Arshavin and van Persie to start as Arsenal look to clinch third

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger is ready to unleash both Andrey Arshavin and Robin van Persie from kick-off as Arsenal look to secure third place with victory over Europa League finalists Fulham on Sunday.

The Gunners have seen another campaign which promised so much end without silverware for a fifth successive year, and suffered a third successive away defeat at Blackburn in the Barclays Premier League on Monday.

Indeed, arch rivals Tottenham could yet overtake Wenger's men - and with it secure direct qualification to the Champions League group stages - were Fulham, likely to field a much-changed side, to pull off a shock victory at Emirates Stadium.

Wenger has seen his plans hit by injury to key men like Van Persie and captain Cesc Fabregas at various stages of the season.

Yet with the current options limited, the Gunners boss maintains he has little room for manoeuvre in terms of team selection after Tomas Rosicky (ankle), Alex Song (knee) and Nicklas Bendtner (groin) all picked up knocks which will again keep them out.

"We always work hard in training and of course when you cannot rotate, then you do get those kind of injuries," Wenger said.

"[Andrey] Arshavin should be okay and should be capable to start against Fulham, [Robin] van Persie too.

"We have the same players available [from Blackburn]. The only good news is that we may have [Gael] Clichy back."

Forward Theo Walcott saw his own progress at the start of the campaign hampered by a series of niggling injuries.

The England winger - fighting to be on the plane to 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 to 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."

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 lead 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."

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 confirmed once the striker's contract with Bordeaux expires.

Wenger is also said to be targeting a central defender, as the future of William Gallas remains uncertain, although fellow veteran Sol Campbell is understood to be close to agreeing a new deal.