A new year, a new start. That is how Philippe Senderos will view 2009 as he aims to show he is not the forgotten man at AC Milan. With speculation rife about the club's foray into the transfer market to sign defenders - a left-back or a centre-back - it would be understandable to think the Swiss international might have made the wrong move with his one-year loan spell at the San Siro.
Injuries have blighted his first four months since arriving from Arsenal and with the injured Alessandro Nesta also on the sidelines, Milan have been vulnerable at the back. The coach, Carlo Ancelotti, admits it has been a problem area, and with the Brazilian Thiago Silva not joining until the summer, Milan are hoping Senderos can help fill the gap in the centre and avoid them splashing out on another signing.
So is he, admitting frustration has crept in as he has been unable to prove his worth to the club, who have the option of signing him permanently in the summer. Senderos sees Milan's winter training camp and the Dubai Football Challenge - a game against Hamburg, backed by Emirates Airline and Dubai Tourism, on Jan 6 - as the perfect opportunity to get him back on track. "This camp is good for all of us," he said. "It will help us prepare for the second half of the season. It will also give me a chance to get fit and ready for what is to come. It was difficult at the beginning for me because of the injuries, but I have been working hard and now I am coming back.
"I have only played a few games so far this season, in the Uefa Cup and Italian Cup. "It is frustrating. Injuries are always difficult for a player, but you also accept it is part of the game. I know I have to keep my head up and keep working hard. "I have been doing that and will do so in the camp. Hopefully in the second part of the season I will have more chances in the team. Hopefully then I can show what I can do. We will see what happens in the summer after my loan ends." The departure of Senderos from Arsenal also left the Gunners depleted in defence. His former teammate and captain William Gallas is among those who have been linked with a move to Milan after his recent outburst against his own players, questioning their desire.
That transfer now seems unlikely as Ancelotti and Adriano Galliani, the club's vice-president, feel they have adequate cover in this area with Senderos firmly in the frame and, at 23, definitely one for the future. It was an impressive performance in the Champions League last season against Milan that caught the eye of the Rossoneri. Two clean sheets showed his quality and potential as Arsenal triumphed. He keeps in regular touch with his former teammates and while the London club are not enduring the best of fortunes this season, Senderos is backing Cesc Fabregas, currently out with a knee injury, to shine as the new captain.
"I am very happy for him and I think he will be a good captain," he added. "Hopefully he will come back very soon from the injury." firstname.lastname@example.org