Santi Cazorla is nearing the end of his injury nightmare and is aiming to play for Arsenal again before Arsene Wenger bids farewell to the club.
The Spain international has endured a hellish 18 months after suffering a succession of setbacks in his recovery from a serious ankle problem.
His last outing for the Gunners came way back in October 2016, with several operations undergone since then as he endeavours to return to competitive action.
Cazorla was seen warming up ahead of Arsenal’s recent clash with Atletico Madrid and the 33-year-old remains optimistic regarding his chances of playing before the 2017-18 campaign comes to a close.
He told AS while working on his fitness at Real Oviedo’s training centre: “I've still got some way to go, because after being sidelined for 18 months, everything has to be done in its own time.
“But the sensations I have keep getting better and I'm feeling optimistic about the future.
“The objective is to play some part with the team before the season ends, but we have to take things carefully.”
Cazorla, who is due back in England on Thursday, added: “After being out for so long it will take a while to get back into form, it's a real struggle, but when you have been out like I have, you also notice pains elsewhere - apart from what I've had with my tendon.
“But all of that must mean that I am doing things right, and I hope to be back as soon as possible.”
Two-time European Championship winner Cazorla has been with Arsenal since 2012.
Arsene Wenger snapped him up that summer from Malaga and he has become a popular figure in north London, going on to make 180 appearances for the club.
Cazorla admits it will be “very strange” seeing the man who signed him head for the exits after 22 years at the Gunners helm, but he wishes the Frenchman well at wherever he ends up next.
He added: “I hope the club gives him a good send-off; he has given his life to Arsenal. He has made his decision and I hope whoever comes in has all the luck in the world.
“England is second to none when it comes to valuing the work of people who have dedicated their lives to a football club, you could see that in the reception he got at Old Trafford.”