Police called over Gjanni Alioski social media abuse following Leeds United player's part in Nicolas Pepe red card for Arsenal

Leeds United have promised to work with the police to root out those who subjected Ezgjan Alioski to vile social media abuse after Sunday's 0-0 draw with Arsenal.
RED CARD: Nicolas Pepe is sent offRED CARD: Nicolas Pepe is sent off
RED CARD: Nicolas Pepe is sent off

The left-back was involved in the most controversial moment of the match when Gunners winger Nicolas Pepe was sent off for headbutting him after 52 minutes.

Television cameras later identified that the £72m player had been on the end of a considerable amount of pushing and shoving from Alioski, but nothing to justify the reaction of either Pepe or those on social media.

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Arsenal defender Kieran Tierney had to be held back at full-time as he tried to confront Alioski.

"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," read a Leeds statement.

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

After the game, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta called Pepe's actions "unacceptable" but said nothing about Alioksi's. Asked about possible provocation, he simply said: "I don’t know but we knew the level of intensity, aggression and how alive they are in every action. We have to be able to deal with that and handle that situation."

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Asked about the player's ability to get under the skin of opponents, Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa said: “I don't think this is something distinct in Gjanni, it's the first time I've heard it. That's not to say that you're not right.

“He perhaps uses these resources and I haven't noticed.

“What I do notice is he's a player with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of passion for every moment in the game."

The issue of abuse via social media channels has become an important one for society as a whole, and sport is certainly not immune to it.

After years of footballers becoming increasingly insulated from supporters – even more so now the country is in lockdown – social media platforms have given the public a platform to address players directly without needing the courage to speak to their faces.

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This is not the first time a football club has asked the police to step in over social media abuse.

Last season Twitter was forced to apologise and “take action” after more than 700 examples of what it called “hateful conduct” directed at footballers, including black players Paul Pogba, Tammy Abrahams, Yakou Meite and Marcus Rashford when they failed to convert penalties.

Twitter met the clubs concerned, players union the Professional Footballers' Association and anti-discrimination body Kick It Out, and there were calls from some within the game to boycott it, but many players enjoy the chance to interact more closely with supporters.

Alioski is the most gregarious member of the Leeds squad but the actions of a few half-wits threatens one of the few remaining bonds between football players and their public.

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The controversy took the shine off another excellent Leeds performance.

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