Belfast Telegraph

Wenger accepts Szczesny apology

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has accepted an apology from goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for smoking but has hit out at claims made by German striker Lukas Podolski after his move to Inter Milan.

Szczesny remains in contention for a return to the Arsenal side for the weekend visit of Stoke despite smoking a cigarette following the New Year's Day defeat at Southampton.

Wenger has spoken out against the habit in the past, with England midfielder Jack Wilshere having been pictured smoking on two separate occasions. But the Frenchman will still consider Szczesny, who was at fault for both the goals conceded at St Mary's, after he apologised for the incident.

''I haven't selected the first XI yet. I take everything into account,'' Wenger replied when asked if the 24-year-old would return to the team.

''I don't want to talk about that because what happens in our dressing room stays in our dressing room - apart from the fact that it doesn't stay in there.

''Of course (he has apologised). He is a serious boy who works very hard, he doesn't need all that. He made a mistake, he is not the first one or the last one.

''You can do what you want at home. You have a freedom. My issue is that the players here are judged on their performances. Ideally, the best way to have as high a level as possible is to behave as close to the rules."

Szczesny's father came out in defence of his son on Thursday, pointing the finger at the rest of the Arsenal defence for the goals conceded at Southampton.

But Wenger dismissed any criticisms and does not believe the actions of Szczesny have damaged the image of the club.

"Ideally, you want everyone to behave in the perfect way. I like him as a person, when he makes a mistake he stands up for it. He has contributed a lot to the good image of Arsenal Football Club," the Frenchman added.

"I don't need to make a big fuss of it. Every club has internal discipline and rules and it does not have to be public. I don't want to talk more about it. I don't listen to the fathers, the mothers or the grandmothers or the grandfathers."

Wenger did move to refute claims made by Podolski in Friday's newspapers.

The German World Cup winner has completed a loan move to Inter having failed to hold down a regular place in the Gunners' side this season.

Podolski accused the Arsenal boss of a "lack of respect" for not wishing the player well at the San Siro, a claim Wenger said holds no truth.

"I deny completely (that I didn't say goodbye)," he said.

"I had many conversations with him about going out on loan, and don't forget that he had my agreement to go out on loan and without my agreement, he would not be out on loan. I deny that completely.

"He didn't get enough opportunities to play. Because I knew that, I gave him an opportunity to go. Why? Because we have many players who can play in these positions and at the end of the day only 11 can start.

"When a player of his quality doesn't get enough games, at some stage too much competition is detrimental to the confidence of the players and their positivity.

"You need the right number and we had too many players in this area. It's nothing to do with his quality, it's just down to the fact that we had too many players in the same area. It is just a loan without an option to buy - that means he is back at the end of the season."

Another attacking player who looks like making a temporary move away from the Emirates Stadium is Yaya Sanogo.

The 21-year-old has yet to make his mark in north London and, with Hull boss Steve Bruce revealing an interest in the former Auxerre man, Wenger admitted he is looking to give Sanogo an opportunity to impress elsewhere.

"Yes, he will go out on loan," Wenger added.

"My option is preferably in England. We are very short today of options in England but he will certainly go to a Premier League club. Hull is one of the opportunists but they have not positioned with us. I spoke with Steve last week - he is interested but he hasn't come back to me."

Wenger will have Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil back from injury for Sunday's clash with Stoke, while Olivier Giroud will also be available having served his ban after his Boxing Day red card against QPR.


From Belfast Telegraph