Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has discussed his decision to substitute Abou Diaby an hour into the match with Southampton.
And he was keen to stress the Frenchman was not injured, just lacking fitness.
He told Arsenal.com: It was difficult for him but he got 60 minutes and he was not injured. At some stage he has to play. He had 90 minutes [for the under-21s] at Villa last week.
"He played 60 minutes tonight. He was not bad, he was acceptable as a performance but he tired after an hour.
The description of Diaby's performance as 'acceptable' is not really a compliment, but all things considered, Diaby will take it after his long return.
The midfielder suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in March 2013, and while he did make a cameo appearance at the end of last season, a setback in the summer delayed his first start.
Wenger went onto explain that he believes Diaby will flourish as a defensive midfielder if he adjusts his attacking instincts.
"I try to transform it, yes because I feel because he was injured for a long time and he has the physical potential to win the challenges, to face the game will be easier for him than to play with his back to goal with the injuries he had.
"I tried to develop him in a deeper role, I think he can do it. He can be very interesting because he has all the attributes to do it."