Arsene Wenger made very clear this morning how unimpressed he was by pictures of Jack Wilshere apparently smoking in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The Arsenal midfielder was shown with a cigarette outside a London nightclub, and will have to explain himself to Wenger today, even though the players had Wednesday and Thursday off training.
“I disagree completely with that behaviour,” Wenger said at his press conference this morning. “I don’t know really what happened, I need to have a chat with him about that.”
“There’s two things: first of all, when you are a footballer you are an example, and [second] you don’t do what damages your health. But when you do it in public, you damage your reputation as well.”
Wenger, of course, was raised in a culture far more relaxed about smoking than Britain is in 2013. There was no ‘Stoptober’ in France in the 1970s. But there are new standards now and Wenger demands that all of his players adhere to them.
“Of course things are different,” he said. “In England especially you don’t need to convince me, because I tried it as a footballer on coaches after a game when you didn’t see each other, there was so much smoke on the coach.”
“But times have changed. And 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, a spokesman for the Arsenal midfielder claimed that the stunt was part of a prank, after he was challenged to do it by fellow members of the squad for a joke.
“Jack was with team-mates and friends,” the spokesman said. “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. In no way is this picture an accurate reflection of his attitude to smoking.”
Wilshere, meanwhile, tweeted a picture of the French footballing great Zinedine Zidane enjoying a cigarette today, and wrote: "But for the record....I don't smoke!"
Arsenal travel to the Hawthorns on Sunday to face West Brom in the Premier League, where Wilshere is expected to feature despite the incident.