his was supposed to be the game Nicolas Pepe showed why he should start more for Arsenal, but instead it was the opposite.
The Ivorian will now miss the next three Premier League games after his red card against Leeds United and you suspect he will have to work hard to get back into the team after that.
Pepe’s sending off was a moment of madness from the winger, one you couldn’t explain – particularly in the modern era of VAR and multiple cameras.
Indeed it was VAR that caught Pepe, whose butt of heads with Ezgjan Alioski had previously been missed by referee Anthony Taylor. Once Taylor saw it on the pitch-side monitor he had no choice and sure enough he brandished the red card.
Pepe had spent the international break explaining why he wanted to start more.
“My goal is to play more, to have a little more playing time. A player who plays is happy. For me, I would like to play a little more to find a smile again,” he told Canal+.
“He [Arteta] wants me to be 100 percent focused during the 90 minutes of the match. Afterwards, I see during training that I will be a substitute the following weekend.
“A super-sub role? The coach makes his choices. It’s up to me to show him that I don’t have that role.”
But when handed his chance to shine against Leeds, Pepe blew his opportunity. There were glimpses of his talent in the first-half, not least when he left Luke Ayling for dead and hit the bar with a cross.
This performance, however, will be remembered for Pepe’s moment of madness and his red card. It was not what you’d expect from any Arsenal player, let alone their club-record signing and it nearly cost his team – who dug in and rode their luck to leave Elland Road with a point.
Aubameyang suffers same problem even in new role
It was a case of new position, but same old story for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Arsenal fans have been calling for the Gabon international to play through the middle and not out wide, but when he did against Leeds he was still starved of service.
Aubameyang was forced to feed off scraps on an evening where it was Leeds that created the most chances. Only the brilliant Bernd Leno in the Arsenal goal and the woodwork could deny them, otherwise they could have scored two or three.
Arsenal’s attack, on the other hand, looked blunt and Aubameyang typified their struggles. The 31-year-old just isn’t firing right now, but on this evidence his position doesn’t seem to be the key. Instead you get the sense the issue is coming from those behind him failing to create chances.
Marathon man Tierney puts in the miles
You wouldn’t have believed it the way he got up and down the left flank, but Kieran Tierney played 300 minutes during the recent international break. The left-back clocked up those minutes for Scotland in just six days, however he still started here at Elland Road. That underlines the Scotman’s importance to how Arteta plays, but also his desire and fitness.
Despite this being Tierney’s fourth game in 10 days, the 23-year-old bombed up and down the left side – constantly offering himself as an overlap for Willian. As he has so often been this season, Tierney was a rare bright spark for Arsenal during a difficult day and Mikel Arteta will hope his hunger and commitment proves infectious to the rest of the squad.
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