Atsu had an operation to cure a niggling problem in May. And the winger – who came off the bench in last weekend’s 2-1 win over Bournemouth – is still recovering his fitness.
“It’s been more difficult to recover than I thought it would be,” said Atsu.
“To be fair, it’s been very difficult to come back from the injury. That’s normal, though. It was a knee injury, and they’re always difficult to recover from. With time, I’m going to be back to my very best football.”
Atsu insists that he’s working harder than ever to get back into Rafa Benitez’s side.
“The team was not playing so bad, so it was hard for the manager to make a decision to change the team,” said the 26-year-old, speaking at the Newcastle United Foundation’s 10 Year Anniversary Dinner.
“We played against teams in the top six, and everyone was fighting for their position. For me, particularly, I need to give everything and work harder, because at the start of the season I was not in good shape and I’m still getting my fitness back to where I want it to be.
“I’m really working hard, and I’m confident this is going to be a good season. I know I can get back to my best form.”
The Bournemouth result, United’s second successive Premier League victory, lifted the club into 14th place.
And Atsu says the mood behind the scenes has lifted this month.
“I’ve seen it in the faces of the players – they really care about this club,” said Atsu.
“The atmosphere in the dressing room has changed completely from when we were not winning. When things were against us, you could see that everyone was a bit down and the atmosphere was more difficult.
“That just shows that we’re all professionals and we care. When the first win came, the atmosphere changed straight away. It’s different now, and we have to work hard and keep building.
“We have some momentum now. Our confidence has been really boosted, and you can see that everybody’s happy. We’re training hard, and we want to build on the good results.
“The Premier League isn’t easy, but we’re working so hard to make things change.”
Atsu, away with Ghana ahead of Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, attended the Newcastle United Foundation’s annual dinner at St James’s Park this month with a number of his team-mates.
The event recognises the unsung heroes supported by the Foundation and raises money for initiatives in the North East.
“I’m very happy that Newcastle as a community is coming together to support the Foundation,” said Atsu. “I think it’s a great thing for the team that they’re doing so much in the community.
“I think it’s very important, and I’m very happy that Newcastle is doing this to help the community.
“It’s important to help the kids in the community.”