Unai Emery says he respects Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s decision to sit out Arsenal’s Europa League final with Chelsea after the player opted against travelling to host country Azerbaijan due to possible safety issues.
The Gunners released a statement this afternoon outlining their disappointment that one of our star players feels it necessary to miss such an important match because of UEFA’s decision to station the showpiece game in a country which has no diplomatic relations with Armenia due to a longstanding conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh. UEFA’s response left much to be desired.
In a press conference at London Colney eight days before the match, Emery revealed that he had hoped Mkhitaryan would be available.
“It’s bad news but we cannot do anything for this issue, it’s a very personal decision and we need to respect him,” said the Spaniard.
“I don’t understand the political problems now, but I must respect [his decision].”
While Mkhitaryan was granted a visa to enter Azerbaijan, and the country’s authorities relayed via UEFA that they’d do their utmost to protect our midfielder, it hasn’t been enough to persuade the Arsenal contingent that it’s a risk worth taking.
“I can believe [them that it’s safe], but I know and I spoke this morning with Mkhitaryan and it’s a personal decision,” added Emery.
“I respect him. He wants to play to help us by being with the team but they spoke, both him and his family, and decided not to go.”
“I came from the Basque Country and we had a big political problem that finished five or six years ago, and I can understand it is a very personal decision for his family and also thinking in their country.
“I cannot push him to come with us because I respect him. For me, it is very important if he is with us for the match to help with his quality and capacity, but this issue is not in my hands, but I respect his decision 100 per cent.”
Mkhitaryan continues to train with the first team as they prepare for the final. Arsenal and Chelsea will be allowed 12 substitutes on the bench for the final which means the Armenian’s absence does open up the chance to include another youngster or someone like Danny Welbeck, returning from injury, on the bench.