Saturday 24 March 2018

'Jack Wilshere has the right to a night out' - Arsene Wenger

Jack Wilshere was pictured speaking to police in the early hours of last Sunday morning during a night out in central London
Jack Wilshere was pictured speaking to police in the early hours of last Sunday morning during a night out in central London

Matt McGeehan

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes the only barrier to Jack Wilshere fulfilling his potential is injuries and refused to chastise the England midfielder for courting controversy with a night out in London.

The 24-year-old was pictured speaking to police in the early hours of last Sunday morning during a night out in central London.

Wenger played down the incident as Wilshere prepared to step up his return from a long-standing leg problem in Friday night's under-21 fixture with Newcastle.

"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.

"These are matters that we like to keep internal. This is a completely private matter. I don't know really what happened."

Wilshere has a chequered history of off-field incidents, but 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."

Wenger believes Wilshere has a right to have a night out and pointed out that the Gunners had a day off the following day.

He said: "There was no training session the next day. He had an off day (day off). You can accept that sometimes the players go out, when they are free the next day, over the weekend.

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

Wenger does not know when Wilshere will make his maiden first-team appearance of the season.

"Let's not rush it too much and let's see how he responds to the next game," added the Frenchman, who plans to field Wilshere in a number of under-21 contests before including him in the first team.

"He'll have a big part in the game tomorrow night and hopefully will come through well."

Arsenal are eight 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.

Alex Iwobi performed well in last weekend's 4-0 defeat of Watford and is in discussions to extend his contract.

"We are discussing it at the moment, to extend," 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."

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.

"You look at the difficulty of the Premier League, they have been remarkably consistent, but every game is very, very tight, so that can go the other way as well.

"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."

Press Association

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