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.”