Walcott driven by fear of failure
Theo Walcott revealed the thought of being the first Arsenal side in a generation to miss out on Champions League football has driven the squad back into the top four of the Barclays Premier League.
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The Gunners moved back above north London rivals Tottenham with a 4-1 win over Wigan at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night, which confirmed the FA Cup winners' relegation.
Arsenal now head to Newcastle on Sunday with their destiny back in their own hands, a point ahead of Spurs following a superb nine-match unbeaten run since losing at White Hart Lane on March 3, and could yet finish above Chelsea should the Europa League finalists slip up against Everton.
Walcott, who took his tally to 21 for the season with a crucial second goal last night, has every confidence Arsene Wenger's men can now finish the job at St James' Park and deliver a 16th successive shot at Europe's elite club competition.
18. Theo Walcott
"We just have great experience in knowing what to do when the time is right. It is funny. It happens every year," said Walcott.
"We tend to finish very strong. I think it is just because the players want it so much.
"It (Champions League football) is big for the future of the club and the players. We have been in it for the last 15 years and we don't want to be the players who are not part of that.
"We just need to show that in the mid-season and at the start and we could hopefully be even higher than we are and not have this situation we are in.
"But it is very positive, and we will be fighting strong on Sunday."
With Olivier Giroud serving the last of his three-match suspension, German forward Lukas Podolski was deployed in a central striker role, scoring the opening goal on 11 minutes and Arsenal's third just after the hour.
Walcott has made no secret of his desire to the lead the attack as he had done to great effect earlier in the campaign.
"Wherever the manager wants to play me, I will do that for the team. You can't fault Lukas at all - he grabbed two goals up front and I got one as well," said Walcott, whose close range strike put Arsenal back in charge after Shaun Maloney's superb free-kick had briefly given the Latics hope of pulling off another great escape.
"So if things are going well, there is no need to change anything, I believe. I'm the sort of player that if things are going well, don't change them.
"I am making runs in and the manager is playing me up front now and then.
"I can wander at times and it works - there is a lot of rotation in that front line so when it is working, don't change it."
Arsenal could be without midfielder Mikel Arteta because of a calf injury which could mean calling upon Jack Wilshere, the England international set for summer surgery to clear up a niggling ankle problem.
Whichever side he selects, Wenger is confident they will have what it takes to secure what would be a remarkable end to a campaign which had started so badly.
"We have dealt with nerves for a long, long time now. It is natural of course, because it shows that [the players] care, but this team is on an exceptional run and has an exceptional spirit," Wenger added on Arsenal Player.
"We have 70 points, the target is 73, so let's just go with the spirit and desire we have and I think we can do it."
Premier League chiefs are, meanwhile, crossing their fingers that they are not presented with a major headache if Arsenal and Chelsea finish the season level on points, goal difference and goals scored.
That scenario could happen if the Gunners win 2-1 at Newcastle and Chelsea draw 0-0 at home to Everton, which would make the sides joint third.
The London rivals would then face a play-off for the automatic Champions League qualification spot, causing a scheduling nightmare with the Blues set for an end-of-season trip to the United States and England playing two friendly matches.