Jack Wilshere apologizes after smoking in public, but is this the end?

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Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere was the hero on Sunday, as he scored the equalized for the Gunners to nick a 1-1 draw at West Brom.

But much of the talk this week has been about Wilshere’s action off the pitch.

The 21-year-old midfielder was pictured smoking in public following Arsenal’s midweek Champions League win over Napoli, and despite his agent originally dismissing the reports despite clear evidence, Wilshere admitted he was in the wrong.

“I made a mistake,” Wilshere said. “Players make mistakes, I’m not a smoker. I spoke with the boss [Wenger] he asked me what happened and I explained it and we sorted it out. He put me in the team today and hopefully I repaid him.”

Wilshere’s honesty, in the end, is refreshing but it took a while. Many will argue he shouldn’t have apologized and believe the youngster was well within his right to have a quick cigarette. As a top athlete, it’s probably not the most advisable habit.

(MORE: Wilshere pictured smoking, Arsene Wenger not happy)

Nobody is doubting Wilshere’s technical ability, but he has certainly got a fiery temperament on the pitch and unsavory incidents like this, even at the age of 21, could spell trouble for the future. Many have compared Wilshere to Paul Gascoigne. The way he plays, with his diminutive size yet gigantic stature and surging runs from midfield, certainly remindw me of Gascoigne in his pomp. Let’s hope all of Gazza’s problems off the field don’t start to creep into Wilshere’s life too.

source: Getty Images
Despite a tough week off the pitch, Wilshere grabbed Arsenal’s equalizer against West Brom on Sunday.

Luckily, I don’t think it will.

He has the right mentor in Wenger to succeed for many years at the highest level, and keep his feet grounded. But he mustn’t get too distracted off the pitch, he knows that. But as a 21-year-old professional soccer player living amongst the bright lights of London, there are bound to be plenty of distractions heading his way. Hopefully Wilshere can handle them better than he did earlier this week.

And if he does, both Wenger and England manager Roy Hodgson believe he will captain Arsenal and the Three Lions very soon, as the supremely talented midfielder from Stevenage has the potential to become one of the world’s best midfielders.

“Wilshere has got the personality, the ­character and the quality to accept ­responsibility, to accept the pressure,” Hodgson said. “I foresee a fantastic England career for him. I would agree with Arsène Wenger and say Jack has got the ­qualities [to be England captain], there’s no doubt about that.”

Maybe it’s too soon for that, but if Wilshere shows the same admirable honesty and responsibility he did this week, then maybe the youngster has just turned the corner.

AT HALF: Watch Willian, Lukaku goals as Chelsea, Man Utd level

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It’s been a good one so far at Old Trafford, where Willian and Romelu Lukaku traded first half goals for Chelsea and Manchester United.

Both players started and finished their goals, though plenty more time elapsed between the beginning and end of Chelsea’s opener.

[ MORE: Watch the second half live, online ]

Willian broke up a United cross and Chelsea nearly went the length of the pitch on their goal. David De Gea will want to have done better on the Brazilian’s rocket finish, but a fine goal nonetheless (above).

As for Lukaku, he went head-to-head with Andreas Christensen and the Chelsea man hit the deck while the Belgian striker was merely stunned before getting on the end of terrific one touch work between Nemanja Matic, Alexis Sanchez, and Anthony Martial.

Off-kilter Kane saves sloppy Spurs at Palace

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  • Tottenham goes fourth
  • Spurs with 76 percent possession
  • Kane scores 150th Spurs goal

Harry Kane made amends for an atypical day of sloppy finishing with an 89th minute winner as Tottenham Hotspur persisted to beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Selhurst Park on Sunday.

The win gives Spurs 55 points, good for fourth in the Premier League before Chelsea faces Manchester United.

Palace remains 17th, behind Saints but ahead of Swans on goal differential. The Eagles are sorely missing Wilfried Zaha.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ben Davies was fouled in a bid to meet a back post free kick in the eighth minute, but no penalty was given and Palace cleared the corner as Spurs provided the first true scoring chance of the match.

Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey was at his left post for a fine save on Harry Kane in the 10th, as Patrick Van Aanholt lost the English superstar.

At the other end, Luka Milivojevic‘s free kick was headed into the arms of Hugo Lloris by James Tomkins. Lloris would deprive Christian Benteke of a finishing bid in the 16th minute, too.

A penalty was coming for Kane before the referee noticed the linesman’s raised flag and saved Timothy Fosu-Mensah from conceded the opportunity.

Palace made it to the locker room at 0-0, with Townsend hitting a low ball to Lloris before the break.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The second half began, and Spurs worked some chances to score that were lacking the appropriate finish. Both Kane and Christian Eriksen shanked attempts in the first five minutes.

A pair of gorgeous flicks from Serge Aurier and Eriksen met Kane near the back post, but the striker atypically missed what should’ve been an easy opener.

Palace thought Alexander Sorloth might’ve earned a penalty from Davinson Sanchez, but Spurs escaped punishment in the 63rd minute.

Hennessey continued to play his role, stopping from Aurier before extending fully to palm away Davies’ offering in the 73rd.

Dele Alli dove in a bid to win a penalty soon after the Davies denial, but had no success.

Kane found a moment of brilliance in the 83rd minute, but Benteke of all players slid to block the shot and Hennessey collected the ball.

Davies should’ve had an assist moments later, but Aurier tripped on the ball.

Kane dragged an 86th minute shot inches wide of the goal, and it just seemed unlikely to be Spurs day despite dominance on the ball.

Of course, that meant an off-balance Hennessey couldn’t get a hold of Kane’s header off an Eriksen free kick with 90 seconds remaining before stoppage time.

Watch Live: Manchester United vs. Chelsea

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It’s a big one, you know: Manchester United hosts Chelsea in a battle for table positioning on Sunday at Old Trafford (Watch live at 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Scrutinized summer signings Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata start at center forward for their respective sides.

Morata scored the lone goal when Chelsea beat United 1-0 in November.

Jose Mourinho has opted for Scott McTominay over Michael Carrick and Juan Mata in the midfield, while Anthony Martial gets the call over Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard.

Chelsea will have Pedro and Olivier Giroud on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Lindelof, Smalling, Young, McTominay, Matic, Pogba, Alexis, Lukaku, Martial. Subs: Pereira, Bailly, Shaw, Carrick, Mata, Lingard, Rashford.

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Drinkwater, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Morata, Hazard. Subs: Caballero, Cahill, Zappacosta, Emerson, Fabregas, Pedro, Giroud.

Aubameyang says off-field criticism “goes over my head”

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The Daily Mirror posted a profile on Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang late Saturday, speaking with the Gabonese striker as well as a number of people in his life.

[ MORE: PL Saturday roundup ]

Most of the talk dealt with his obsession with soccer, which started as an admirer of his internationally-capped father, but the quotes getting attention come from Aubameyang and deal with his comfort as a flashy personality.

So for those wondering whether the 27-year-old is going to tame his off-field activities now that he’s moved to London, well, it’s unlikely.

Aubameyang has a bit of David Beckham in him, cognizant of his background and relishing his place in life.

“The clothes, the cars and all that are a bonus. I enjoy living this way. I like who I am and it doesn’t matter if other people can’t ­accept that – it goes over my head.

“As they say ‘you only live once’. It’s important to know where you come from and where your roots are – the rest is a big bonus.”

Any number of players, from Andy Carroll to Cristiano Ronaldo, have appreciated the very same things.

It’s not a big deal.

As long as on-field performances accompany them, any criticism is driven by envy or a need to attract a similar form of attention as the player himself.