Jack Wilshere was held up as the player to lift his club and country to new heights, hence the possibly unforgiving and exaggerated levels of interest in him on and off the pitch. Now the 22-year-old midfielder is determined to put his indiscretions behind him and prove he can fulfil his potential as one of Arsenal and England's most influential players.
The most recent exposé featured him partying and smoking around a Las Vegas swimming pool following England's dismal World Cup demise. It is the second time he has been snapped inhaling, and he knows it is not doing his reputation any good.
A proud father of two, Wilshere has been carrying the weight of expectation since he was a teenager; he made his debut for Arsenal at 16 and for England two years later. Speaking for the first time since his latest embarrassment, Wilshere was keen to face up to his demons and explain how he plans to put things right in his professional and social life.
"The smoking? Of course I regret it," he said. "I've been seen before doing it. I said then I made a mistake, and I made a mistake again.
"I mean, people make mistakes. I'm young, I'll learn from it. I realise the consequences it has and the effect on kids. I have kids myself, and I don't want them growing up to think their dad smokes and that it's OK for a footballer to smoke, because it's not. It's unacceptable, and I will accept the consequences and I will move on."
Neither Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger, nor Wilshere will reveal the content of their subsequent meeting, but Wilshere knows he has to prove himself all over again. He added: "It does motivate me to try harder in training, and not just in training; it motivates me to improve because a lot of people have started to talk [about me] – people who don't know me but want to have an opinion. Now it is down to me to let my feet do the talking."
"I don't like to talk about to it too much, but this is a big season for me. I came back early to pre-season [training] to show people my commitment. I am fully committed to the club and to my job and I want to show everyone that.
"Over the past few seasons I've had a few injuries, I know I've got going, had to stop and get going again. This year I'm looking to have a really great pre-season and get a really good base of fitness and take that into the season."
Arsenal topped the Premier League table for 128 days last season only to ultimately have to scramble to achieve fourth place. Wilshere insists lessons have been learnt.
He explained: "I spoke to many players when I was away with England and they said we were the best team they played against last season, the best in the League.
"We've got to really try to take that into the later stages of the season and be a bit more mature and show in April, May that we can last the pace. If we had done that last season we would have won the League, so there's no reason why we can't do that this season."
Arsenal fly out to Austria this week, where they will train for a few days before returning to London for the Emirates Cup and the Community Shield against Manchester City at the start of next month.
Gunners line up Chambers
Arsenal are close to signing Southampton defender Calum Chambers for a fee of £16m. The England Under-19 international underwent a medical on Friday. The 19-year-old can play at right-back, centre-back or in a more advanced role.
Arsenal, who have also enquired about Saints' French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, have signed the Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina from Nice, according to the French club's coach Claude Puel. Meanwhile, former Saint Adam Lallana could miss Liverpool's start to the season after damaging knee ligaments on tour in Boston.Reuse content