Mikel Arteta called Nicolas Pepe’s actions “unacceptable” after the Arsenal forward was sent off in the Gunners’ goalless draw at Leeds.
Pepe was dismissed in the 52nd minute of the match at Elland Road after fronting up to Ezgjan Alioski and thrusting his head towards the Leeds defender, who fell to the ground,
The altercation came moments after Pepe and Alioski had clashed higher up the pitch, and referee Anthony Taylor consulted the VAR monitor before issuing the red card.
An angry Arteta was questioned by Sky Sports about the incident after the match, and said: “I never like a draw but in the circumstances it’s a point. It (the red card) is unacceptable.”
Arteta also referred to Pepe when discussing a late chance for Bukayo Saka, saying: “It was the best chance in the game, I thought the keeper did well. The reality is they threatened a lot our box and we were lucky on some occasions.
“With 10 men it is a big disadvantage. I really liked the personality of the team when Pepe let the team down, how we stuck to do what we had to do and had a moment or two to win the game, but obviously it makes it really difficult.”
Speaking on BBC Radio Five Live’s coverage of the game, the former Leeds defender Stephen Warnock said: “It was an incident off the ball. Pepe just pushes his head towards him and Alioski goes to ground and makes the most of it.
“He’s let his team-mates and manager down there.”
Pepe had come into the game vowing to fight for his place at Arsenal and prove to Arteta that he should be starting more matches.
“My goal is to play more, to have a little more playing time. A player who plays is happy. For me, I would like to play a little more to find a smile again,” he told Canal+ last week.
“He [Arteta] wants me to be 100 percent focused during the 90 minutes of the match. Afterwards, I see during training that I will be a substitute the following weekend.
“But the coach speaks to me, he also has assistants who are there for that. But it is frustrating for any player to be on the bench.
“A super-sub role? The coach makes his choices. It’s up to me to show him that I don’t have that role.”
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