Alex Iwobi admits he must become “more professional and knuckle down” following the fallout over his late-night partying shame.
The Nigerian World Cup star concedes he has to prove himself all over again under new Arsenal boss Unai Emery after sparking fury from fans last season.
He was snapped at a wild drug-fuelled house party in January just a day before the Gunners’ woeful 4-2 FA Cup third-round defeat to Championship club Nottingham Forest.
Then-manager Arsene Wenger slammed his antics as “unacceptable” and promised to fine him. However, Wenger refused to axe him, despite angry supporters branding the player a “waste of space”, an “idiot” and calling for him to be sacked.
Now, as Iwobi prepares for the new season under Wenger’s Spanish successor, he has spoken about the incident for the first time.
He confessed: “I received deserved criticism, of course. I have to be more professional. “I am not this young boy any more as I have been in the Premier League for three seasons now, so the expectations are always going to grow the older you get. “I have to be professional and knuckle down, and not let any distraction affect me.”
Wenger insisted his player had not drunk alcohol or taken drugs and stuck by him last season, despite a poor return of just three goals from 39 appearances.
It prompted some supporters to dub him “Wenger’s Pet”. But Iwobi said: “Seriously, I didn’t listen or look at that. “I’d like to believe Arsene Wenger would pick someone because of their ability and because of what they can add to the team. “I wouldn’t try to say he had any favourites because he just picked players based on what was right for the team.”
He added: “Any player can get stick, even the world’s best. “It’s going to come with the football you play. It’s just how you deal with it.
“Because I have a family and friends with amazing support, they help me get through any situation. So there is no bad time for me.”