Jack Wilshere has apologised for being photographed holding a shisha pipe at a nightclub but has been told by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger he must “master his life” off the pitch.
The 23-year-old midfielder is close to a return from ankle surgery, but found himself the centre of some unwanted attention earlier this week after pictures were posted on social media following a night out in London.
It is not the first time Wilshere – who uploaded a statement to his own Instagram account late on Thursday evening appearing to hit back at critics and including a video of his latest training session – has been seen smoking.
The most recent previous occasion came while on holiday in Las Vegas last summer with England goalkeeper Joe Hart following the World Cup.
Wenger revealed Wilshere had offered an apology for his behaviour on Sunday night and was reminded of his responsibilities.
“I have spoken with him about that (smoking) and he is not a smoker. He is of course sorry for what has happened,” said Wenger at Friday’s media conference ahead of the north London derby at Tottenham.
“It is down to him to master his life. He had the day off the next day and he went out to watch the Super Bowl.
“When he is here he has to follow the rules that we dictate here. When he is out of his job, it is his own responsibility to behave like he wants to behave.”
Wenger added: “I believe his photo has been taken at half past 12 when he watched the Super Bowl. I don’t know any more of what happened and it’s not of a big interest.”
In January, Wenger sanctioned goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny after it emerged he lit up in the showers following the 2-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day.
Asked what he would say to suggestions there was a “smoking culture” at Arsenal, Wenger said: “I would say these people are wrong.”
Wenger feels some of the negative headlines which surround Wilshere are unfair, given the player's dedication to his football career, which has been hampered by injury.
“You are always worried for your players that they get what they don’t deserve, but I think I observe him well and he behaves in a very professional way,” said the Arsenal manager.
“Every morning he is certainly one of the first in and every afternoon certainly the last out. He works very hard.
“Jack has gone through some bad spells in his career and always recovered.
“It would be wrong to give him that kind of reputation because he is a serious player and he works very hard.
“He is two weeks ahead of schedule in his (recovery) training, and you don’t do that if you are not serious.”
Wenger added: “You have been 20 as well. You need sometimes to relieve the pressure a bit.
“Today it is much more difficult because everywhere you go people make photos and a photo shows one second of your life. It doesn’t define who you are.
“You have to take that with a distance as well.
“I remember when I was in Brazil (for the World Cup), I have been seen with some photos by people I didn’t even know were around me so you have to be very careful about that.”
Wenger, though, warned once Wilshere was fully fit there would be no guarantee of being able to walk straight back into the Arsenal team.
“Any player has a battle in our squad now,” he said.
“We have a compact squad, but a very competitive one in every position, so you need to be at your best to have a chance to play.”