Former Arsenal star Perry Groves has defended the Gunners players involved in the latest ‘hippy crack’ scandal to hit the front pages.
A story published in The Sun on Friday shows a number of first-team aces, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Matteo Guendouzi, apparently inhaling nitrous oxide from balloons in a London club.
It is claimed the images date back to August, before the start of the new Premier League season.
It’s not the first time footballers have been captured taking the substance known as ‘laughing gas’ or ‘hippy crack’.
Manchester City and England forward Raheem Sterling was criticised after he was pictured using the substance in 2015, while Jack Grealish was caught up in a laughing gas storm in 2016 and Kyle Walker apologised after he was pictured taking it in 2013.
The exposé comes amid Arsenal’s brilliant run of 20 games unbeaten in all competitions, and is sure to spark outrage.
But former Arsenal winger Groves doesn’t think it’s a big deal, telling talkSPORT the incident ‘seems quite innocent’ compared to the ’15-pint binges’ players used to go on during his playing days.
“I’d rather they take a little bit of gas out of a balloon than having 15 pint benders like we used to,” he said on Thursday night’s Sports Bar.
“Also, this is isn’t in public, this is a private room they’ve hired, so their privacy has been breached if someone from that establishment sold the CCTV footage.
“The thing that amazes me is that apparently Ozil was involved. You can understand it some of the youngster players were involved, but the older ones?
“But, then again, when we were 29 and 30 we were with the youngster players and our ‘Tuesday Club’ galvanised team spirit – there was no hierarchy, there were no cliques. It wasn’t the older players going out and the young players going out separately, we tried to bring them into the fold.
“It’s not surprise it’s come out now because Arsenal has gone 20 games unbeaten and everything is going great.
“But it doesn’t outrage me at all to be fair. To me it seems like it’s quite innocent.”
The news is unlikely to sit well with manager Unai Emery, but Groves has urged the manager to use the situation to his advantage.
Emery’s strict managerial style has rejuvenated Arsenal this season following a number of disappointing campaigns under Arsene Wenger.
The Spaniard is said to have gone to a number of lengths to ensure his players are in the best shape this season, including banning fruit juices as they contain too much sugar.
News that his players went on a legal high binge before the start of the season is not likely to go down well with the boss, but Groves insists the incident can help galvanise the team.
The two-time First Division title winner added: “Unai Emery would have been aware of this before it was printed, will read them the riot act and say they’re tainted the club’s image, what are you doing etc, and he might say he’s particularly disappointed with the senior players.
“He might even fine them a couple of weeks’ wages, but if I was him I wouldn’t because I think this can galvanise you even more.
“He can bring everyone together and say, ‘this is us against the world here, they’re out to get us’ and they close ranks.”
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