Wenger insists Wilshere does not have a drinking problem

Ian Watson

Arsene Wenger insists there is no drinking problem at Arsenal and has defended Jack Wilshere’s professionalism.

On Thursday Wenger played down pictures of Wilshere speaking to police in the early hours of last Sunday morning during a night out in central London.

And the 24-year-old is expected 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 vital 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.