Mikel Arteta SLAMS Nicolas Pepe for picking up ‘unacceptable’ red card at Arsenal’s Leeds draw as £ 72m record fails to take his chance after being awarded a rare start
- Nicolas Pepe was sent off for a clear headbutt in Arsenal’s 0-0 draw against Leeds
- The Ivorian winger bowed his head to Ezgjan Alioski in an off-the-ball incident
- Mikel Arteta revealed that Pepe “abandoned his team” with his “unacceptable” actions
- Pepe will now miss Arsenal’s next three games, including the derby with Spurs
Mikel Arteta slammed Nicolas Pepe and burned his red card to Ezgjan Alioski’s headbutts as unacceptable.
Pepe saw red for a second-half, off-the-ball moment of madness as he responded to the midfielder’s provocation from Leeds.
Arsenal manager Arteta said: ‘It is unacceptable. I told him it is unacceptable. We knew the level of intensity, aggression and how alive they were [Leeds] are in every action.
Mikel Arteta slapped Nicolas Pepe (above) for picking up a reckless red card at Leeds
The Ivorian (left) is said to have headbutted Ezgjan Alioski (second right) on Elland Road
“You have to be able to deal with that, because it is part of the plan against this team.”
Some Arsenal players feel that given a regular chance, Pepe has what it takes to make a real impact.
The one he put on Alioski’s head one day when he got a big chance wasn’t quite what they had in mind.
With his second Premier League start of the season, Pepe ended prematurely after letting Alioski get under his skin.
Pepe (right) received a red card from Anthony Taylor (left) after a VAR check on Sunday
A few minutes earlier there was an initial of the ball between Alioski and Pepe when the Arsenal winger tried to wriggle free and keep the ball in his own half.
Then they bumped outside the Leeds box again while playing around them, Pepe leaned his head towards Alioski’s and what followed was inevitable.
The speed with which referee Anthony Taylor checked his pitch-side monitor – needing at most two reps – underscored that Pepe’s subsequent red card was a formality.
It could have been a precious moment for Mikel Arteta’s team, who had to play the last 40-plus minutes with only 10 men.
Gunners boss Arteta (above) said Pepe had ‘abandoned the team’ with his unacceptable actions
But it was to their credit, but they also dug a little on their luck, as they hit a goalless draw.
Instead, it is Pepe himself who has to pay perhaps the greatest price. This was a great missed opportunity for Arsenal’s signing of a £ 72 million club record to make a claim.
Arteta is looking for a solution to Arsenal’s attacking battle.
In an effort to find one, he turned to Pepe, along with restoring captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to a pivotal role.
Pepe will now miss Arsenal’s next three games, including December’s North London derby
What he saw of Pepe then was in keeping with his inconsistent and largely disappointing Arsenal career since his much-discussed arrival last summer, flashes of hope but also moments of frustration.
Pepe caused panic with a wrong cross that scraped past the crossbar and Illan Meslier had to scramble with a second attempt in the first half. Then he was sent away unnecessarily.
That allowed him to watch as Bukayo Saka emerged as Arsenal’s most eye-catching forward before limping injured, while rest under Reiss Nelson was also given 45 minutes to give Arteta some food for thought.
Despite the men’s disadvantage, Arsenal still had chances to win the game later in the game
Pepe’s main contribution to the game, in Arteta’s words, made sure that his teammates had “a mountain to climb.”
It has now been 476 minutes since Arsenal last scored a Premier League goal from open play, scored by Pepe against Sheffield United in early October.
With a three-game suspension in his path, it will be a while before he has another chance to snag a Premier League score sheet and the ability to make up with his teammates and a less than impressed Arteta.