When the Europa League draw came out in August, Arsenal’s Matchday 2 trip to Azerbaijan to face Qarabag was immediately flagged as potentially problematic for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The reason — the ongoing political tensions between Azerbaijan and his native Armenia over the Nagomo-Karabakh region.
On Monday afternoon, the media learned that Mkhitaryan had decided not to travel with the team to Baku. Arsenal had been working closely with Mkhitaryan on the issue, but the final decision was left to him. He made the same decision in 2015 when Borussia Dortmund were slated to travel to Azerbaijan.
Armenian citizens are generally prohibited from entering Azerbaijan because of the tensions between the two countries but exceptions have been made in the past for athletes and entertainers. It’s understood that had he wanted to travel, he would have been able to do so, and UEFA, as is their practice, would have sent a letter of support on his behalf.
This same issue will resurface should Arsenal make the Europa League final, which is being played in Qarabag’s stadium in Baku. It’s understood that no decision has been made on what would be done should the Gunners get that far.