Mikel Arteta branded Nicolas Pepe’s lack of discipline “unacceptable” after Arsenal were forced to hold out for a 0-0 draw away to Leeds on Sunday.
Rodrigo, Patrick Bamford and Raphinha hit the woodwork for Marcelo Bielsa’s men after Pepe was sent off six minutes into the second half for a headbutt on Ezgjan Alioski.
The Ivorian has failed to live up to expectations since a £72 million move from Lille 15 months ago and Arteta was furious at his conduct after being handed just a second Premier League start this season.
“It is unacceptable,” said Arteta when asked what he had told the winger at full-time.
“When Pepe let the team down, I really liked the personality of the team, how we suffered together and believed in what we had to do.”
A point leaves both sides still in the bottom half of the table as Arsenal edge up to 11th with Leeds two points back in 14th.
Arsenal have now not scored from open play in five Premier League games and even before being reduced to 10 men, offered precious little going forward.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started as the central striker for the first time in the league under Arteta, but the Gunners captain was starved of service as his own wait for a non-penalty goal since the opening day of the season goes on.
“Considering how early we got Pepe sent off, we have to take it,” added Arteta. “I never like a draw but considering the circumstances, it is a point.”
– Leeds ‘unfortunate’ –
Leeds were left to rue missing out on a win that would have taken them 10 points clear of the bottom three.
“We certainly created enough chances and did enough to win it,” said Leeds midfielder Stuart Dallas.
“The sending off changed the game and we had a lot of possession. It is just unfortunate one of those chances we worked didn’t go in.”
Bamford had scored seven times in his first eight appearances of the season, but twice he was denied by smart stops by Bernd Leno early on.
Mateusz Klich and Dallas also fired off target when well-placed a the edge of the area, while the closest Arsenal came before half-time was a mishit Pepe cross that came back off the top of the crossbar.
The Ivorian gave his side a mountain to climb six minutes into the second half with an unnecessary headbutt on Alioski that left referee Anthony Taylor with no option but to show a red card once he saw the incident on a VAR review.
For all Arsenal’s problems scoring goals, Arteta has concentrated on making them defensively more robust and they held out despite the numerical disadvantage.
Leno was required to make a brilliant save from Dallas before Bielsa turned to Leeds’ record signing, Rodrigo, for an extra goal threat.
The Spanish international nearly provided the moment of inspiration his side needed with a thunderous strike off the bar.
However, Arsenal also came close to a winner in the final stages as they began to counter-attack effectively.
Aubameyang had a claim for a penalty turned down when his shot struck the arm of Leeds captain Liam Cooper.
Substitute Bukayo Saka then wasted the visitors’ best chance of the game when he tried to round Illan Meslier, but the young French goalkeeper did well to stand his ground and block.
Leeds were denied twice more by the woodwork to round off a frustrating afternoon when Bamford’s header and then Raphinha’s driven shot came back off the same post.