JACK WILSHERE finally feels like “a proper Arsenal player” once again and believes his Emirates career has been written off too soon.
The England midfielder is ready to launch a serious challenge for a regular place in Arsene Wenger’s starting line-up after winning the battle to recover from his injury troubles.
Wilshere, 25, is in the final year of his £90,000-a-week contract and in no rush to open negotiations for a new deal.
Yet he insists that his future remains with the club he joined at the age of nine despite spending last season out on loan at Bournemouth.
“Of course I want to stay at Arsenal,” Wilshere declared after his man-of-the-match performance in Thursday’s 4-2 Europa League victory away to BATE Borisov.
“I love this club and I have been here for my entire career.
“I have a great relationship with the boss, who has played me since I was 17 and has put his trust in me ever since.
“We have a good understanding and nobody would walk away easily from a club like Arsenal.
“Now is not the right time for me or the club to discuss my contract but I am always playing for my future and it will be a big decision when the time comes to make it.
“It has been quite a while since I felt like a proper Arsenal player but I definitely feel that I am back.
“I was sat in the team hotel on Wednesday night and I couldn’t remember the last time I played a European game away.
“So I’m just making the most of working with these top players again.
“I felt good coming back to the club after my loan spell, training with the squad and working with the boss.
“I do feel that some people have forgotten what I have done for this club but that is part and parcel of football. It’s a game where people make quick judgements.
“Everyone says ‘Jack Wilshere is never fit’ but I played almost all of last season for Bournemouth and it was only in April that I picked up an impact injury.
“Whether people think I did well or not for Bournemouth is up to them, but it was only in the last month of the season that I wasn’t available.
“I was out for four months with the fractured shin and the timing of that injury was unfortunate.
“But I’ve have had worse injuries than that in the past and the rehab went well so now that I am back in full training I’m doing everything I can to stay fit.”
Thursday’s impressive display in Belarus was only Wilshere’s second full game for Arsenal in three years and he is understandably eager to make up for lost time.
But he expects to be back on the subs’ bench for Sunday’s Premier League game against Brighton and accepts that he is still not an automatic starter for Arsenal.
He says: “As a player you want to be involved in every game, especially when you have been injured, but at the same time I understand that the team have been winning and playing well without me.
“Am I 100 per cent back? Maybe not.
“I felt good in the first-half on Thursday and at the start of the second, but fitness-wise it started to go a bit towards the end.
“But that it is natural. I have only played two full games and the fitness will come. Let’s see where I am in three or four weeks.
“I’m not looking too far ahead. We have another game on Sunday, more League Cup and Europa League matches, so I’m happy to be a part of the squad and involved again.”
Wilshere knows that many of his injury problems have been the result of his full-blooded style yet will continue to throw himself into challenges which other players might think twice about.
It is that constant commitment which has made him such a favourite with the Arsenal fans and even in a more attacking role on Thursday night he never pulled out of a tackle.
“I was playing in a different position,” he explains. “I wasn’t playing as an out and out number ten.
“I was on the wing and the boss told me to come off the line and into the pocket to pick the ball up and link with Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud, and it worked really well, especially in the first-half.”
It is now more than a year since Wilshere won the last of his 34 England caps in the disastrous Euros defeat by Iceland and he has never been called up by Gareth Southgate.
He was not even aware that the Three Lions boss had named his squad for next week’s games against Slovenia and Lithuania just hours before Arsenal’s win in Borisov on Thursday evening.
“I haven’t even seen the squad but of course I want to be part of that again,” he says.
“But I am still getting back to full fitness and I have still only played a couple of games.
“We’ll see about England when I am fully fit and playing regularly in the Premier League again.”