The Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said yesterday he will ask Jack Wilshere to explain himself after pictures of the player smoking outside a London nightclub were in the media.
Wenger made very clear that he was not impressed with his 21-year-old midfielder being caught with a cigarette, even as Wilshere later insisted on Twitter that he does not smoke – before posting a picture online of Zinedine Zidane with a cigarette in his hand.
“I disagree completely with that behaviour,” Wenger said yesterday morning. “I don’t know really what happened, I need to have a chat with him about that. When you are a footballer you are an example. English society is very sensitive to smoking, much more than France, than southern countries, so it’s a bit more shocking here than somewhere else.”
However, Wilshere’s agent insisted yesterday that the images which appeared in The Sun yesterday were a part of a “prank” and that the midfielder does not smoke.
“Jack was with team-mates and friends. One dared Jack, who does not smoke, to momentarily hold the cigarette as part of a prank. Jack absolutely didn’t smoke the cigarette, and nor does he condone smoking. Jack is utterly committed to fitness and a healthy lifestyle,” he said.
Arsenal travel to West Bromwich Albion tomorrow and there is a matter concerning Wilshere even more important than one forbidden cigarette: where exactly he fits into the team. On Tuesday night, in Arsenal’s biggest game of the season so far, against Napoli, he was on the bench for the first 63 minutes with Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil and Tomas Rosicky all starting ahead of him.
Wenger has luxurious depth in his midfield options but this means Wilshere – particularly since the arrival of Özil and the upturn in form of Ramsey – is no longer certain of a place, and the manager made no promises last night. “[Wilshere] is an important player for the squad, and he will play. On one side, people want you to have good players, on the other, that means you cannot give a guarantee to anybody.”
When asked where Wilshere’s best position is, Wenger said as a “deep lying midfielder, or wide”, and Wenger would love to play him in front of the back four if only he could dislodge Flamini, Ramsey and Arteta.
“He doesn’t like to be back to goal, he likes to face the game,” Wenger explained. “Because he has a burst to pass people with the ball at his feet. From deep he does that very well, he creates the openings for that little burst to run with the ball. He is a physically strong boy he has a good body. He can win the challenge and make the difference and open the game up.”
But Wilshere has featured out wide four times since he last started in the middle, and Wenger hopes that can help him rediscover that burst of pace. “To play on the flanks helps him to find that back, because on the flanks you have to do a lot of running.”
Wenger is keen to keep Arsenal’s remarkable record going as they aim for their ninth consecutive Premier League away win, but reminded the players the season has only just begun. “Let’s not forget we have won nothing and that it is all to do. We have to continue to have that hunger-ish attitude, to improve from game to game.”
Bacary Sagna will miss out tomorrow with a hamstring strain, which will rule him out for three weeks, so Carl Jenkinson comes in.
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