'I'm Close to My Best,' Says Jack Wilshere Before Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16:  Jack Wilshere of Arsenal runs with the ball during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on December 16, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Jack Wilshere has insisted he is nearing his best form once again ahead of a potential fourth league start in succession in Arsenal's away clash at Crystal Palace on Thursday. 

The Englishman played 90 minutes against West Ham United, Newcastle United and Liverpool, and with a new contract to potentially play for, Wilshere said he is improving with every game, per Adrian Kajumba in the Mirror:

"I think I'm close to my best. I think I have been getting better and better each game. Liverpool were probably the toughest opposition I have had this year and I felt good. I learned a lot last year about the defensive side of the game because when you play for a team like Bournemouth you don't always have the ball and you need to be switched on defensively.

"I feel like that has really benefitted me, and I'm a better player for it. I feel a lot more sure defensively and confident that if I'm going into a challenge that I'm going to win the ball. I'm happy and hopefully it can continue."

Wilshere, 25, spent last season on loan at Bournemouth having endured successive injury-ravaged campaigns with the Gunners, and there were reports over the summer of interest from Italian outlet Sampdoria, per Sky Italy (via Sky Sports' Kaveh Solhekol):

Kaveh Solhekol @SkyKaveh

Sky Italy: Sampdoria want Jack Wilshere. Arsenal asking for £9m

Despite long having been regarded as one of the most exciting prospects to emerge from the Arsenal academy there was a sense Wilshere's Gunners days could be over.

However, he has recently earned a spot back in manager Arsene Wenger's first team after being granted minutes only in cup competitions for much of the first half of the 2017-18 campaign.

Wilshere is out of contract in the summer, but Wenger recently hinted he could be in line for a new deal if financial terms can be agreed.

Per Sky Sports, the French manager said: "We will sit down with him. I believe if he can meet a point of agreement financially, he will want to stay." 

As well as playing for a new contract with Arsenal, Wilshere will also be looking to perform well in the second half of the season in a bid to be included in Gareth Southgate's England squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The Three Lions coach said back in November that Wilshere could not be picked for England while he was not getting a game for Arsenal, per Tom Doyle in the Evening Standard.

Wilshere and Arsenal will face up to former England manager Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

The 70-year-old took over at Palace in September and has guided them out of the relegation zone.

Per Kajumba, Wilshere said he owes a lot to Hodgson for keeping faith with him when he was England boss despite numerous injuries and added: "He's a good manager in my eyes."