Theo Walcott has told his Arsenal teammates they need to have loftier ambitions than just qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.
Arsene Wenger’s side will reclaim a top-four position in the Premier League if they win at West Bromwich Albion today as London rivals Chelsea are not in action until tomorrow.
Wenger has made it clear he regards qualifying for the Champions League as a bigger achievement than winning a domestic cup, which the Gunners have not managed since their FA Cup final success over Manchester United in 2005. Yet Arsenal supporters have been infuriated by the barren run and Walcott admits he is also tired of watching United, Chelsea and Manchester City finish on top of the pile.
Despite their inconsistent performances this season, England winger Walcott believes Arsenal have enough to quality to aim for first place next season, rather than settling for the top four.
“There’s great potential there,” Walcott said. “We’ve had too much experience now to be challenging for fourth. We need to be challenging for the Premier League because that’s what we want to be known for. We want to be in the history books, we need to win something now.”
Should Arsenal win at The Hawthorns today they would move above Chelsea, at least until the European champions take on Sunderland tomorrow, and to within a point of Tottenham Hotspur, who are also in action tomorrow, in third place.
Walcott is one of a number of Arsenal players who could miss the Albion game because of injury, with midfielder Jack Wilshere also sidelined.
The England pair are back in training, though, and are likely to return for the visit of Norwich City next weekend.
Spanish leftback Nacho Monreal is available to play after he was hurt in a collision with a goal-post in last weekend’s 4-1 victory over Reading, a result that was Arsenal’s third straight victory.
That contrasted with just one win in the four games before that and Walcott has called for greater consistency in the coming months.
“We shouldn’t have to get a bad result and then perform well in the next game,” he said. “It should always be there. It’s realizing how we cope when we come back from those disappointing results. We just need to do it every week — it’s as simple as that.”
Meanwhile, West Brom coach Steve Clarke believes Wenger deserves more time to restore Arsenal to their former glory.
“In normal cycles in football, you have periods in football where you are at the top and periods you are not,” Clarke said. “At the moment Chelsea are not at the top either. Most people at Arsenal would say Arsene Wenger has done a fantastic job there and if he has a season that is a bit more disappointing than other seasons, then surely they are going to stick by him and give him the chance to keep building the squad, and try to challenge for honors.”
“There are other big teams in the same situation,” he said. “Liverpool won’t make it. It will be difficult for Everton. A lot of teams are investing big money, but not everyone can make it. There are only four places.”
The Baggies are set to welcome back James Morrison following a hamstring injury, but Youssouf Mulumbu serves the first of a three-game ban for kicking the ball at Gary O’Neil in last weekend’s defeat at West Ham United.
“It will be dealt with internally,” Clarke said. “He was very apologetic at the time. You could see it just came from sheer frustration after a disappointing performance from us. He has apologized and that’s the best thing to do.”