Theo Walcott

Theo Walcott believes Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger should not be blamed for the club's poor run of form and said it was up to the players to arrest their recent dip.

The Gunners currently trail fourth-placed Chelsea by five points after they slumped to their third successive Premier League defeat at the weekend.

Arsenal have the opportunity to put their league troubles behind them on Sunday when they face Aston Villa in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

But Walcott expects the Midland's club to provide a stern test at the Emirates and has challenged his Arsenal team-mates to improve on their current form.

"We need to make sure we're ready, because the last few games haven't been great. As players we need to stand up and take responsibility for that," Walcott told Arsenal Player.

"The manager has looked after us and taken all the flak, but it's us players that go out there on the pitch and perform. Hopefully we can put in a good performance on Sunday; I'm looking forward to it.

"The FA Cup is one of those trophies that we would love to win. Being at home, with our support, we need to be winning these games. It's a shame we didn't get a different team, because we play Villa in the Premier League, but they will be up for it and will have a strong team out."

The Gunners ran out 2-1 winners at Villa Park when the two sides met back in December and Walcott believes the side have enough quality to progress against Alex McLeish's men.

"The biggest memory for me [of that match] was the smallest player on the pitch in Yossi Benayoun scoring with a header! I don't think he's ever done that in his career!" said Walcott.

"It was a good battle. I won the penalty for Robin to score the opening goal, and then Marc Albrighton took his goal very well, which took us by surprise. But we went all out in the last 20 minutes and deserved the win."

Walcott will hold talks over an extension to his current contract in the next few weeks, after the England international indicated his willingness to stay beyond 2013.