Henrikh Mkhitaryan

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Arsenal’s Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League final

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Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be available to play in the UEFA Europa League final against Chelsea.

The final on May 29 is being held in Baku, Azerbaijan and that country has no diplomatic relations with the country of Mkhitaryan’s birth, Armenia. Hence, Arsenal cannot guarantee the safety of their playmaker who is also the captain of the Armenian national team.

Despite the ambassador assuring Mkhitaryan will be safe, the Gunners have decided he will not be able to travel with the squad over those safety concerns.

“We are very disappointed to announce that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be travelling with the squad for our Uefa Europa League final against Chelsea,” the north London club said in a statement.

Due their conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, tensions are high between Azerbaijan and Armenia and Mkhitaryan did not travel for Arsenal’s Europa League game against Qarabag in Azerbaijan earlier this season.

He will now not be available for the final despite being a key part of Arsenal’s run to the Europa League final, which they must win to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season. UEFA had previously said they would help with the situation, but this is the latest problem in holding the final in Baku as only 5,000 fans of both Chelsea and Arsenal are expected in the 67,000 capacity stadium due to their being no direct flights and other issues getting to Azerbaijan.

Arsenal released the following statement on the situation regarding Mkhitaryan.

We have thoroughly explored all the options for Micki to be part of the squad but after discussing this with Micki and his family we have collectively agreed he will not be in our travelling party. We have written to Uefa expressing our deep concerns about this situation. Micki has been a key player in our run to the final so this is a big loss for us from a team perspective.

We’re also very sad that a player will miss out on a major European final in circumstances such as this, as it is something that comes along very rarely in a footballer’s career. Micki will continue to be part of our preparations until we depart for Baku at the weekend.

Mkhitaryan responded by saying “it hurts a lot” to miss the final, but added that “we had to take the tough decision for me not to travel with the squad.”

Mkhitaryan assured of safety by Azerbaijan ambassador

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The Europa League Final in Azerbaijan has not been getting a lot of positive press due to fans unwillingness to travel for the event and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s fears of stepping foot in the country.

That’s because Mkhitaryan is the captain of Armenia’s national team, and that nation’s long dispute with Azerbaijan.

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Arsenal, of course, plays Chelsea in the May 29 final, and Mkhitaryan already missed an earlier UEL match against Azerbaijan powers Qarabag. He’s played plenty for the Gunners this season apart from a broken foot, and his absence would not be welcome news for this London Derby of a European Final.

Azerbaijan’s UK ambassador Tahir Taghizadeh has guaranteed safety for Mkhitaryan, and said he’d be happy to personally offer assurances to the Armenian. On the other hand, this doesn’t sound like the most positive messaging, via Sky Sports:

“My message to Mkhitaryan would be: you’re a footballer, you want to play football? Go to Baku you are safe there, if you want to play the issue then that’s a different story. What I can guarantee is that the Azerbaijan government will do everything what needs to be done and provide safety and security for every fan, player and staff member coming to this game.”

By using the phrase “play the issue,” it does launch the discussion firmly into political waters. One thing’s for sure: The issue may be debatable, but whether a player feels safe deserves to be his call and his call alone.

Arsenal, Mkhitaryan in talks over missing Europa League final

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan may not play for Arsenal in their UEFA Europa League final against Chelsea.

Not because of injury. Not because he’s suspended. But because of safety fears due to his citizenship.

The final on May 29 is being held in Baku, Azerbaijan and they have no diplomatic relations with the country of Mkhitaryan’s birth, Armenia.

Due their conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, tensions are high between Azerbaijan and Armenia and Mkhitaryan did not travel for Arsenal’s Europa League game against Qarabag in Azerbaijan earlier this season.

According to multiple reports Arsenal are in touch with UEFA about the situation, as European soccer’s governing body have offered to help secure a visa for Mkhitaryan to travel in and out for the game.

What a mess.

