ARSENE WENGER admits it is “unacceptable” to see Arsenal captain William Gallas pictured with a cigarette – but backed the veteran Frenchman as the right man to lead the young Gunners.
Centre-half Gallas, who is set to return following a thigh injury for tomorrow’s televised Premier League clash at West Ham, was snapped as he left a nightclub in the early hours holding a cigarette in his mouth, although it was not lit.
The former Chelsea defender himself accepts he has put in some “tired” performances this season and needs to raise his game to lead the Gunners.
Despite weighing in with some crucial European goals in the current campaign, Gallas has at times been found wanting in defensive duties, particularly from set-pieces.
Yet the veteran defender has always received the support of his manager, who sees Gallas as crucial to the development of the youngsters in the squad.
However, Wenger made it clear if the reports of smoking are eventually substantiated, he will take stern action.
“I didn’t see the picture. I have been informed, but I don’t like that,” he said. “I will check that with him. He has a responsibility as captain of Arsenal Football Club. That cannot be accepted. It is a public job with a public responsibility and therefore it is exactly the same for everybody.”
Wenger, though, maintains Gallas cannot be faulted for commitment to the cause.
“I believe that William has a very fair assessment of his performances,” said Wenger.
“William has worked very hard to come back from his injury and looks very sharp now. He has learned a lot. He has taken a lot of criticism, of course, but I think he took it in a positive way.
“He has learned a lot and he himself has come out and said, ‘I made a mistake last year and I will change and re-address my attitude’.”
Wenger added: “I believe he has got a lot of unfair critics and therefore I believe the fact that he could take it and he is still as motivated. What you can never fault with William is the motivation.
“He wants to do well, he wants his team to win and he has made a mistake – who didn’t? Even great captains, we all make mistakes.”
The Gunners head to Upton Park looking to keep pace with the leaders, having dropped four points off the pace following two defeats in the Premier League already.
At Thursday’s Annual General Meeting, Wenger used his address to shareholders to highlight what he felt was the need for more unequivocal support of a young side which he maintains can deliver this season, having just fallen short in the last campaign.
“I do not want to go overboard. I just wanted to convince more than complain, to convince our supporters they can be proud of the team and that there are plenty of reasons to be an optimist with the quality we have, with the structure of the club and of the team.
“The only thing they can show that they agree with me on that is just to be behind the team. It was not a complaint overall. It was more for me a way to incite our supporters to be positive. It is right that they expect success and there is no real issue.
“We want you to be completely behind the team despite the fact in the end you were disappointed last year when you didn’t win the Premiership.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved