Arsenal’s preparations for the Europa League took a hit, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan will NOT be travelling with the squad to Baku for the cup final, it’s been revealed.
The Armenian, after speaking with the club and his family, believes it to be the smartest decision to avoid travelling to Azerbaijan, who are in direct conflict with Armenia, the country of Mkhitaryan’s birth and the nation he represents internationally.
UEFA have sought to dampen the wildfire of criticism by stating that they gave assurances to the player and Arsenal over his safety, but that they can also understand why Mkhitaryan has decided to ignore this and concentrate on safety first above all else.
UEFA also informed the press that they had a detailed security plan drawn up for Mkhitaryan to be able to travel – but the very fact the player would need such a measure is laughable in itself.
Mkhitaryan has made absolutely the right decision by avoiding any possible pitfall, but the decision to host the final in Baku has been one failure after another.
Firstly, the distinct lack of direct flights into the Azerbaijan capital leaves the very real prospect of our fans who have made the brave – and ultimately expensive – decision to attend the game will need to fly to Turkey or Ukraine and then a ten hour coach trip would follow.
Those fans would normally be able to find comfort in solidarity, but the dearth of tickets available for the 70,000 capacity match is again, laughable. Both us and Chelsea have been allocated just 6,000 each, leaving 58,000 of the 70,000 seats taken up by hospitality and corporate.
That has left a sour taste in the mouth, and so far nowhere near our allocation has been sold – given that we could sell 20,000 tickets to an away day in Blackpool that is pure evidence that us fans are making a stand.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with the worrying comments from the Azerbaijan Ambassador to the UK, Tahir Taghizadeh. He said that Mkhitaryan would be ok in the country “as long as he sticks to sports. If you want to play the issue, then that’s a different story.”
What a ridiculous situation.