Gabriel Paulista believes he was not given enough chances to impress at Arsenal but is far happier with life at Valencia.
The centre-back joined from Villarreal in 2015 but failed to impress consistently under Arsene Wenger, making 37 starts in the Premier League in two and a half seasons at Emirates Stadium.
Gabriel returned to La Liga with Valencia in August 2017 to reunite with former Villarreal boss Marcelino, and he has become a key component of the defence at Mestalla.
The 28-year-old thinks he is only now getting the regular football he deserves after getting away from the “s***” he believes he was subjected to in England.
“With all respect to Arsenal, I have nothing to prove to them anymore,” he told the Independent ahead of the first leg of the Europa League semi-final between Valencia and the Gunners.
“In the Premier League, I tried to prove my worth but I didn’t get the chances. When I played, it was often because of an injury to my team-mates. I deserved more opportunities.
“I was sad because I knew I had the ability to play but other people didn’t think so.
“I’m not the type of player who is affected too much by being talked about. I didn’t listen to people who talked s*** about me in England, but I don’t think anybody expected me to do the job I’m doing [at Valencia].
“There’s much more pressure here and I want to improve so much more. I want to be the best every day. That is what I work for.”
Gabriel thinks his spell at Arsenal was blighted by the uncertainty around the future of long-term manager Wenger, who stepped down at the end of the 2017-18 season.
“I arrived during Arsene Wenger’s last years and you could feel something different in the locker room straight away,” he said.
“He helped me a lot to be another kind of person on and off the pitch. He was respected by all the players and staff, but the atmosphere was so noticeable. On a daily basis, you could tell these were his last moments at the club. It showed. We knew he could go at any time.”
Unai Emery’ side host Valencia at Emirates Stadium on Thursday night, before the return leg at the Mestalla on May 9.
The Gunners will be looking to bounce back after three consecutive Premier League defeats and winning the continental competition could now be their best route into next season’s Champions League.