Jack Wilshere has exceeded his own expectations on his return to the Arsenal first XI, but admits he is still some way short of full sharpness after coming back from a 17-month injury lay-off.
The Arsenal midfielder, back in the England squad for the first time since 2011, admits it has taken some time to adjust to the pace of the game after his lengthy spell on the sidelines recovering from ankle and knee injuries.
But after making a shaky start on his return with the Arsenal Under-21s, the 20-year-old has been satisfied with his performances against QPR, Manchester United and Schalke.
"I'm quite surprised actually," he told the Arsenal website. "When I first played, 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."
Wilshere backed Arsene Wenger's assessment that the England midfielder needs more game time to recover his acceleration over the first five yards, or "get his burst back".
"I know exactly what he means by that," Wilshere said. "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.
And Wilshere was full of praise for the way in which Wenger has managed his return to the first team against QPR.
"I think the boss did it 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 10.30am 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."