Henrikh Mkhitaryan definitely won’t be involved in the Europa League Final for Arsenal.
The Armenian winger’s place in the Gunners squad for any other game would normally be assured given he’s one of their best players and has been in decent form this season.
But his nationality meant there was serious doubt that he’d be involved in the final against Chelsea after Arsenal assured their place.
They did that with a semi-final victory over Valencia earlier this month – and Mkhitaryan’s place in the final has been in doubt ever since.
The final actually takes place a week today and it’s the host city that is causing the controversy.
Azerbaijan city Baku will host Arsenal and Chelsea for the game and teams have known since the start of the campaign that they’d need to go there if they wanted to get their hands on the trophy.
Unfortunately for Mkhitaryan, the political tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan means his safety has not been guaranteed in the past.
And he hasn’t got the necessary guarantees that the final will be any different to the other games he’s missed in Azerbaijan in the past.
The country’s ambassador to the UK insisted Mkhitaryan had nothing to worry about and his place in the Arsenal squad would contribute to a class A event.
But it’s believed Mkhitaryan feared for his safety on the pitch in Baku and that’s why he’s decided not to travel with Unai Emery’s men for the game.
It’s a significant decision by the former Borussia Dortmund man as often politics are left out of the game when it comes to players and managers.
And it just adds to the controversy around the selection of Baku as host city, considering players and fans need to travel almost 3,000 miles to get there next week.
Arsenal are actually slight underdogs to win going by these Europa League odds, with Chelsea preferred to win it.
We’re not surprised by that considering the Stamford Bridge outfit finished third in the Premier League, two points ahead of the fifth placed Gunners.
When the teams met in the league this season though, Chelsea won 3-2 at home in the first fixture before Arsenal won 2-0 at the Emirates in the return.
And without Mkhitaryan, you have to say Arsenal aren’t going to be at full strength going into a game that could clinch Champions League football for them next season if they win.