x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

No excuses for inexperience

Theo Walcott says Arsenal can no longer use inexperience as an excuse for failing to deliver when it matters most.

Theo Walcott has watched Arsenal endure another season without winning a trophy.
Theo Walcott has watched Arsenal endure another season without winning a trophy.

Theo Walcott says 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, Tottenham, their arch-rivals, could yet overtake Arsene Wenger's men for third place - and with it direct qualification to the Champions League group stages - should they lose to Europa League finalists Fulham on Sunday.

Much has been made about Wenger's continued faith in the promise of youth, with the Gunners manager insisting his squad will be stronger for having come through the last couple of campaigns. However, Walcott, 21, feels the players have learned some hard lessons, having seen their title chances blown away by successive defeats at Spurs and then Wigan. "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," the winger said. "It has been quite hard at times. We had a lot of injuries to big players and it has been very frustrating."

The Premier League have turned down Fulham's request to bring forward the game to give them more time to prepare for the Europa League final. Fulham, who play Spanish side Atletico Madrid in Hamburg next Wednesday, made a formal request to have the clash moved to tomorrow to aid preparations for the biggest match in the club's history. However, the Premier League have turned the request down, citing the need for all matches to kick off at the same time in the last round of fixtures.

A statement said: "Given it was the final day of the season, when we always play all our matches at the same time for reasons of integrity, and being mindful of the travel plans supporters will have made, the board felt it wasn't appropriate to move the Arsenal-Fulham match." Jamie Carragher, the Liverpool defender, will discuss his Anfield future at the start of next season but stressed he does not want to play for another team.

Reports in March suggested the 32-year-old would walk out on the club he joined as a youngster if he did not get a new contract offer with terms that suited him. However, Carragher said he wanted to finish his career with Liverpool and had already broached the subject with Rafael Benitez, the manager, whose own future remains in doubt after a disappointing season and speculation about a move to Juventus.

"I've spoken to the manager about it and we both agreed that it would be better if we talked about it at the start of next season," said the centre-back. "But I want to finish my career at Liverpool. I don't want to play for anyone else." John Obi Mikel will miss Chelsea's final league match of the season and next week's FA Cup final after he underwent minor knee surgery yesterday. Mikel was injured against Bolton on April 13 and aggravated the problem against Tottenham four days later. Chelsea will clinch the Premier League title if they beat Wigan on Sunday. They play Portsmouth in the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 15.

Meanwhile relegated Portsmouth's debts have increased to £138 million (Dh762m), it has emerged. In April, administrator Andrew Andronikou announced debts of £120m as he published a long list of creditors. However, that figure has now risen by almost £20m, Andronikou revealed during a creditors' meeting at Fratton Park yesterday morning. * PA