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The Arsenal and England star feels that people forget he is only 21 after making his professional debut five years ago but admits he has struggled since returning from injury

Jack Wilshere has called for patience from his critics, adding that he is paying the price for an early rise through the ranks at Arsenal.

The midfielder made his first-team debut for the Gunners aged just 16, but a succession of injuries have hampered his progress at both domestic and international level.

And Wilshere, who has struggled for consistency since returning from a 17-month lay-off a year ago, feels those questioning his ability must take into account that he is still learning his trade.

"Yes, I do think [people forget my age]," Wilshere told the club's official website. "Not just because I've been around for a long time, but people hear I've got two kids and it's not often you hear about a 21-year-old with two kids.

"I have been in the [Arsenal] first team since I was 16, so that is five years and that is quite a long time in football terms.

"I made my debut when I was 16 and the aim was to play for England and it came pretty quickly - when I was 18. Then the main thing after that was to keep my place in the Arsenal team week in, week out and I did during that season.

"I then had a frustrating year with injury and it is tough when you are out injured, you have got to come back. People think that when you are out injured you don't do a lot of work, but you do, trust me."

Wilshere admits his continued rehabilitation from injury has been a struggle and he expects those to point out when he has played poorly, but feels his ability to play against far more experienced professionals must be noted.

He continued: "It is tough, but last season I got back into the team, got fit again and had 30-odd games which was nice, and this year I have stayed fit so far and that's the aim for the rest of season.

"People are always going to criticise you and judge your performances all the time. They are paid to do that, so you have to concentrate on your own game.

"I play week in, week out against 31- and 32-year-olds, so I think you just have to take that [into account]."

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