Thomas Varmaelen has admitted he contemplated his future at Arsenal, but says he is glad he made the decision to sign on the dotted line and stay at the Emirates Stadium.
The Belgian international has had a chequered career since moving to the north London club from Ajax in 2009, with injury restricting him to just 43 league appearances since making the switch including just five appearances in red and white last season, but penned a new four year deal with the club in October.
Vermaelen absence in part contributed to the defensive frailness that meant the Gunners suffered their worst start to a Barclays Premier League season under Arsene Wenger, with the 26-year-old absent from the demoralising 8-2 defeat against Manchester United as well as the defeats against local rivals Tottenham and Blackburn thanks to an ankle injury.
The imposing centre-back revealed he was hesitant in committing his future to the club after the Gunners woeful start to the new campaign, but says he felt as though he should give something back to the club that stood by him through his injury troubles.
"I thought about the situation with my contract for a really long time," said the centre-half.
"Of course, I knew there were doubts from outside about the club. But the most important thing for me is that I feel happy here.
"I have only really played one year of games at Arsenal, so I wanted to give something back to the club that has looked after me.
"I believe in the club, I think the structure is really good. They are the main reasons I stayed.
"I think we can challenge the other clubs like Man City and Man United. We have to look at ourselves and we had to do that when our start wasn't perfect."
Vermaelen was at the heart of the action once more on Saturday against Fulham, scoring the own goal that gave the visitors the lead at the Emirates before atoning for his mistake by finding the back of the net to secure a point for the Gunners.
The draw means that Arsenal are now unbeaten in the league since the 2-1 defeat at the hands of Spurs in October, and while Vermaelen admits that Arsenals’s start to the season was “frustrating”, their recent run of form led by on-fire striker Robin Van Persie shows they are “improving" game by game.
"We didn't have a great start to the season. We were in a situation where we had to fight for every point," he commented.
"You can see that we are doing that and we are €improving as a team and our organisation is better.
"If the shape of the team is good you can defend well. If the shape of the team is good you can go for victories and when you have Robin van Persie scoring in every game it's good for us.
He added: "It's four weeks since I played my first game after coming back from injury. It was frustrating to be out for most of last year and to have another injury at the beginning of this season. These things happen in your career and you have to be strong mentally to get through.
"If you work hard you get the reward. I feel good now and I feel very much part of Arsenal. When I was out and the team was being criticised, well, that was no fun. But that is part of football - you get difficult periods. Yet step by step we are getting better. I hope we can keep improving.
"We are doing okay but it's not perfect. Other teams will also do well and it will be a tough year."
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