Arsenal have confirmed they’ll prioritise Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s safety over anything else when it comes to the issue of playing him against Qarabag in the Europa League.
After the group stage draw on Friday, reports started to surface that Azerbaijan wouldn’t allow Mkhitaryan into the country for the Qarabag match, due to tensions between the country and the Arsenal man’s homeland of Armenia.
The 29-year-old previously faced this problem with Borussia Dortmund, for a match against Gabala. Although officials would reportedly have allowed him into the country, the Bundesliga club decided against it over safety concerns.
Arsenal now face a similar decision. A spokesperson explained their position to Standard Sport.
“Safety and security of our players and staff is always a top priority,” they said. “We will be looking into this situation, talk to the player and make a decision after that.”
Hikmet Hajiyev, spokesperson for the Azerbaijani foreign ministry, previously gave a statement on the issue as well. Essentially all he said was that they’d deal with it if and when it becomes a problem.
It would be extremely disappointing if the club have to leave a player at home over a situation that has nothing to do with football. Particularly as it only sets a precedent for later in the season, with the final also in Azerbaijan.
Perhaps Arsenal don’t need Mkhitaryan to get a result against Qarabag, but they’d want him available against Chelsea, or AC Milan, or any other top team they could hypothetically meet in the final. Let’s hope the clubs and associations involved can find a solution.