Jack Wilshere pictured smoking, Arsene Wenger’s not happy

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In most countries around the world, photos of a superstar sportsmen smoking a cigarette wouldn’t be a big deal.

But in England on Friday, there’s been what many would call a ‘storm in a teacup’ after Arsenal and England midfielder Jack Wilshere was photographed smoking outside a bar earlier this week.

Wilshere, 21, is one of English brightest young talents, and has been slammed by many for the act.

Speaking on Friday morning, Wilshere’s spokesman insists he wasn’t smoking the cigarette, just joking around with friends.

Here’s the picture snapped up by The Sun. What do you think?

“Jack was with team-mates and friends,” a representative said. “One dared Jack, who does not smoke, to momentarily hold the cigarette as part of a prank. Jack absolutely didn’t smoke the cigarette, and nor does he condone smoking. Jack is utterly committed to fitness and a healthy lifestyle.”

Then finally the rep had this to say: “In no way is this picture an accurate reflection of his attitude towards smoking.”

(MORE: Premier League Breakdown – Kyle Martino: Jack Wilshere must step up)

Okay, but still, it was a pretty silly thing to do out in public, as Arsenal’s players had a night out to celebrate their 2-0 win over Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday. In the game Wilshere was only used as sub, and many are questioning whether or not he will still be a regular for the Gunners throughout this season.

Which seems ludicrous.

Speaking on Friday morning, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger condemned the actions, and said he’s planning to speak with Wilshere about

“I disagree completely with that behavior,” Wenger said. “I don’t know really what happened, so I will need to have a chat with him about that. There are two things – first of all when you are a football player you are an example and as well you don’t do what damages your health. The fact is that you can damage your health at home, you can smoke at home and you can drink at home, and nobody sees it, but when you go out socially you also damage your reputation as an example.”

Does all this talk of ruining his reputation and setting a bad example seem a little over the top? I mean, after all, it was only one cigarette.

But Wilshere is a role model for millions, and many would argue he is England’s future captain. Wenger spoke about English cultural and how this story wouldn’t have even been a big deal in many nations around the world.

“Yes of course things are different, in England especially,” Wenger said. “I must say as well, English society is very sensitive to smoking, much more than France, more than in southern (European) countries, so it is a bit more shocking here than it is somewhere else.”

Whatever you think about this, Wilshere is a supreme talent who does have a bit of an edge to his game and the way he lives his life. Many will applaud that, but today expectancy levels on globally renowned athletes are high. One little slip up is all it takes to get rid of a desirable image.

I expect this to blow over relatively quickly, but Wilshere will now think twice before he, reportedly, lights up in public again.

But it has to be said he’s not the first, and won’t be the last, Premier League start to be caught smoking. Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole, Dimitar Berbatov and Mario Balotelli have all been caught in the past.

Is this really such a big deal?