Mkhitaryan is the captain of the Armenian national team and will no doubt be a target if he enters Azerbaijan. Surely Arsenal will not risk taking him with them, even though he would be a valuable asset to Unai Emery‘s team on the pitch. Mkhitaryan, 30, has played in 39 games for Arsenal this season and has scored six times, adding seven assists. Not having him available for this game would be a blow for the Gunners.

After Arsenal sent out a strong statement questioning why Baku was selected as a host city due to their own fans and Chelsea supporters struggling to get to the Azerbaijani capital for the final — both clubs were handed only 6,000 tickets in a 69,000 capacity venue — they will be feeling even more hard done by with Mkhitaryan’s status up in the air.

“We have 45,000 season ticket holders and for so many fans to miss out due to UEFA selecting a final venue with such limited transport provision is quite simply not right,” Arsenal said in a statement. They have also expressed their displeasure at their British-Armenian season ticket holders being denied entry to Azerbaijan for the final.

It is totally understandable that UEFA want to spread the love and take their showpiece finals all over the region and to cities and countries who haven’t previously hosted the events, but serious questions have to be asked about other cities after such extreme issues for both of the finalists this season.

Mkhitaryan leads Arsenal back into Top Four (video)

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  • Lacazette redirects Mkhitaryan shot
  • Mkhitaryan adds goal of his own
  • Saints remain 18th

Henrikh Mkhitaryan recorded a goal and an assist as Arsenal beat Southampton 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

The win pushed Arsenal back into the Top Four, while Southampton remains a point back of 17th place in the race to avoid relegation.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Nathan Redmond flew down the right side of the pitch to trouble Bernd Leno with a sixth minute effort.

Arsenal went ahead within a minute of that, with Lacazette redirecting a Henrikh Mkhitaryan shot into the goal.

Saints had a left-footed shot from Matt Targett blocked by Leno before play was stalled to treat a Sead Kolasinac head injury.

Arsenal doubled its advantage through Mkhitaryan, who took the honors himself this time with a low drive inside the near post following a cross through the 18.

James Ward-Prowse had an early second half effort rocket wide of the frame for Saints.

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Saints snap Arsenal unbeaten run at 22

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  • Austin scores late winner
  • Ings nets two headers
  • Mkhitaryan twice equalizes

Charlie Austin‘s late goal joined Danny Ings‘ brace as Southampton topped Arsenal 3-2 on Sunday at St. Mary’s to give Ralph Hasenhuttl his first win as Saints boss.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s two equalizers were not enough for Arsenal, who remains fifth with 43 points.

Saints move 17th with 12 points, pushing Burnley back into the Bottom Three.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Arsenal attacked first with Matteo Guendouzi setting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on goal, but Saints keeper Alex McCarthy cut down the distance considerably to block the shot.

Nathan Redmond won a corner for Saints in the 14th minute, but it led to nothing for the South Coast side. And Stuart Armstrong curled a shot that Bernd Leno fell to catch four minutes later.

Saints went ahead through Ings, nodding home a Matt Targett cross with authority for the first goal under Ralph Hasenhuttl.

Mkhitaryan made it 1-1 when Nacho Monreal sent a cross to the penalty spot for a headed goal.

But Redmond’s cross put Ings in for a with a header that was either lucky, clever, or equal parts both. The brace was his first in the Premier League since Nov. 22, 2014, when he scored twice for Burnley against Stoke City.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

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Mkhitaryan had another answer for Arsenal, though, thanks to a shot that took a significant turn off of Jannik Vestegaard to leave McCarthy answerless. It was 2-2 with 37 minutes to play at St. Mary’s.

Arsenal had the better of the chances and the proverbial rub of the green when Saints did challenge, as Shane Long was viewed offside when Maya Yoshida scored late.

Mesut Ozil was well saved by McCarthy, and Aubameyang had a promising opportunity blocked as Saints worked hard for their point.

Would they get three? Yes! Austin was alone to nod home when Leno couldn’t reach Long’s cross.