There has been much discussion of Manchester United's departed or injured defenders, but far less of Michael Carrick. Will his return to fitness cause notable improvement?
Arsenal fans have been sucked back into believing Wenger can bring the glory years back after beating Borussia Dortmund. Plus, more on Liverpool's worrying decline...
Of all the things Jack Wilshire could have been photographed doing in Las Vegas, having a smoke was probably the least of the sins he could have committed.
The subsequent statement of apology and regret from the tattooed Arsenal faller-over made it sound as though he'd been caught injecting a cocktail of LSD, tequila and nail polish into his eyes whilst being fellated by a small pony dressed as Cher.
"I regret it. I've been seen before doing it. I said then I made a mistake and I made a mistake again. It's unacceptable and I will accept the consequences and move on" he said, before pulling on a roll-up, squinting through narrowed eyes and adding: "But it doesn't matter, because...it's just a ride, and we can change it any time we want. It's only a choice. No effort. No worry. No job. No savings and money. Just a choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy bigger guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one."
Except he didn't. Sadly. Now that'd have been something. That'd be something to really 'learn' from.
Obviously, none of us give a damn about Wilshere smoking and only a country with a media dedicated to manufacturing hysterical outrage where none exists could dress it up as anything worth anyone's consideration. It is on such occasions where the 'he's a role-model' argument is, with groaning inevitability, deployed, despite it being obviously untrue. I doubt there has been a surge in 22-year-olds deciding to smoke on the basis of pictures of Jack having a tab. Though if they did, maybe it'd be a good idea not to print such photos, huh?
The cringing apologies just seem so pathetic, as though have a smoke is something that could happen almost accidentally and you could do it without realising you're doing it. Like being found by your wife with your gentleman's bits in a lady's mouth and saying, "Oh, I don't know how that happened. I wasn't really paying attention and it just flopped in there."
Clearly, Wilshere knows that he shouldn't be smoking, partly due to the health and fitness implications, but mostly because he should be well aware by now that he'll be photographed and will then have to come out with some pathetic, whiney, mea culpa about being 'young'. For a start, it's a very knowing thing to excuse your actions on being young. Oh I'm young, I don't know what I'm doing, is a bizarre defence. If you're old enough to know you're young, you're old enough to know what you're doing.
When he says he'll 'learn from it' as though he's a 12-year-old boy whose been caught behind the bike sheds, I wonder what he will learn? Don't smoke or don't get caught smoking? The latter is the bigger lesson to learn. By far the worse thing about a footballer smoking is the post-fag apocalypse apology.
Maybe one of the reasons he thought he'd get away with it is because he seems increasingly marginalized and simply thought everyone had stopped taking any notice of him. The stress of being pushed as The Next Big Thing and then not being, needs dealing with somehow. Why not with a cool, smooth smoke? Anything that slows the game down and forces a player to put his foot on the ball should be embraced.
"It does motivate me to try harder in training and not just in training," he went on to say, whilst getting his brain tattooed. There you have it y'see - smoking motivates a footballer to try harder. So if he has another poor season, it won't be because he's been smoking, it'll be because he's not been smoking enough.
Watch Johnny's promo video for his new rock 'n' roll thriller, 'The Girl Can't Help It'.