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By ESPN Staff

Wenger stands by ''motivated'' skipper Gallas

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger firmly believes captain William Gallas remains as ''motivated'' as ever to lead his young Gunners.

Although the veteran defender could well be disciplined after being pictured with a cigarette as he left a nightclub - something Wenger branded ''unacceptable'' - Gallas continues to have the full support of his manager.

Centre-half Gallas, who is set to return following a thigh injury for tomorrow's Premier League clash at West Ham, was perhaps a controversial choice to succeed Thierry Henry as Arsenal's permanent captain.

Last season, he famously lost composure at Birmingham when he broke down in the centre circle.

Despite weighing in with some crucial European goals in the current campaign, Gallas, 31, has at times been found wanting in defensive duties, particularly from set-pieces.

The 31-year-old accepts he has put in some ''tired'' performances this season and needs to raise his game to lead the Gunners forwards.

Wenger, though, believes Gallas is the right man for the job.

''William has learned a lot. He has taken a lot of criticism, of course, but I think he took it in a positive way,'' said the Arsenal boss.

''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.''

Nevertheless, 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 continued.

''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.''

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.

Wenger, though, claimed it was meant as a rallying call, rather than direct criticism of the Gunners' demanding faithful.

He said: ''We can do it and the only way is to get everybody behind the team and do it. There was nothing more in my speech than that.''

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