By Chris Harris
Jack Wilshere says he has exceeded his own expectations since returning to top-flight football with Arsenal.
The 20-year-old ended a 17-month wait for a first-team appearance when he faced Queens Park Rangers last month and followed that up with starts at Manchester United and Schalke.
Wilshere is preparing for his international comeback after being called into Roy Hodgson's squad for Wednesday's friendly in Sweden. And the midfielder is more than happy with his progress since recovering from ankle and knee injuries.
"I’m quite surprised actually," he told Arsenal Player. "When I first played in the [under-21s], I was really rusty and I think it was clear for everyone to see. Everyone was just being nice to me saying ‘you played well’.
"Now I’m feeling better and better as every game goes on and there’s no hiding place when you’re playing at the Emirates, at Old Trafford and you’re in front of everyone. You have to be at a certain standard so you don’t let your team-mates and your fans down.
"Mentally it has been tough because you question yourself all the time. You go to the Emirates, you watch games and you think ‘Has it got quicker? I don’t remember it being this quick. Can I get back to this level that I was at before?’
"But I feel good now and hopefully, with a few more games, I can get back to my best."
Arsène Wenger and his medical staff have been managing Wilshere's first-team schedule carefully and the Frenchman has warned that the youngster will need time to "get his burst back".
"I know exactly what he means by that," said Wilshere. "The boss always says it to me when he’s reminding me to do my gym work and train hard.
"It just means literally the first five yards. That was one of my strengths of my game - the first five yards, to beat a player. He says it’s slowly coming back so hopefully it will come back soon.
"I think the boss did it [my comeback] quite cleverly because maybe if he’d told me the day before, I’d have been a bit anxious and not slept as well. I was just preparing to sit on the bench and hopefully come on at some point in front of the crowd.
"He told me at half 10 [on the day of the game that] he was going to start me. I was nervous but I didn’t have time to worry about it. I just went out there and I thought I did quite well.
"The intensity was totally different from the under-21s. I played 90 minutes for the under-21s but after 60 to 65 minutes, my legs started to go and the boss took me off."
Watch the full interview with Jack on Arsenal Player from Wednesday morning.
- Jack was speaking at Great Ormond Street Hospital, where the Club opened a Lung Function Unit - a legacy from Arsenal’s partnership with GOSH during the 2009/10 season