Speaking to BT Sport ahead of Arsenal’s FA Cup goalless draw with Hull, stricken midfielder Jack Wilshere stated his belief that the Gunners were Premier League title favourites.
Key men returning from injury provided the basis for his statement, citing Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck and himself as potentially pivotal players for the north Londoners as they look to claim a first divisional crown since 2003/04.
‘I still think in my head we are favourites but with that comes pressure,” said the England interational. “We’ve got a few players coming back with Cazorla, myself and Danny (Welbeck) coming back to full fitness. So hopefully with us and Danny scoring a couple of goals, we can do it.”
Based on recent events, Wilshere’s claims seem to hold a fair amount of water, with Welbeck coming off the bench last weekend to bag the decisive goal in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Leicester, a result that made 31/20 favourites to win the league.
Cazorla is nigh on irreplaceable at the base of their midfield, so his return can only be viewed as a positive omen for the Gunners’ chances of reigning supreme this season too.
As far as Wilshere is concerned though, the stats say the perma-crocked playmaker is more likely to hamper rather than help Arsene Wenger’s side in the run-in.
The 24-year-old has missed the bulk of the previous pair of campaigns, starting just 43 games across all competitions.
Rated highly by his manager, Wilshere’s injury misfortune has no doubt been frustrating for all involved. However, his teammates have performed better when he has been confined to the sick bay.
Last season, for instance, when the midfielder started just 15 times, Arsenal lost 27% of the games he began.
In those he missed, this figure dropped to 15%.
Their win percentage stats are even more striking. The Gunners claimed the spoils in a mere 33% of the games where Wilshere was present at kick off, but won a staggering 71% of those he didn’t start.
The season prior tells a similar story. Arsenal were beaten in 14% of the matches he didn’t make the first whistle, compared to 25% in which he did. Their overall win percentage actually improved in 2013/14 with Wilshere in the ranks, but the fact remains they were more likely to lose with him on the field than without him.
He’s due back in action in three-four weeks, though taking his time might not be the worst thing as far as the club’s title chances are concerned.