Arsenal talisman Jack Wilshere has admitted he may be forced to settle for a place on the substitutes bench for Tuesday night's crucial Premier League game against Everton.
Wilshere appeared to have overcome a succession of injury setbacks that kept him on the sidelines for 17 months to return to the top for Arsenal this season, yet a fresh ankle injury forced the 21-year-old midfielder back into the treatment room last month.
Now the England star has said he is short of match fitness after playing for an hour in Saturday's Premier League game against Norwich.
"It was frustrating because I was flying just before I got injured in March," Wilshere told the Arsenal website. "I felt good, confident, and then picked up another injury. Things then drag a little and you lose your sharpness.
"I'm feeling fine. I needed the game on Saturday and am happy the boss gave it to me. The plan was always that I'd play an hour.
"It's good to be back, but it's going to take time to get back to where I was. I know it was only six weeks, but you still lose your match sharpness and it takes a few games to come.
"I don't know what the boss will do [against Everton]. If he plays me then I'm fit and ready, but otherwise I'll be ready to contribute from the bench if needed."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has a decision to make over Wilshere's participation in the Everton game after he conceded his starlet was "not completely" ready to start in last Saturday's game against Norwich.
"I rushed Jack back a bit, he was not completely ready," stated Wenger. "How careful must I be? To listen well to the medical advice and that is what I have to do.
"Use him when everything is alright and listen to him as well, how he feels. He has been out for six weeks, so maybe it was a bit too rushed what I did. He has practised with me since he was 16, so I know quite well how his body responds to things."
Wilshere has warned that his side face a stern test of their top four credentials against Everton, but he is convinced they have the momentum to beat any rival at the Emirates Stadium.
"Everton are a very good team," Wilshere added. "It's an especially hard game when you go to Goodison Park, but even when they come here you know what you're in for.
"They've got good players, can hit you on the counter-attack, have a strong midfield and are hard to break down. They are four points behind us, so it's massive that we come into it after winning on Saturday.
"We're at home and have to take the game to them. If we play our game, pass and move, we know we can beat anyone."