Mikel Arteta has reaffirmed his support for forward Nicolas Pepe, after the Arsenal man was sent off in the 0-0 draw with Leeds United at the weekend.
The Ivory Coast international was given a red card early in the second-half at Elland Road, following an off-the-ball scuffle that saw Pepe ‘headbutt’ Leeds midfielder Ezgjan Alioski.
That left Arsenal with just 10 men for almost 40 minutes, yet the Gunners held firm and kept their opponents at bay to pick up what had been a seemingly unlikely point, no doubt leaving Pepe a relieved man.
The former Lille man has had an inconsistent time at the Emirates, with the odd moment of magic all too often overshadowed by a frustrating tendency to under-perform, with most of his recent Arsenal appearances restricted to the Europa League this season.
While this latest moment of madness left Mikel Arteta raging post-match, the Spaniard has moved to quickly dispel any suggestion that the 25-year-old’s Arsenal career is in doubt.
PEPE SENT OFF 🟥
The Arsenal man headbutts Ezgjan Alioski off the ball and is shown a straight red card
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) November 22, 2020
“No, it’s absolutely not [the end of his Arsenal career after the red card],” he insisted at his pre-match press conference. “It’s not about that and I don’t like that type of statement,’ Arteta told his pre-match press conference.
“I will give Nico my full support all the time. He knows where he has to improve and we all know his qualities. He has some responsibility, I have a lot of responsibility, which is to get the best out of him and get the best position for him, the best areas where he can do what he can do with the ball.
“I cannot fault his effort at all. You see the way he strives for the team, the way he’s working, it’s been the best since he’s been at the club. But there have been some aspects he can do better in because he has the ability.
“That’s where I’m going to put the pressure on him to deliver what he can do. To say it’s a threat for him to finish his [Arsenal] career… it’s not at all like that.”
Arsenal face Norwegian side Molde in the Europa League on Thursday evening before hosting Wolves at the weekend.