Belfast Telegraph

Arsene Wenger has no doubts over Jack Wilshere's professionalism

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has no doubts over Jack Wilshere's professionalism as the midfielder prepares to make his first appearance of the season on Friday night.

Wenger on Thursday played down pictures of the 24-year-old speaking to police in the early hours of last Sunday morning during a night out in central London.

And Wilshere is slated to step up his comeback from his leg injury in Friday night's under-21 fixture with Newcastle after working well in training.

"I've spoken to him. It looks to be taken out of proportion a little bit," said Wenger, speaking ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash with West Ham.

"Overall, what is positive is that he works very, very hard. The news looks quite good. I think he will have a good test (for the under-21s).

"The real question is does he have the serious life or not? A player cannot hide when you watch him practice every day. He's serious in his life.

"He had a hard session on Monday and he did very well in the session so if he had been heavy drinking on Sunday I don't think he would have survived."

Wenger referred to well-documented, historical drinking issues at Arsenal involving the likes of Tony Adams and Paul Merson when he revealed Arsenal take urine samples to check players' alcohol level.

The Frenchman said: "We test our players. We don't have a drinking problem. The drinking problem was much bigger when I arrived."

Wilshere has a chequered history of off-field incidents, but Wenger excused him for his night out.

"There was no training session the next day," Wenger added.

"You can accept that sometimes the players go out, when they are free the next day, over the weekend."

Wilshere could yet force his way into Roy Hodgson's England squad for this summer's European Championships.

And Wenger insists his only lingering doubt over whether the midfielder will live up to his undoubted talent surrounds his fitness.

Wenger added: "At the moment I believe he's a real football brain, Jack Wilshere. He loves football.

"He's very serious, very dedicated. The only thing that could stop him from having the career he can make is injuries.

"He had the history of his injuries. It's been bad recently. But I hope he can get rid of that and make the career he deserves.

"Let him recover, prepare, come back and if he does well for England at the European Championship he'll be the hero."

Wenger does not know when Wilshere will make his maiden first-team appearance of the season and plans to field him in a number of under-21 contests first.

Arsenal are 11 points behind leaders Leicester ahead of this weekend's fixtures, when they play at West Ham, who beat them 2-0 on the opening weekend of the season.

Wenger, who could have midfielders Aaron Ramsey (thigh) and Mathieu Flamini (hamstring) back in contention, knows there is no margin for error if the Gunners are to overhaul Leicester - or in their bid for the top four.

"As long as mathematically it's possible, there's a strong possibility (of catching Leicester)," he said.

"We know we need nearly the perfect run - I could have cut the 'near' out.

"We do not only look in front of us, we look behind us as well, because we are chased by a group of teams who can make it very difficult for us.

"We have just to focus on our performance and hope we finish in a very strong way."

Alex Iwobi's performances could be key and the 19-year-old forward is in discussions to extend his contract.

Wenger added: "He has three years left at the end of the season but we want to keep him here for longer."

Iwobi played for England at age-group level, but has since played for Nigeria. He could represent the Super Eagles at August's Olympics, delaying his return to Arsenal.

Wenger said: "There's a possibility he will go to the Olympic Games and the African Nations Cup and travel a bit more. We have to respect his choice."


From Belfast Telegraph