Although Pepe’s ill-discipline deserves opprobrium – it won’t do him or the team any good.
Patrice Evra made a telling remark when he said knew Pepe in France and he was happy, but here he has the massive price tag and feels that some fans are against him.
On the time he was on the pitch his performance was consistent inconsistency – a few feeble challenges, a few balls lost, but then a cross which hit the crossbar and a burst of pace cutting through the Leeds defence and a shot which went narrowly wide.
But there again he was not alone in under-par performances in the first two thirds of the match. That could not be explained alone by tiredness from internationals and travelling, or Partey and Elneny not being available.
It is now eight hours since Arsenal scored from open play and this was the leakiest defence in the Premiership this season. And Arsenal conceded 24 efforts on goal.
But the ill wind from Pepe’s head, kick-started a resilient defensive display – with Tierney and substitute Saka putting in excellent performances and positives can be taken from the last 30 minutes in this 0-0 draw.
Arsenal have good record on this ground – not losing for 20 years.
Last time I went was in the early Eighties, with massed ranks of police with Alsatians and with occasional scuffles breaking out. I asked a policeman the way to the ground from the station, and he warned me not to speak with that southern accent when I got there. Such was the intimidatory atmosphere.
Different era now. Instead of the iron hard tackling football, a technical team to be admired for their philosophy, energy, and belief.
But the ghosts of that era would no doubt be laughing at Alioski’s ‘knock-out’ when lightly touched by the Ivorian’s forehead.
In first ten, Leeds’ man to man marking all over the pitch looked like it would strangle any Arsenal creativity. Ceballos tried his best, robbing the ball high up and firing wide; then shooting wide from a free kick.
Bamford had a chance from a well-worked move on the Leeds left. Leno saved.
Pepe switched to the left and on a run, surprised Meslier as his cross grazed the bar.
Bellerin slipped Aubameyang in from a Pepe pass, but he shot over the bar.
Leeds are a dangerous breakaway side with five or six players breaking at speed on the counter, the most notable being when Alioski broke and fed Raphina.
Arsenal packed their defence when Leeds built up slowly.
Bamford had a good chance when a cross bounced off Gabriel, but his effort was saved by Leno.
A Holding mistake led to Harrison crossing – but Dallas drove wide.
Most attacks were coming down the left, with Holding and Bellerin having their work cut-out with the Leeds overloads. And Arsenal generally started to look leggy after 40 minutes.
Leeds had plenty of chances to score but lacked clinical finishing, typified by Ayling leaning back in a central position and shooting over the bar.
Arsenal were anaemic in attack, with only a quarter of the home side’s attempts on goal and none on target. At the other end they conceded the most attempts on goal in one half than any other side in the Premiership this season.
Nelson came on for a lacklustre Willian after half-time.
After Pepe head-butted Alioski, Saka came on for Willock and went on the left with Nelson switching to the right. The full England international livened up the attack and worked a move with Tierney who crossed but Aubameyang miskicked.
Raphina broke through and passed to Dallas’s whose shot was saved by Leno.
Saka broke away and crossed but it was cut out by Leeds defence.
But the continual Leeds pressure from the one-man advantage saw a few panics in the Arsenal area.
Rodrigo cut in from the right beat Xhaka and fired with his left – just over. And minutes later, the Swiss allowed him to do the same thing.
Aubameyang looked off the pace with one or two chances. And Nelson put in three poor deliveries from set pieces.
But Arsenal could have won it in the last ten when Bellerin broke and set up Saka with a cute pass but with just Menier to beat, the young keeper saved.
But Leeds had great chances themselves to grab three points at the death. Bamford met a cross rising above Holding and hit the post.
Gabriel blocked a cross but it went straight to Klick who shot over and Rafinha hit the post in the fourth minute of injury time.
Leeds’ player Stuart Dallas said: “we created enough chances, enough to win it. They were dangerous on the counter. When they went down to ten then they camped in and denied us chances.”
Mikel Arteta said: “Considering Pepe was off, we have to take it.”
On the sending off, he said: “There’s no excuse – it is unacceptable.”
On the match as a whole, he said: “In the first 25 we were more dominant but were not finishing actions –and gave them space to break. In the second half – we defended well and were patient. We stuck to what we had to do. and still believed we could get chances.”
Leeds: Meslier, Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Alioski, Phillips, Dias Belloli, Klich, Dallas, Harrison, Bamford
Substitutes: Poveda-Ocampo, Roberts, Casilla, Hélder Costa, Rodrigo, Struijk, Davis
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerín, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Ceballos, Xhaka, Willian, Willock, Pépé, Aubameyang
Substitutes: Saka, Lacazette, Rúnarsson, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Nelson, Nketiah