Arsenal have been offered assurances from the Azerbaijan FA that there will be ‘no issue’ regarding the safety and security of Henrikh Mkhitaryan at the Europa League final.
The Gunners playmaker is widely expected to be omitted from Unai Emery’s travelling squad to to face Chelsea due to concerns over the player’s safety in Baku, given the ongoing diplomatic tensions between Azerbaijan and Mkhitaryan’s home nation Armenia.
Eleven days until the Europa League final and what have UEFA done about helping fans get to the game? Or the Henrikh Mkhitaryan situation? They’ve sent a letter. Maybe it could be used as a paper aeroplane.
— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) May 18, 2019
A long-standing conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region continues to strain relations between the two nations, and as such Arsenal are yet to make a final decision over Mkhitaryan’s involvement in the showpiece event.
However, Elkhan Mammadov, the general secretary of the Azerbaijan FA, told the Telegraph: “Our government authorities provided guarantees to UEFA for Mkhi to come to Baku, so there is no issue of security and safety.
“Even before Arsenal qualified for the final, we received a request from UEFA to provide the guarantees, our state authorities provided all the necessary security arrangements for Mkhitaryan to travel to Baku.
“All the safety and security is already guaranteed.”
It is suggested, however, that the assurances from the Azerbaijan FA are unlikely to have a significant influence on Arsenal’s decision on whether or not to include Mkhitaryan in their squad.
The Gunners were provided with similar guarantees ahead of their previous trip to Baku earlier in the season to face Qarabag FK during the Europa League group stage, and still opted against Mkhitaryan travelling with the squad on that occasion.
Out of the 6000 tickets offered to each club for the Europa League final, Arsenal have sold 3000 while Chelsea have only sold 600.
Just a reminder that Baku is a host city for Euro 2020.
More evidence that the powers that be having zero respect for the fans. pic.twitter.com/RJ3vqEMPu7
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) May 18, 2019
Concerns over the Gunners’ ability to include one of their key men in their squad for such a crucial match is one of many controversial issues which have overshadowed the build up to the Europa League final.
Both Arsenal and Chelsea have also been left concerned over the number of fans that will be able to attend the match, due to the high expenses and logistical difficulties involved in travelling to Baku.
The London clubs are both struggling to sell out their miserly 6,000 allocation of tickets per club, and Mammadov added on the situation: “The majority [of supporters] are trying to find a ticket where they come on matchday and leave the next morning, so they can save on hotels and accommodation which is understandable.
“This is what fans all over the world used to do when it’s in a neighbouring country or of a close geographical vicinity. In our case I would suggest the fans come early and enjoy the city of Baku.”