Johan Djourou is one of few Arsenal players who will look back at this season as a success after putting his year-long injury nightmare behind him. The Switzerland defender missed virtually the whole of last term and the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ after undergoing surgery on a serious knee problem.
With the 24-year-old having been out for so long, manager Arsene Wenger was keen to ease him back into action this season. However, with Thomas Vermaelen having been sidelined since September and new signings Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny also suffering problems with fitness and form, Djourou found himself thrown in at the deep end.
It looked like being a memorable campaign for everyone at Arsenal when the club were competing on four fronts two months ago. The dramatic unravelling of their quadruple quest means it cannot come to an end quickly enough for many of their players. But, for Djourou, simply becoming a first-team regular after what he has been through is reason enough to celebrate.
"That's what you want to achieve, to be consistent and playing every game," Djourou told Arsenal TV Online. "That's what happening at the moment so I'm very happy. It was a hard season last season. Why it's even greater is that things turned out that quickly. Because, you never know, a guy can come back from injury and not be the same. In my case, I think I came back stronger."
Djourou has started 32 games in all competitions this season, but has not lost the tingle of excitement of running out on to the field in front of tens of thousands of supporters.
"Everytime you walk on the pitch, you have that adrenaline in you that says, 'That's it - it's your time'," Djourou said. "It's a really special feeling to see all those people coming to watch you and support you. I know a lot of people who'd like to have that in their lives."
Djourou looks very much like the future of Arsenal, who must decide this summer precisely how they react to a sixth successive season without silverware. Several underperforming players have been linked with moves away from the Emirates Stadium, including Gael Clichy, Nicklas Bendtner, Emmanuel Eboue, Denilson, Tomas Rosicky and Manuel Almunia.
Another is Andrey Arshavin, who would be welcome back at Zenit St Petersburg if Wenger decides to sell the striker. Arsenal bought Arshavin for around £15million just over two years ago and the Russian star enjoyed a promising start to life in London. However, he has been inconsistent this term, scoring just six times in 34 Premier League appearances, and there have also been reports he is unsettled.
Now Zenit have suggested they could be ready to bring him back to Russia if given any encouragement to do so. Sporting director Igor Korneev told talkSPORT: "Zenit's doors are always open for Andrey. If his situation at Arsenal does not improve and he's not comfortable in London, we can study this issue in time for next season."