Mikel Arteta speaks out on Nicolas Pepe’s Arsenal future after Leeds United red card

Mikel Arteta was fiercely critical of Nicolas Pepe after he was sent off against Leeds United (Picture: Getty)

Mikel Arteta will hand Nicolas Pepe an immediate opportunity to bounce back from Sunday’s red card against against Leeds United by selecting him against Molde on Thursday.

The Arsenal manager was fiercely critical of the club’s record signing following his dismissal at Elland Road, describing the Ivory Coast international’s headbutt on Ezgjan Alioski as ‘unacceptable’ while he also accused the winger of letting his team-mates down.

Pepe will miss the next three domestic matches through suspension, but is eligible for tomorrow’s Europa League group stage clash where the Gunners will be looking to maintain their 100% record in the competition this season and book their places in the knockout stages at the earliest possible opportunity.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference Arteta said: ‘We have all had disappointing reactions in our playing careers. Obviously we were frustrated because when you play against a team like Leeds for a long time with 10 men, it makes a huge difference.

‘He had a really good reaction, the way he apologised, the way he understood his responsibility and hopefully tomorrow we can see the player that we want to see, and have a good reaction to help his team.’

Nicolas Pepe has apoligsed to his Arsenal team-mates following his red card at Leeds (Picture: Getty)

Arteta added: ‘No, it is absolutely not (the end of his Arsenal career after the red card). It’s not about that and I don’t like that type of statement. 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 is not at all like that.

‘He has reacted the right way after that (sending off) and hopefully I can see a player that shows that every week. It is in his hands. He is a player I really like, that I know what he can give, and it is completely up to him.’

The former Lille winger has started only twice in the Premier League this season and has shown only flashes of the ability which persuaded the Gunners to pay £72million for his services 18 months ago.

And with Bukayo Saka, as well as Willian, absent from the squad which flew to Norway on Wednesday with both wingers nursing minor injuries, Pepe will earn an immediate shot at redemption.

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