Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole admits it was frustrating being left on the bench recently but is determined to recover his top form.
The Black Cats midfielder was named among substitutes in fixtures against Stoke and Norwich but made a return against West Brom after David Vaughan came down with illness before the game.
And Cattermole - who recently passed the 50-appearance mark for Sunderland - is relishing the prospect of winning back a regular place in the team, believing competition proves a vital incentive.
Cattermole said: "No professional wants to sit on the bench and it was hard to take, but all I can do is get my head down and work hard because you don't become a bad player overnight.
"The gaffer has brought players in who have been training really well and if I'm not pulling trees up on the pitch he will give them a chance.
"It's up to me to get back to the top of my game to stay in the team. That's a challenge I'm looking forward to and I think it'll make me a better player.
"Competition is a big incentive and a good thing to have. I don't want to feel I'm the first name on the team sheet - I need to be playing well and having people pushing will help me."
Meanwhile, Black Cats youngster Jack Colback believes the international break has come at the right time for his side after a string of disappointing results in the Premier League.
Sunderland have won just one of their opening seven games to leave them 16th in the table ahead of Sunday's trip to Arsenal, but the 21-year-old midfielder believes the fortnight's break will take some of the pressure off.
"It's been a disappointing start for us as a team - it's not gone how we wanted it to so far,"Colback told the Shields Gazette. "So the international break has come at a good time for us.
"It gives us a chance to draw breath and take stock before we go to Arsenal on Sunday.
"Hopefully when the players come back from the break, it will give us a chance to start afresh.
"And I think the break gives everyone a chance to recharge their batteries and get ready to go again."