What we talked about last week has now become official. After talking with his family, and after Arsenal tried talking to UEFA, only for those pleas to fall on money-stuffed ears, the club and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have decided that the Armenian will not be traveling to Azerbaijan next week for the Europa League final.
Despite repeated entreaties, Arsenal have not received what they term “acceptable guarantees” that would ensure Mkhi’s safety once he’s on the ground in Baku - he could get a visa no problem, but that’s not really the issue. The issue is the ongoing tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which means that Arsenal couldn’t be sure Mkhi would be safe anywhere in Baku should he go.
This is a massive failure on UEFA’s part. Siting a game in a region where there’s an ongoing conflict is, and I’m just spitballing here, really stupid? Especially a region with the already rough travel challenges of far eastern Europe.
This is the right decision on a human level - there’s no point in actively putting a person in harm’s way - but it’s really messed up that Arsenal had to make that decision in the first place. But, I suppose “really messed up” is SOP for these things as far as UEFA is concerned.
Mkhi certainly isn’t indispensable, but he was a big part of the reason Arsenal got this far and his absence will definitely be felt.