Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere believes it could take some time for him to get back to his best following a 17-month injury lay-off.
The 20-year-old burst onto the scene for the Gunners two seasons ago, but a stress fracture sustained in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland - and several subsequent set-backs - stunted his progress.
The Stevenage-born star admitted it has been difficult sitting on the sidelines, but has set his sights on once again becoming a key component of the north London side’s first-team squad.
"I was 19 and just breaking into the footballing world. I'd had a good season and was looking to push on. I don't think there was a point where I didn't think I was coming back,” Wilshere said in an interview with The Guardian.
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"But you question yourself as to whether you can come back to the level I was at before. Hopefully, I can get back to training well and get back to where I was.
"I've missed so much football and I need to train hard to get back to the level where I was. I think I can do it. I feel better and better as the weeks go on. It's a long season so I need to take it easy a bit but I'm looking forward to the future again now."
Wilshere managed an hour in Arsenal’s below-par win over QPR just under two weeks ago, before an appearance at Old Trafford was cut short when his mistimed tackle on Manchester United's Patrice Evra resulted in a red card.
But the midfielder completed his first 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw with Schalke on Tuesday night, and is now hoping to help rectify the Gunners’ recent poor form.
"The aim every season is to challenge for the top four and try to win a trophy. It's no different this year. We know we need to get top four but, of course, we want to push on and see if we can get more. We want to challenge for the Premier League," he continued.
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"We're a bit far behind now and we really need to step it up. We've dropped a few points and we can't afford to drop any more. We need to get a win at the weekend and get our Premier League season properly started."
England boss Roy Hodgson is set to name the England squad on Thursday afternoon for a friendly against Sweden eight days later.
Arsene Wenger has called for the Three Lions boss to omit Wilshere, citing fears of over-exertion so soon after his comeback, and the man himself is happy to bide his time over an international return.
"It's up to the England manager and I'm sure he will speak to the boss here and they'll decide to do what's best for me," Wilshere concluded.
"If they want me to play, then I'll play but if they decide it's best to rest, then I'll rest."