There was mixed news for Arsenal and their teenage tyro Jack Wilshere. The young midfielder was passed fit to play in today's north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur after recovering from the back strain which kept him out of England's midweek defeat to France. He also received a police caution for his part in a late-night street brawl earlier this season.
The incident occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning, 29 August, in High Street Kensington after Arsenal's victory at Blackburn the previous day. At the time Wilshere's spokesman insisted he was merely "an important witness to the incident" who "played the role of peacemaker". That was reiterated yesterday. "During a night out with friends, Jack intervened as a peacemaker in an incident to protect a friend," said the spokesman. He added: "The police have accepted that Jack's involvement was such that it could be dealt with by way of a caution. No further comment will be made as police investigations and proceedings are ongoing and Jack may well be called as a witness."
That Wilshere accepted a "caution for common assault", after options including the prospect of facing charges in court were explained to him, suggests he was more involved than his club would have liked. However, given the seriousness of the incident – a woman suffered a broken arm and a man received facial injuries – it could have been worse. Last month two men thought to be friends of Wilshere, Duane Brailsford, 18, and Adam Mardell, 21, each of Hitchin, Herts, were both charged with affray in connection with the incident. Brailsford was also charged with actual bodily harm.
Arsenal, and England, will hope Wilshere has learnt from this brush with the law that he has to be careful in his leisure time. Young footballers have to grow up fast and, as one of the nation's most promising players, Wilshere is under more scrutiny than most. This was underlined when he faced allegations about his personal life in the red-tops yesterday.
As Arsenal are at home today Wilshere is unlikely to suffer too much related abuse, though the travelling support will doubtless have their say. He will seek to respond on the pitch as Arsenal look to extend their long unbeaten run in home derbies.
Standing in their way will be a former captain who can expect a frosty reception. William Gallas spent four years at Arsenal but the fans rarely warmed to him. His decision to join their rivals has exacerbated the froideur caused by his previous links with Chelsea, and his strange behaviour as captain.
Arsène Wenger stripped Gallas of the captaincy after he followed his centre-circle sit-in at Birmingham with criticism of his team-mates, but yesterday Wenger said he hoped Gallas would be accorded "respect". "When Gallas was on the pitch he gave 100 per cent for the team and that is what you want to respect," Wenger said. "What I look at is just how much does the guy want to win, how much is he committed when he plays? On that front you can never fault Gallas.
"I think the basics of our attitudes at the club has always been to respect other people. We cannot dictate how other people behave, we just want ourselves to respect him."
Arsenal will go top for a few hours if they win, and Wenger said: "It is a big motivation because we have created momentum and won five of the last six. We are at the stage now where we just want to go from game to game and get the points into our account, then see where we stand after."
Wenger added that Arsenal would not be paying Gareth Bale special attention: "We should just focus on our performance. If our performance is right, as I think it will be, then we have a good chance to win."