Mikel Arteta is, quite understandably, absolutely fuming at Nicolas Pepe after the Arsenal winger was shown a straight red card for head-butting Leeds United defender Ezgjan Alioski (above video) in the two sides’ 0-0 Premier League draw at Elland Road on Sunday.
Arteta dubbed Pepe’s moment of madness, “Unacceptable. Unacceptable,” and even repeatedly returned to speaking about the incident when quizzed on other aspects of the rest of the game — quotes from the BBC:
“It is unacceptable. Unacceptable. At this level you cannot do it.”
“Considering how early we got Nicolas Pepe sent off, we have to take [the draw]. I never like a draw, but in the circumstances it’s a point. It is unacceptable.
“The first half there were two different periods. The game broke a bit, we started to give the ball away and led to them having the space to break. The second half it was a matter of defending well and staying patient and using the pace of our players in the space they were leaving.”
“With 10 men it is a big disadvantage. I really liked the personality of the team when Nicolas 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.”
It’s hard to imagine Nicolas Pepe making his way back into the team — at least right away, especially given he was already reportedly unhappy at the club — after those quotes from Arteta, who has largely ruled with an iron fist since taking over at the Emirates Stadium last December. Mesut Ozil, the highest earner at the club, has been ostracized from the first team for any number of reasons. To do the same to Pepe would be but a small drop in a very large bucket.
All of Arteta’s comments, of course, ignore the fact that Arsenal were horrendously poor for 50 minutes prior to Pepe’s sending-off and that at no point did they look like the top-four hopeful facing a newly promoted side.
— Infogol (@InfogolApp) November 22, 2020