Mikel Arteta SLAMS Nicolas Pepe for picking up ‘unacceptable’ red card in Arsenal’s draw at Leeds as £72m record signing fails to take his chance after being handed a rare start
- Nicolas Pepe was sent off for a clear headbutt in Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with Leeds
- The Ivorian winger leaned his head into Ezgjan Alioski in an off-the-ball incident
- Mikel Arteta revealed Pepe ‘let his team down’ with his ‘unacceptable’ actions
- Pepe will now miss Arsenal’s next three games including the derby with Spurs
Mikel Arteta slammed winger Nicolas Pepe and branded his red card for head-butting Ezgjan Alioski ‘unacceptable’.
Pepe was sent off for an off-the-ball moment of madness when he responded to provocation from the Leeds midfielder in the second half.
Arsenal manager Arteta said: ‘It’s unacceptable. I told him it’s unacceptable. We knew the level of intensity, aggression and how alive Leeds are in every action.
Mikel Arteta slammed Nicolas Pepe (above) for picking up a reckless red card at Leeds
The Ivorian (left) was adjudged to have headbutted Ezgjan Alioski (second right) at Elland Road
‘You need to be able to deal with that because it’s part of the plan against this team.’
There is a feeling among some of Arsenal’s players that, if given a regular place, Pepe has what it takes to make a real impact.
The one he made on Alioski’s head on a day when he was handed his big chance was not what they had in mind.
Making just his second Premier League start of the season, Pepe allowed Alioski to get under his skin.
There had been an incident between the pair minutes earlier as Pepe tried to wriggle free and keep possession in his own half.
Pepe (right) was handed a red card by Anthony Taylor (left) after a VAR check on Sunday
Then they clashed again outside the Leeds box while play went on around them, Pepe pushing his head towards Alioski’s and what followed was inevitable.
The speed of referee Anthony Taylor’s pitchside monitor check — two replays needed at most — underlined that Pepe’s red card was a formality.
It could have been a costly moment for Arsenal, having to play 40-plus minutes with 10 men. To their credit they dug in, and also rode their luck, as they ground out a goalless draw.
It is Pepe himself who might have the biggest price to pay. This was a missed opportunity for Arsenal’s £72million club-record signing to stake a claim.
Gunners boss Arteta (above) said Pepe ‘had let the team down’ with his unacceptable actions
Arteta is searching for a solution to Arsenal’s attacking struggles. In an attempt to find one he turned to Pepe and restored captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to a central role. What he saw from Pepe was in keeping with his underwhelming Arsenal career since his arrival in 2019: flashes of hope but also moments of frustration.
Pepe caused panic with a mis-hit cross that grazed the bar, then had goalkeeper Illan Meslier scrambling with a second effort in the first half. Then he was needlessly sent off and, in Arteta’s words, left his team-mates with ‘a mountain to climb’.
It is now 476 minutes since Arsenal scored a Premier League goal from open play, netted by Pepe against Sheffield United in October.
With a three-game ban coming his way, it will be a while before he gets the chance to make amends to his team-mates and the less-than-impressed Arteta.
Pepe will now miss Arsenal’s next three games including December’s north London derby