Three reasons why Arsenal should be considered title favourites

Arsenal have taken a bit of a battering from the combined force of the media and their own frustrated fanbase of late.

Their comfortable mid-week FA Cup progress however, and their salvaging of a point against Tottenham should give Arsene Wenger confidence that his side can finish the season strongly.

Currently eight points off the pace set by Leicester, Wenger’s men have slipped to 9/2, third favourites with most bookmakers with nine games to go.

The Premier League’s most experienced coach has several reasons to believe his side are still the team to beat. Here are the principle three.

Barcelona

Arsenal must travel to Camp Nou next Wednesday to face a Barcelona side that look nigh-on invincible at present.

Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, even Wenger would quietly admit to himself that the fixture is likely to be their last in Europe this year.

The almost inevitable impending exit from the Champions League would allow the North London outfit to concentrate on the league campaign for the remainder of the season.

While they continue in the FA Cup after their replay win against Hull, Arsenal would be able to keep key players fresh for league fixtures and gain some momentum over the closing weeks.

Over at Manchester City meanwhile, Manuel Pellegrini’s side are on the cusp of a quarter final and the Chilean, who already has a Premier League title under his belt, appears to be prioritising Europe before he makes way for Pep Guardiola in the summer.

Newfound steel

For a large a large part of the last decade, Arsenal would continually blow away the lesser sides in the league with their attractive attacking play, only to crumble when facing one of the division’s top teams.

They earned an unwanted reputation for buckling in the face of their top-four rivals. It is not so long ago that they endured an 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford and it is fair to say that for a number of seasons during the construction of the Emirates Stadium, that they became a selling club compared to their main adversaries.

Now though, that label has been banished and over the last year Wenger has managed to re-instate resilience in his side when faced with high-level opponents.

It seems that the fear with which fixtures against title rivals were approached, is gone. Not only that, Arsenal have become more accustomed to getting results when not necessarily at their best.

Salvaging a point at White Hart Lane last weekend is testament to both. Newfound mental strength and big game know-how could yet prove crucial.

Returning stars

While the loss of Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey is a sizeable blow, the overall health of the Arsenal squad is beginning to look rosier than it has done of the course of the season.

The timing could not be better.

Danny Welbeck suffered a long absence but has returned sharp to give his fellow strikers some necessary competition.

His late winner at Leicester and performances since have offered his manager a huge boost.

Theo Walcott netted twice in the week and will also be pushing for a start.

At the back Laurent Koscielny should return for the next league fixture while even the injury plagued Jack Wilshire, missing for the entire season, is expected to feature in the run-in.

The increase in his squad size could not come at a better time for Wenger, who will expect fierce competition for places from here on.