IRELAND'S Glenn Whelan has credited the arrival of Steven Nzonzi from Blackburn and Charlie Adam from Liverpool as major factors in his return to form.
After the duo arrived at the Britannia Stadium many felt Whelan would struggle to gain a starting berth but instead the three have formed a formidable midfield triangle.
"Everyone has seen what Steven is capable of -- he has been incredible for us, and he has really hit the ground running here," said Whelan.
"I think that for myself, being able to play alongside somebody who is performing so well gives you a lot of confidence, and that has played a part in my performances this season.
"We bounce off each other in the middle and I think we have worked well, as has Charlie who has played just in front of us."
He added: "With regards to me playing as good as I ever have, maybe I possibly am, but I don't dwell on my performances too much whilst I am playing.
"I am just trying to improve all of the time."
Having been rested for the FA Cup third Round clash with Crystal Palace last weekend, Whelan, who celebrates his 29th birthday on Sunday, is hoping to get the nod to return to the starting eleven against Champions League holders Chelsea at the weekend.
"The manager pulled me over and said that because I have played a lot of games over the past twelve months, including the Euros with Ireland in the summer, he thought that it was the ideal time to give me a break and give me a chance to rest for a few days, which was nice."