Nigel Martyn has told LeedsUnited.News that there was not enough force from Nicolas Pepe’s headbutt to force Gjanni Alioski to the floor – but commended the Leeds defender by labelling him the “clever” one in the situation, as he remained on the pitch and Arsenal’s Pepe trudged off.
It was the turning point during Sunday’s 0-0 draw. A couple of little niggles and handbags turned into a flash point just after 50 minutes. Pepe squared up to Macedonia international Alioski, and landed a headbutt – albeit soft – on Alioski. The left-footer flung himself to the floor, and has since earned criticism for his actions which resulted in a red card for Pepe.
Since the incident, Alioski has been slammed by Ally McCoist on TalkSPORT, told he deserves an Oscar by Patrice Evra on Sky Sports – and BBC pundit Garth Crooks thinks he “needs to have a word with himself”. However, Pepe has sent a message to Arsenal fans on Instagram – apologising for his actions which will now see him miss matches against Wolves, Tottenham and Burnley.
So, who was in the wrong? Leeds legend Martyn believes Pepe has no excuses, stating that you simply cannot do that he did on a football pitch. Martyn also backed Alioski for being the clever one as he remained on the pitch, but did admit that the Leeds number 10 milked it.
“I think he can be annoying to play against. You come across players like that – but you can’t get involved. You could see throughout the game that things were building up to it. Words were probably spoken, but you can’t stick your head in somebody’s face,” Martyn told LeedsUnited.News.
Arteta has criticised Pepe – but he will be disappointed that he has got to that position. I don’t think the head in the face is enough to make someone fall – but you just can’t do it. The clever one is the one still on the pitch. He had a decent game as well. it’s a learning thing for Pepe – but playing against Alioski is like that.”
Aside from the incident and as Martyn says, 28-year-old Alioski had an excellent game at left-back as Marcelo Bielsa decided to start Stuart Dallas in front of Kalvin Phillips and alongside Mateusz Klich in midfield. It has been a good week for Alioski, with the player in talks to sign a new deal – as per The Athletic’s Phil Hay – and qualifying for Euro 2021.
In and out of the side so far this season, it remains to be seen if Alioski will start against Everton this weekend – a match that sees two of Martyn’s previous clubs go head to head. With Rodrigo shining during a substitute appearance, the Spain international could return to the starting XI and replace Dallas, who could drop into left-back.
Nigel Martyn speaks to Leeds United News: Archive