'He let us down' – Mikel Arteta slams Nicolas Pepe after red card for Arsenal

Mikel Arteta has brandished Nicolas Pepe’s red card against Leeds United as ‘unacceptable’ and has criticised the winger for giving Arsenal a mammoth task at Elland Road.

The Gunners were dominated in the first half of Sunday evening’s clash and their task was made even harder when Pepe was given his marching orders after an off-the-ball tussle.

Although not picked up by the on-field referee, VAR spotted Pepe squaring up to Ezgjan Alioski before butting his head into the Leeds man.

There was not much contact but Alioski hit the deck clutching his face, with referee Anthony Taylor consulting the pitch-side monitor before brandishing a red card.

Arsenal had to dig in after that and were camped in their own box, defending manfully and surviving a host of scares as Leeds hit the woodwork three times.

Despite clinging on for a point, Arteta – who has reprimanded players for similar ill-discipline in the past – was far from happy with the manner of 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.

Asked if there was any excuse for what Pepe did, Arteta responded: ‘No, it’s unacceptable.’

Probed on whether he has spoken to Pepe already, and what he told the winger, Arteta replied bluntly. ‘Yes. [I told him] it’s unacceptable.’

Arteta had another dig at Pepe as he applauded his side’s efforts after being reduced to 10 men, 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.’

Pundit Patrice Evra 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.’

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