Arsenal have confirmed Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be travelling with the rest of the squad to Baku for the Europa League final against Chelsea.
The Armenian’s safety has been a matter of concern in the build-up to the final due to tensions between the country of the midfielder’s birth and Azerbaijan, where the game will be held.
Why is Mkhitaryan unable to play in the final? Five key things to know…
- Mkhitaryan is from Armenia, a country involved in a dispute with Azerbaijan over the the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
- The Europa League final is being held in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
- Mkhitaryan was left out of the travelling squad when Arsenal visited Qarabag – an Azerbaijani team – in the group stages.
- Arsenal have now confirmed he will again not travel to Azerbaijan as a result of ongoing concerns for his safety.
- The Londoners say they have written to Uefa expressing their “deep concerns” about the situation.
Mkhitaryan has played 11 times in the Europa League so far this season, providing three assists as the Gunners stormed to the final.
But Arsenal have admitted they are “very sad” the 30-year-old, who scored in the 2016/17 Europa League final for Manchester United against Ajax, will miss out this time around.
A club statement read: “We are very disappointed to announce that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be travelling with the squad for our Uefa Europa League final against Chelsea.
“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.”
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“It hurts me a lot to miss it” – Mkhitaryan
On Monday, the day before Arsenal’s statement, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to the UK, Tahir Taghizadeh, made attempts to ease Mkhitaryan’s concerns over his impending decision to travel or not.
Taghizadeh told 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.”
— Henrikh Mkhitaryan (@HenrikhMkh) May 21, 2019
However, the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder has decided not to travel with his colleagues and says missing the final will hurt him deeply.
“Having considered all the current options, we had to take the tough decision for me not to travel with the squad to the UEL Final against Chelsea,” Mkhitaryan wrote on Twitter.
“It‘s the kind of game that doesn’t come along very often for us players and I must admit, it hurts me a lot to miss it. I will be cheering my teammates on! Let’s bring it home Arsenal.”