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Nov 22, 2020 at 4.30pm UK
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Arsenal absentees concern Mikel Arteta following Leeds stalemate

:Headline: Arsenal absentees concern Mikel Arteta following Leeds stalemate:
The Gunners were fortunate to come away from Elland Road with a goalless Premier League draw.
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Mikel Arteta cut a frustrated figure as Arsenal drew a blank at Leeds and the Spaniard revealed afterwards his concern at injuries to Willian and Bukayo Saka as well as Nicolas Pepe’s looming suspension.

The Gunners were fortunate to come away from Elland Road with a goalless Premier League draw although they paid a price as Willian suffered a muscular problem and Saka seemed to hurt his knee following a challenge late on.

Pepe, meanwhile, faces a domestic three-match ban for violent conduct after his red card for appearing to headbutt Leeds’ Ezgjan Alioski, restricting Arteta’s options even further as Arsenal embark on a hectic run of fixtures.

Bukayo Saka, centre, seemed to hurt his knee in the goalless draw at Arsenal (Michael Regan/PA)

Mohamed Elneny and Sead Kolasinac were unavailable on Sunday after testing positive for Covid-19 on international duty while Thomas Partey (thigh), Pablo Mari (ankle) and Gabriel Martinelli (knee) were also sidelined.

After explaining his disappointment with only claiming a point at Leeds, Arteta switched his focus to his dwindling options, as he looked ahead to his side’s trip to Norway to take on Molde in the Europa League on Thursday.

He said: “I’m cross because I want to win and when I don’t win, I get upset.

“We had it really difficult for different reasons because we lost two players on international duty. We have now lost two players to injury and one through suspension and we have an incredible amount of games coming up.

“Every team is going to face challenges with the amount of fixtures we have.

Nicolas Pepe, right, was sent off at Elland Road (Molly Darlington/PA)

“We will see what happens but we will put a team (out against Molde) to compete in the way that we do now. Let’s hope that we can get some (players) back.”

Arsenal offered little going forward against Leeds and they have now found the back of the net only once in their most recent five Premier League fixtures.

They have not scored in open play since a 2-1 win over Sheffield United on October 4 and had just two shots on target at Leeds, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a subdued figure after being given a rare central role up front.

Speaking about the Arsenal captain’s role, Arteta added: “In some moments it worked really well.

“It’s impossible to dominate this team for 90 minutes. And then in the second half when you hope that you are going to get things adjusted and better, we go to 10 men and then obviously it’s a mountain to climb.”

Illan Meslier, pictured, was praised by Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa (Naomi Baker/PA)

Leeds had 25 attempts at goal, 13 in the first half and 12 after the interval, but only four were on target on a day where Rodrigo, Patrick Bamford and Raphinha – handed his first start for the club – all hit the woodwork.

While it may seem like an opportunity missed for Leeds, they kept a clean sheet after back-to-back 4-1 defeats, with goalkeeper Illan Meslier saving well from Saka towards the end.

The Frenchman came in for praise from Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa, who said: “To evaluate a keeper after conceding eight goals is something we observe.

“He had a very important intervention but we evaluate a keeper over a longer trajectory of games.

“He is a player who is very strong mentally, who has character. To play in the Premier League always demands to be strong mentally and you can’t play at this level without personality and character.”

Meanwhile, Leeds and Arsenal have condemned the “vile” abuse aimed at Alioski and Pepe on social media after Sunday’s stalemate.

Both clubs were dismayed by the response from individuals on social media reacting to the incident.

“The vile abuse directed at Ezgjan Alioski and Nicolas Pepe on social media after yesterday’s Premier League game with Arsenal will not be tolerated by Leeds United,” said the club in a statement.

“We will work closely with the police and the footballing authorities to ensure those responsible are identified and punished.”

Arsenal added: “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.”

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