Nicolas Pepe was sent off in Arsenal’s goalless draw against Leeds United on Sunday, and the Ivorian winger has taken to Instagram to offer his apologies to the fans, his teammates, manager Mikel Arteta, and everyone else at the club for his actions.
The game had just gone past its 50th minute when Pepe, clearly annoyed by Ezgjan Alioski, appeared to have headbutted the Leeds left-back. The contact between their foreheads seemed minimal and there’s no doubt that Alioski made the most of it with a theatrical fall, but the fact that Pepe should have known better than to react that way is beyond doubt as well. In all fairness, referee Anthony Taylor had no choice but to raise the red card against him after seeing the incident via the pitch-side VAR monitor.
The 25-year-old seems aware of his mistake. His Instagram post read:
“Yesterday I have let my team down at a crucial time of the game and there is no excuses for my behaviour. I am deeply sorry and would like to apologise to the fans, my team-mates, my coach and everyone else at the club.”
It was indeed a crucial moment of the game. With 40 minutes still to be played, the Gunners would have still had plenty of time to try and find a winning goal had they not been forced to play with 10 men. Such outburst are, of course, not uncommon in the game, but it is to be hoped that Pepe has truly learned his lesson and will now allow provocative actions from opponents to get him into trouble again.
After the match, a series of vile abuse was directed at both Pepe and Alioski, and both Leeds and Arsenal have come out to condemn it and pledge their support to police in discovering the culprits. Football players do a lot of things to gain advantage in a game, but this era of social media has indeed created a host of individuals in every fanbase who hide behind keyboards to abuse.