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Leeds United 0 v 0 Arsenal
Barclays Premier League
Sunday, 22nd November 2020 Kick-off 16:30
The two clubs come together to condemn abuse of Pepe and Alioski
Monday, 23rd Nov 2020 22:17 by Tim Whelan

The two players involved in the most explosive incident of yesterday’s game have faced plenty of abuse today from the Twitter trolls, and both Leeds and Arsenal have announced a crackdown on their more ill-mannered supporters.

Yesterdays’ game was very entertaining and eventful for a 0-0 draw, but the moment that will be best remembered came early in the second half. Pepe had been getting frustrated for some time that he hadn’t been able to make more of an impact on the game, even though he came as close to scoring as any Arsenal player in the first half, when his cross deceived Meslier but came back off the crossbar.

In the first few minutes after the interval Pepe and Alioski were seen to have been having a bit of a go at each after, and shortly afterwards the Arsenal man finally cracked. We don’t know exactly what the mad Macedonian did to wind him up, but Pepe pushed his head into Alioski’s face, and our man made sure that VAR picked up on it by going down like he’d been shot, though he was perfectly OK shortly afterwards.

As I grew up watching football in the 1970s I didn’t think that was a proper headbutt, and anyone who thought that was violent conduct should be made to watch old videos of Newcastle centre forward Wyn Davies. Now there was a man who knew how to use his head in an improper manner, as he demonstrated on more than one occasion.

But though the contact made by Pepe was that severe, it’s still regarded as a red card offence with today’s interpretation of the rules, and it was inevitable that once the referee had looked at the pitch-side monitor he would be off down the tunnel. Pepe had been moaning about his lack of game time, and will now miss the next three matches, and possibly more, as Mikel Arteta was obviously extremely angry about his conduct.

Leeds had already started to dominate the game after a difficult start, and once Arsenal had gone down to ten men they dropped back into defence and invited more pressure. On another day we could have won by two or three as we hit the woodwork several times, but we could also have lost the game to a couple of Arsenal breakaways near the end. At the final whistle Arsenal were certainly the happier of the two sides to have taken a point.

Not that Kieran Tierney was in the mood to celebrate the draw, as he was the centre of more argy barrgy as the players left the field, having to be led away by players from both sides after trying to confront Alioski. Tierney had certainly channelled his anger in the right way during the game with his determined performance, but not at the end as he let his frustration get the better of him.

Martin Keown told Football London that Tierney was the kind of full-blooded player who likes to back up his team-mates, and thought he was annoyed to Granit Xhaka with his arm around Alioski, even if those two know each other from their time in Swiss football. Keown said ‘I would have certainly felt like that if I’d seen one of my team-mates practically fraternising with the enemy after what had happened.”

But Pepe himself has been a little more contrite today on his Instagram account. '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.”

If only the rest of social media had been this restrained. Shaun Wright-Phillips posted a screenshot of some of the abuse aimed at Pepe, some of which included the N word, and “Twitter say they are protecting people from racial abuse! When is it enough and when will it stop?!?” But he didn’t clear whether this came from some of our delightful followers or Arsenal fans thinking he had let the side down.

And there has been plenty of abuse coming Alioski’s way as well, and according to The Athletic this has even included threats towards his family. Both clubs have since warned of dire consequences for anyone who is found to have taken part in this sort of thing.

An Arsenal club statement said '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.'

And our statement was strikingly similar. “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.”

I’m sure that none of our readers are ill-mannered enough to engage in that level of abuse, but if you are then you’re in biiig trouble.


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