Prior to yesterday, Per Mertesacker was probably looking ahead to pre-season for his next run out in an Arsenal shirt.
Injured on the eve of the season, the World Cup winner spent six months on the sidelines recovering from knee ligament surgery and then, once fit, had to bide his time in the stands while the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding, Gabriel and Nacho Monreal all usurped him in the centre-back pecking order.
Yesterday’s inclusion on the bench for the final game of the season appeared to be precautionary on the part of Arsene Wenger, but football moves quickly.
Having not played since last season the veteran will now likely start the FA Cup final against Chelsea with Laurent Koscielny, sent off yesterday, suspended and major doubts over Gabriel and Mustafi.
Reflecting on his unexpected comeback, Mertesacker played up the importance of the hard work he’s put in behind the scenes.
“Today we had a couple of injuries before the game that made me in the squad. Then we unfortunately had a red card and another injury, which gave me a chance to play. But I felt quite good, honestly.
“What I did in training over the last year paid off today. Being on the pitch with the boys is what I used to do for 15 years. I’m still learning but I’m used to it. Take nothing for granted but it was special today.”
The BFG also touched on a big week ahead at the end of a disappointing league campaign.
“It’s a nice atmosphere after a win and we appreciate the fans and vice-versa. It’s a nice atmosphere but we didn’t get what we wanted, so there’s a little bit of disappointment. But heading to the FA Cup final is something we’re buzzed about.”