Arsenal and Leeds United have come together to release a joint statement in support of Nicolas Pepe and Ezgjan Alioski, who have both been targeted on social media after a clash between the two players in Sunday’s 0-0 draw.
Pepe was shown a straight red card for headbutting the Leeds left-back shortly after half time, leaving the ten men of Arsenal to face the home side’s onslaught for almost half of the match.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta quickly described Pepe’s behaviour as ‘unacceptable‘, but some on social media have taken things too far by hurling abuse at the two players for their respective roles in the incident, with some messages containing racist language and others featuring threats to family members.
“This is completely unacceptable and we will be working with the police and authorities to do everything we can to trace and prosecute the culprits.”
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa was forced to defend Alioski during his post-match press conference, insisting that he knows nothing of the left-back’s reputation as a wind-up merchant.
I don’t think this is something distinct in Gjanni, it’s the first time I’ve heard it,” Bielsa said (via Leeds Live). “That’s not to say that you’re not right. He perhaps uses these resources and I haven’t noticed but what I do notice is that he’s a player with a lot of enthusiasm, with a lot of passion for every moment in the game.
“For example, today’s duel with Pepe was a very difficult one and the winger that came on, number 24, [Reiss] Nelson, is also a player that can unbalance. And in this sense I saw Gjanni very effective.”
The draw saw Leeds climb up to 14th in the Premier League table, and Bielsa’s side now sit just two points behind Arsenal in 11th.