A matter of months ago it seemed certain that Shkodran Mustafi was on his way out of Arsenal.
Cast aside by former boss Unai Emery, the German defender hadn’t featured in a single Premier League game during the opening three months of the season.
An exit looked inevitable, but now the 27-year-old is back in the side under Mikel Arteta and believes he could yet have a long-term future in north London.
“Why not?” he said, having helped Arsenal to a third clean sheet in a row on Thursday night as they beat Olympiacos 1-0 in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.
“I have always taken things day by day. We had a game on Thursday, we have the next important game at the weekend and as long as I am playing for a club I always gave everything until the last minute.
“When I decide, or when the club and I decide, it is going to continue I am happy, if not then we have to go forward.”
Mustafi’s renaissance at Arsenal this season has been incredible.
Having been brought back into the fold by Arteta, he has started each of the last six games – helping Arsenal remain unbeaten since the start of 2020.
He played a starring role in Greece on Thursday night and is almost certain to start again on Sunday when Everton visit Emirates Stadium in the Premier League.
It’s been a remarkable transformation from a player whose career in north London appeared to be over, but he is adamant he never stopped believing he could turn things round.
“If you think things are over for you, then you should retire,” he said. “That’s not like you should think as a professional.
“You always get the opportunities and a team has more than 20 players for a reason. There is a lot of competition, there are a lot of games and everyone in the team is needed.
“The main thing for me was to be professional because as long as you stay professional, you have no fault for anything. Stay professional, wait until you get your next opportunity and then obviously you have to take it.”
Despite that positive mindset, Mustafi admits that it was tough to deal with not being included in matchday squads during the early months of the season.
But it was during those times that the World Cup winner drew strength from those closest to him.
“It has been difficult,” he said. “But I am a person who tries to see more the positive things than the negatives. I think that helped me a lot.
“Having my family around me – my kids, my wife – because life is not only football. That’s something I kept remembering to myself.
“Being in training every day, playing a lot of games, you get a lot of attention but still at the end of the day I am a father of two kids and I try to focus on this as well.”
Mustafi was once again paired with David Luiz during Thursday night’s victory in Athens, with the experienced duo continuing to impress as a partnership.
Both are players who bore the brunt of some hefty criticism in the past, but under Arteta they have become the bedrock of a defence that is proving increasingly hard to break down.
Far from being criticised, they are now being praised – with Mustafi even having his name chanted by the Arsenal fans in recent weeks.
And for a player who has had a difficult relationship with his own supporters in the past, that is something to savour.
“It is always important to have a good relationship with the fans,” said the defender.
“For me the main thing was to be professional, to always be there for my team-mates and for the club and then obviously when you play well they appreciate your performances.
“But it makes it easier when you have the fans behind you, back supporting you, so I am happy for that.”