Mkhitaryan to miss Arsenal's Europa League clash due to geopolitical conflict


Arsenal's Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not play against Qarabag in the UEFA Europa League on Friday morning (AEST) due to a geopolitical conflict between Mkhitaryan's native Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Mkhitaryan did not travel with Arsenal to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, for "safety reasons".

"He cannot travel here," Arsenal coach Unai Emery said.

"We are here, the players with the best mentality and preparation and possibility to play."

According to UEFA, "it was a mutual decision taken by Arsenal and Mkhitaryan not to travel to this match for safety reasons," a spokesperson told the BBC

It's not the first time Mkhitaryan has not traveled for a Europa League match for the same reason. 

In 2015, while playing for Borussia Dortmund, the Armenian captain remained in Germany while his teammates traveled to take on Azerbaijan Premier League side Gabala. 

The issue could arise again later in the season, should Arsenal make the Europa League final, which is scheduled to be played in Baku. 

"It's a long time for us to arrive at the final. (At the moment) we are working to prepare for the next matches," Emery said. 

Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov tried to downplay the issue, but did claim Arsenal had "saved" Mkhitaryan. 

"I didn't want politics to interrupt the sport but we could not do anything on this issue," Gurbanov said.

"If Henrikh Mkhitaryan would come to Azerbaijan it is not the first time - a lot of Armenian sportsmen came to Azerbaijan but it is the choice of Arsenal that they didn't send him.

"Arsenal may be afraid that in front of 60,000 Azerbaijani fans, Mkhitaryan has some pressure and that is why they didn't send Mkhitaryan."

The issue between the two countries stems from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has been a territorial and ethnic conflict since 1988. 

Arsenal will also be without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is sick, and Aaron Ramsey who has stayed back to be with his pregnant wife. 

Source SBS The World Game