Walcott: Youth is not a viable excuse
Theo Walcott maintains Arsenal can no longer use inexperience as an excuse for failing to deliver when it matters most. The Gunners saw another campaign which promised so much end without silverware for a fifth successive year. Indeed, arch-rivals Tottenham could yet overtake Arsene Wenger's men for third place - and with it secure direct qualification to the Champions League group stages - should they suffer a shock home defeat to Europa League finalists Fulham on Sunday. Much has been made about Wenger's continued faith in the promise of youth, with the Gunners boss insisting his squad will be stronger for having come through the last couple of testing campaigns. Walcott, 21, feels the players have learnt some hard lessons, having seen their title chances blown away with successive defeats at Spurs and then Wigan, when they led 2-0 with 10 minutes left. "We can't use the experience as an excuse now, with the experiences we've had as a side - we need to go that one step further," Walcott declared. "It has been quite hard at times. We had a lot of injuries to big players and it has been very frustrating. "Myself as well, I have had a lot of injuries this season." Walcott added on Sky Sports News: "People say if we had had Robin [van Persie] we would have had a bit more of a chance and I am pretty sure if we had had him we would have had more of a chance. "We had a lot of defensive problems as well, but the likes of Sol [Campbell] came in and did a great job. "Nicklas Bendtner's done fantastically well. He has scored goals and that's what you will be judged on." Walcott saw his progress at the start of the campaign hampered by a series of niggling injuries. The England winger - fighting to be on the plane to the World Cup in South Africa - feels sometimes players can be too eager to get themselves into the thick of action again, only to suffer a setback. "It is one of those things where we need to hopefully try and look after ourselves a bit better," he said. "There is a different side when you are off the pitch and we have to look after ourselves and not suffer so many injuries." Wenger has admitted he needs to add a couple of experienced heads this summer, but only ones which are "top class". The arrival of Morocco international Marouane Chamakh on a free transfer is set to be officially confirmed once the striker's contract with Bordeaux expires. Veteran Sol Campbell is understood to be close to agreeing a new deal, but the futures of William Gallas and Mikael Silvestre remain unclear. Former Gunner Matthew Upson is a potential target as West Ham look to slash their wage bill, while Irons captain Scott Parker is another whom Wenger admires. Senegal defender Pape Diakhate, loaned to St Etienne, but rated at £10million by Dynamo Kiev, and Fulham's Brede Hangeland are also said to be on the Arsenal wanted list, while a move for a goalkeeper - Joe Hart the likely candidate - could well be part of Wenger's summer rebuilding plans. The Arsenal board, meanwhile, are reported to be ready to offer Wenger a new three-year deal, with the Frenchman's current contract set to run out at the end of next season.
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