By Nick Ames

Abou Diaby says his passion for football kept him going through the dark days of last season.

The French midfielder struggled with injury throughout the 2011/12 campaign, and was restricted to just five first-team appearances for the Gunners.

Added to a series of fitness problems since he joined the Club in 2006, such disappointment might have been terminal for a lesser character - but the 26-year-old says positive thinking helped ensure that he feels fit and focused for the new campaign.

“It’s never easy to deal with these situations,” Diaby told the Official Matchday Programme. “I love football, love playing the game, and just want to enjoy it.

"When you can’t do that it’s obviously really difficult, but what makes me stay focused is the passion I have for what I’m doing. Every morning when I wake up I’m really happy to drive in to the training ground, come what may. I always wanted to play football at a high level so no matter what happened, if I was having a bad time I would just look forward constantly.

“At times like that it’s really important to have support from your manager, team-mates and the staff. I have to say thanks to all of them, because they’ve helped me a lot and I really appreciate it.”

Diaby featured in all four of the Gunners’ pre-season games in Asia and Cologne, and believes that he is in ideal shape to make the impact that his talent has always suggested he is capable of.

“I’ve had a successful pre-season, I’ve been fit for every training session so far and I’m really happy with how things have gone," he said.

“If you want to get through the whole year you need to have a good pre-season, and I haven’t had one like this for a long time. I’m really glad about that, and hope that the work I’ve done will see me through all of the season.”

Read the full interview with Abou in the Official Matchday Programme for the Sunderland match. Click here to subscribe

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Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 16 Aug 2012