LONDON: Jack Wilshere has vowed to force his way back into Arsene Wenger’s plans after the Arsenal midfielder stepped up his return from exile.
Wilshere has endured a miserable spell as he slipped down the pecking order with Arsenal and England before finding himself sent on loan to Bournemouth last season.
It was a substantial fall from grace for a player once hailed as “the future of English football” by Barcelona legend Xavi after breaking into the Arsenal team as a teenager.
Dogged by fitness problems, inconsistent form and concerns about his off-field antics, Wilshere has become Arsenal’s forgotten man and is fighting for his future at the club, with his contract due to expire at the end of the season.
While many Arsenal fans have consigned Wilshere to the scrap-heap, Gunners boss Wenger remains intrigued to see if the 25-year-old can rediscover his best form.
Wilshere gave a tantalising glimpse of his ability in Arsenal’s 4-2 victory at BATE Borisov in the Europa League on Thursday and he hopes that leads to a role in Sunday’s Premier League clash against Brighton and Hove Albion.
Asked if he felt he had been written off too soon, Wilshere said: “Yeah, but that is football. Football is a game where people forget. Everyone says ‘you are never fit’ but last season I was fit for the whole season. I definitely feel I am back. People say it’s a long road but I feel good.”
He continued: “I felt good coming back to Arsenal and into training and Arsene Wenger has been good. He has been speaking to me. You are always playing for your future but I am happy to be back, to feel part of the squad. It has been a while since I felt a proper Arsenal player but I am back, playing these types of games.”
Wilshere has made only two starts this season and is yet to appear in the Premier League, but he could get game time from the bench when Albion visit the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette has scored in each of his opening three home league appearances and hopes to become the first Gunners player to net in his first four since Jackie Henderson in 1958.
Wenger’s side have won five of their last six matches in all competitions, but have no margin for error as they try to keep in touch with early pace-setters Manchester City and Manchester United.
Albion boss Chris Hughton was in charge of Newcastle United the last time Arsenal lost at home to a newly-promoted team seven years ago.
But Hughton’s hopes of emulating that shock success have been hit by a suspension for Brighton striker Tomer Hemed, who begins a three-match ban after being found guilty of violent conduct against Newcastle.
The 30-year-old, who scored the winner in his side’s 1-0 victory, appeared to stamp on Newcastle defender DeAndre Yedlin in the 88th minute.
The incident was not seen by the match officials but was caught on video and although Hemed denied the Football Association charge, an independent commission found him guilty.
“We know the player, we still feel that there was no intent and that’s why we appealed, so we are very disappointed. But we just have to deal with it,” said Hughton.