Walcott admits youth is no excuse

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]."

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<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
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<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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