Theo Walcott maintains Arsenal can no longer use inexperience as a reason 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, their neighbours and rivals Tottenham Hotspur could yet overtake them for third place in the Premier League – and with it secure direct qualification to the Champions League group stages – should they suffer a surprise home defeat to Fulham on Sunday.
Much has been made about Arsène Wenger's continued faith in the promise of youth, with the Arsenal manager insisting his squad will be stronger for having come through the last couple of testing campaigns.
Walcott 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 said. "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.
"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 this season hampered by a series of injuries. The winger feels sometimes players can be too eager to get themselves into 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. 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. Campbell is understood to be close to agreeing a new deal, but the futures of William Gallas and Mikaël Silvestre remain unclear.
The former Arsenal player Matthew Upson is a potential target as West Ham United look to cut their wage bill, while the Hammers captain Scott Parker is another player whom Wenger admires.
The 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 list, while a move for a goalkeeper – Joe Hart the likely candidate – could be on the cards.
The Arsenal board, meanwhile, are reported to be ready to offer Wenger a new three-year contract, with the Frenchman's current deal set to run out at the end of next season.
Arsenal's injury concerns show no signs of improving for their final game of the season against Fulham, with the exception of left-back Gael Clichy who had been out with an ankle injury. Tomas Rosicky (ankle), Alex Song (knee) and Bendtner (groin) missed Monday night's defeat at Blackburn and will not feature on Sunday.
"There is a small chance for Clichy. Everyone else is still out," Wenger said. "[Andrei] Arshavin should be OK and should be capable to start against Fulham,Van Persie too. We have the same players available [from Blackburn]."Reuse content