"Last July I told Arsenal I wanted to extend my contract so, of course, I would have signed if they had offered me a deal . . . but they didn't.
"They said they wanted me to prove myself first.
"It was difficult for me at the beginning. I had to see it as a challenge but I won't lie, it was not easy. You have to be mentally very strong to cope."
To his credit, the French international knuckled down and played his heart out.
He added: "If I had a serious injury my future would have been in question as I was out of contract. But, touch wood, I don't want to think about these things and, thankfully, I played well and I can be proud of what I achieved."
Yet the midfielder was so determined to stay at Arsenal - even after receiving huge offers from Europe's big hitters - that he was prepared to wait until the last minute to reach a deal.
He added: "We started to speak in December but I knew it was a huge decision. At that time we were playing every three days. I didn't want to think too much about that because I wanted to focus on my performances.
"It was difficult for me as I started to have offers from big clubs."