comes as a shock.
"I don't think you get many managers saying they are proud of their players when they get relegated, but we don't deserve to be in the bottom three. You will never see a better group of players than these in the way they play and represent the club.
"The FA Cup is an achievement we will never lose as a club. It is our first silverware, but it is a real shame it happens in the same season as relegation. You don't normally get teams good enough to win the cup going down - that is why it is difficult to take.
"When you walk into the dressing room after this match it is heartbreaking. But we haven't been good enough in the defensive area and that is why we have been relegated.
"It is not one of those moments to be too sad - it is the opposite. To have eight years at this level is incredible. We have beaten every top club and financially we are in a strong position. As a Wigan fan it is a time to be proud of what we have achieved."
Martinez added to Sky Sports: "We have conceded far too many goals. Going forward we have been magnificent, I think it's been our best season in terms of performances, but the injuries in the back line are something I have never seen before.
"To have four, five, even six players missing in the back line and our keeper affected with injury - our captain Antolin Alcaraz, Ivan Ramis out for the season, Ben Watson with a broken leg, (Jean) Beausejour, (Maynor) Figueroa... We have to have so many different partnerships and keep changing, and that caused us problems."
Martinez has been touted as a possible replacement for David Moyes at Everton and while coy on his own future, the Spaniard expects some of Wigan's players to search for Premier League football elsewhere.
"In the summer, as always happens, there will be assessments and whatever happens will happen," he said. "Every football club in the world will lose players. There is a price and when you get that you have to reinvest in good players - that is not a worry at all.
"We don't have to balance books - we are not going to lose players on the cheap. Everything is on a good financial structure - even in the Championship."
Meanwhile, Arsenal are in the driving spot to secure a top four finish, heading into the final match of the season with a one point lead over fifth-placed Tottenham.
A win over Newcastle on Sunday will be enough to fend off the challenge from their north London rivals and could move the Gunners into third if Chelsea drop points.
"It is all open, but it depends on our result. Even third place is not out of sight if we win the game," manager Arsene Wenger said. "I am confident because we have experience, we play for a long time under massive pressure and we have always found the solutions with the problems that we have faced.
"It is sad that they [Wigan] go down because they are a good team, they play good football and are an intelligent team with good players. If they stay together they will certainly come up again."
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.