Granit Xhaka jumps to the defence of Arsenal team-mate Nicolas Pepe and urges him to ‘come back stronger’ after winger was sent off for headbutt on Leeds midfielder Ezgjan Alioski
- Granit Xhaka has urged Nicolas Pepe to ‘come back stronger’ from his red card
- The Ivorian was sent off at Leeds for headbutting Ezgjan Alioski on Sunday
- Xhaka defended his team-mate in response to Pepe’s Instagram apology
- Mikel Arteta called the incident ‘unacceptable’ and Pepe will miss three games
Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka has jumped to the defence of team-mate Nicolas Pepe and urged the winger to ‘come back stronger’ following his red card at Leeds on Sunday.
Pepe was sent off by referee Anthony Taylor for a moment of madness at Elland Road where he was caught headbutting Ezgjan Alioski during an off the ball incident.
The Ivorian winger, who has struggled for form at the Emirates since his big-money move from Lille in the summer of 2019, will now miss three matches, including next month’s north London derby against Tottenham.
Granit Xhaka has jumped to the defence of his Arsenal team-mate Nicolas Pepe on Instagram
The Swiss midfielder urged the winger to ‘come back stronger’ after his red card at Leeds
Pepe, who was the target of vile online racist abuse following his sending off, issued an apology on social media on Monday – insisting there are no excuses for his actions.
He wrote on Instagram: ‘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.’
Pepe has received backing from one of his team-mates in the Arsenal dressing room with Xhaka commenting on the post.
‘Keep going brother. You come back stronger,’ the Swiss midfielder replied.
‘WE ARE WITH YOU.’
The Ivorian was sent off at Elland Road after headbutting Alioski in Sunday’s goalless draw
His manager was not quite as forgiving though with Mikel Arteta branding his red card ‘unacceptable’.
Speaking after the game at Elland Road, the Arsenal boss said: ‘It’s unacceptable. I told him it’s unacceptable. We knew the level of intensity, aggression and how alive Leeds are in every action.
‘You need to be able to deal with that because it’s part of the plan against this team.’
In the aftermath of the incident, both Arsenal and Leeds released statements condemning the ‘vile abuse’ online directed at both Pepe and Alioski.
Former England and Chelsea winger Shaun Wright-Phillips posted a screenshot of some of the abuse aimed at Pepe on Twitter – which included him being called a ‘n*****’ on several occasions.
Alioski was also subjected to online abuse and both clubs came out to insist they are working with police and relevant authorities to search for those involved.
Pepe was sent off by Anthony Taylor, who only needed one glance at the pitch-side screen
An Arsenal club statement read: ‘We utterly condemn the vile abuse directed at Nicolas Pepe and Ezgjan Alioski on social media following our match against Leeds.
‘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 were equally as strong in their statement, writing: ‘The vile abuse directed at Ezgjan Alioski and Nicolas Pepe on social media after yesterday’s game with Arsenal will not be tolerated by Leeds United.
‘We will work closely with the police and the footballing authorities to ensure those responsible are identified and punished.’