Arsenal say that they have yet to receive ‘acceptable guarantees’ over the safety of Henrikh Mkhitaryan in relation to his participation in the Europa League final in Baku on May 29th.
Earlier this season, the Armenian was not selected in the squad for the group stage tie against Qarabag because of the ongoing political situation between his nation and Azerbaijan.
Last month it was reported that UEFA would put pressure on Azerbaijan to issue a visa to the winger, with a representative telling The Times, “It is a standard procedure for UEFA to send letters of support to associations, clubs or embassies in order to obtain visas for players and allow them to play in UEFA competition matches.”
However, entry to the country is one thing, the player’s safety and well-being is another and as it stands it looks as if the former Borussia Dortmund man could miss out.
In a statement this afternoon, Arsenal said:
We are seeking guarantees from UEFA that it will be safe for Henrikh Mikhitaryan to travel to Baku for the Europa League Final, which both Arsenal and Micki require for him to be included within our squad.
Acceptable guarantees have not been received yet, and we hope that UEFA will be able to supply these promptly. We are of course hugely concerned that the location of the final could lead to him not being able to play in a European final.
So, on top of fans having to travel to one of the most distant cities in ‘Europe’, the game’s authorities have sanctioned a final in a country where a participating player could face injury or death because of the political situation there.
Even if the odds of an Armenian making the final in Azerbaijan were considered small enough to take the chance when the decision was being made, it’s absurd that it’s come to this because it now implicitly endorses that outlook.
Let’s wait and see what happens, but chances are security concerns will win out and Arsenal will be without an experienced attacking options for the biggest game of the season.
Mkhitaryan scored in the Europa League final in 2017 when Manchester United beat horrendous bottlers Ajax.