Wilshere denies smoking

href="http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/premierleague/teams/arsenal/555">Arsenal

midfielder Jack Wilshere has re-iterated his stance against smoking

after being photographed with a cigarette and receiving a stern

warning from manager Arsene Wenger.

Wilshere was pictured with a cigarette outside a London

nightclub in the early hours of Thursday morning as players wound

down following Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Napoli earlier in the week,

when the 21-year-old had started on the bench.

Wenger, whose side head to West Brom on Sunday looking to

maintain their place at the top of the Barclays Premier League,

spoke out against the health issues of smoking in his pre-match

press conference on Friday morning, where he

insisted he would to take up the issue directly with the

player.

Wilshere’s representatives maintained the player was taking part

in a “prank” where he agreed to hold the cigarette as part of a

“dare”, stressing he was “utterly committed to fitness and a

healthy lifestyle”.

The England international himself responded Friday afternoon by

posting a photograph on his official Twitter feed of France World

Cup winner Zinedine Zidane smoking, which he then followed it up

with a post of “But for the record….I don’t smoke!”

Wenger will have left the player in no doubt as to his future

conduct.

“I disagree completely with that behaviour,” he said. “I don’t

know really what happened, so I will need to have a chat with him

about that.

“There are two things – first of all when you are a football

player you are an example and as well you don’t do what damages

your health.

“The fact is that you can damage your health at home, you can

smoke at home and you can drink at home, and nobody sees it, but

when you go out socially you also damage your reputation as an

example.”

As well as Zidane, there have been many examples of top

sportsmen who smoked, such as France international Michel Platini,

who is now UEFA president, while Holland legend Johan Cruyff even

regularly lit up on the sidelines when he was

coach at Barcelona.

Wenger, however, accepts in England the culture makes such a

position untenable.

“Yes of course things are different, in England especially,” he

said.

“You don’t need to convince me because I must tell you, I

travelled as a football player on coaches after games in France

where you didn’t see each other, there was so much smoke on the

coach. Everybody smoked, but times have changed, and the healthy

worry, the example, the role models from the football players

request has changed as well.

“I must say as well, English society is very sensitive to

smoking, much more than France, more than and southern (European)

countries, so it is a bit more shocking here than it is somewhere

else.”

Wilshere had spoken of his desire to improve his own game after

starting on the bench against Napoli, when club record signing

Mesut Ozil scored his first Arsenal goal and then set up a second

for Olivier Giroud as Arsenal swept the Italians aside with two

goals in the first 15 minutes.

England manager Roy Hodgson has again called the combative

midfielder into his squad for the crucial World Cup qualifiers

against Montenegro and Poland.

Wenger has no doubts Wilshere remains an integral part of hopes

for both club and country this season.

The Arsenal manager continued: “He is a very important player

here, you know. All my plans for the future at the club have always

been built with Jack and around Jack. We had some setbacks with him

– a lot – but he is a very important

player in my squad.”

Arsenal head to The Hawthorns – where a young side came through

a penalty shoot-out in their Capital One Cup tie last week –

without full-back Bacary Sagna, who has a hamstring injury which

will rule the France international out for the best part of a

month.

Wenger is expecting a stern test of his side’s form this

weekend, when Arsenal will be out to record a remarkable 11th

straight win in all competitions against a side on the back of an

impressive shock away win at Manchester United.

“They had quite a strong side out (in the Capital One Cup) and

many of the regular players played, but they have a big squad,”

Wenger said.

“I noticed when I looked at their team who played at Manchester

United, that they have a massive squad of experienced players, so

it’s very difficult to predict who will play against us.”