Denilson is ready to make a major contribution to Arsenal's season.
The Brazilian midfielder missed the start of the campaign with a groin problem and, when he finally recovered his fitness, the form of Jack Wilshere kept him out of the team.
Wilshere's recent three-match suspension opened the door for the 22-year-old and he impressed in back-to-back away wins over Wolves and Everton. Denilson could make his seventh start of the season at Braga this evening and he believes he is back to his best.
"I’m feeling fine now," Denilson told the Official Matchday Programme. "At the beginning of the season I was still having problems with my groin, which began when we played at Spurs last April, and I guess I was out for nearly five months in total. But now I’m ready, I’m fit to enjoy playing and training and I feel very happy that I’m in a position to help the team.
"It’s true [that it took time to regain my sharpness]. And after coming back late I also had to be patient, because many players were ready to play. I waited for my time and played, say, 15 minutes here and there. The boss always talked to me about how things were going and, most importantly, I’m ready to contribute fully. I think things have gone well when I’ve been in the team and I particularly enjoyed matches such as Braga at home and the Carling Cup game with Spurs. I’m focused on the big opportunity we have this season.
"I was happy with how things went at Goodison Park too – the manager just told me at half-time that I’d be coming on, should enjoy the game, pass the ball and help with defending in the middle. Sometimes it’s dangerous if you don’t have someone in there. It was important to have the opportunity to show myself to the boss and to the fans."
Denilson instigated the move that led to Cesc Fabregas' goal at Everton and he is no stranger to finding the net himself - as regulars at Goodison Park will know from last season's opening-day stunner. This term another midfielder, Alex Song, has been among the goals while Denilson has played deeper.
"That kind of thing is important for the group," noted the Brazilian. "But most of all we need to work together and support one another – if Alex goes forward I have to stay back in support, for example. With the formation we have, one of us – whether it’s Alex, Jack, me or someone else – can go forwards while the other stay back.
"You always interchange, and it can depend what side of the pitch the ball is on. We’ll talk to each other about who is going where, always. If you don’t talk it can cause problems as the midfield is such an important zone."
Denilson has quietly emerged as a valuable member of Arsène Wenger's squad and has now racked up an impressive 132 appearances despite his tender years. The player himself credits his manager for putting his faith in such a young crop of talent.
"I feel more experienced and that’s very important, you know so much more about the game. I always give 100 per cent and hopefully that can help us.
"Always, I look to Arsène Wenger – he’s given me, and all of the players, a great opportunity and I have to perform for him because he’s such a good and experienced manager, the best in the world for me. He’s like a father for everyone, he speaks to us all and it’s very difficult to see things being the same at any other club. If we win a trophy this season I will go straight to him because he’s just the top man."
This interview first appeared in the Official Matchday Programme. You can subscribe to the Matchday Programme by calling 08700 20 20 20.