Mikel Arteta has described Nicolas Pepe’s red card against Leeds United as ‘unacceptable’ and has criticised the player for giving Arsenal a huge mountain to climb.
The Gunners were dominated in the first half of the clash and their task was made even tougher when Pepe was sent off after an off-the-ball tussle.
Although the incident was not picked up by the referee, VAR spotted Pepe squaring up to Ezgjan Alioski before butting his head into the Leeds star.
Arsenal had to dig in after that and were completely dominated, defending manfully and surviving a number of scares as Leeds hit the woodwork three times.
Despite getting a point from the game, Arteta – who has reprimanded players for similar poor discipline in the past – was unhappy with the sending off and has already let Pepe know.
‘Well considering how early we got Pepe sent off we have to take it. I never like a draw but considering the circumstances, it’s a point,’ Arteta told Sky Sports.
Quizzed if there was excuse for what Pepe did, Arteta said: ‘No, it’s unacceptable.’
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Probed on whether he has spoken to the former Lille star already, and what he told the winger, Arteta said. ‘Yes. [I told him] it’s unacceptable.’
Arteta aimed another dig at Pepe as he applauded his team’s efforts after being reduced to 10 men on the pitch, adding: ‘I really liked the personality of the team when Pepe let the team down.
‘How we suffered together, and how we stuck to what we had to do, and still believed that we had a moment or two where we could win the game. But obviously it makes it really difficult.’
Patrice Evra also said of the incident: ‘I’m disappointed, it came from frustration. It’s just frustration. It’s a bit silly and he should say sorry to his teammates. They had a plan and everything changed after that. It’s really silly. I always protect him but today I can’t.’