Unai Emery respects Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s decision not to travel to Baku to face Chelsea in the Europa League final, although he admits it is “bad news”.
Despite UEFA releasing a statement saying a “comprehensive” security plan had been provided, Mkhitaryan will miss next Wednesday’s match due to ongoing political tensions between Azerbaijan and his native Armenia.
Preparations for the May 29 showpiece have been overshadowed by organisational issues, with Arsenal unhappy over ticket allocations for the game.
The absence of Mkhitaryan, who did not go to Azerbaijan for a group game against Qarabag last year, also comes as a blow to the Gunners’ hopes of winning the trophy and thereby qualifying for the Champions League.
Emery, a three-time Europa League winner with Sevilla, indicated the decision was made by Mkhitaryan and not the club, but he understands the midfielder’s reasoning.
“It’s bad news. We need to understand the political problem, but we must respect it,” Emery told a news conference on Tuesday.
“I spoke with Mkhitaryan this morning but it’s a very personal issue. He wants to play with the team. He spoke to his family.
“I come from the Basque country and we have a big political problem, too. I can understand his decision.
“It is very personal also. The decision is not in my hands, but I respect him.”
Emery has previously criticised UEFA’s decision to hold the Europa League final in Azerbaijan’s capital and he again suggested the ticket allocations for fans are not enough.
“I think our supporters want to come with us in the stadium,” he said, with Arsenal fans issued only around 6,000 tickets for the match. “They want to enjoy this moment with the team, but it is expensive [to travel].
“I prefer to be with our fans to have a big atmosphere with our supporters. I know Arsenal have a lot of supporters.
“I know Arsenal have a lot of fans near Baku and they will be there, but we also have a lot of supporters in London and I prefer for them to be with us too.
“Now we are going to have less supporters from Arsenal and Chelsea, but I hope the stadium will be full. Above all I want to play this match with a big atmosphere.”