ARSENAL star Henrikh Mkhitaryan stayed in London as the Gunners prepare to face FK Qarabag because he feared the hostile reception he would face.
Qarabag manager Gurban Gurbanov claimed Arsenal had “tried to save” Mkhitaryan from the “pressure” of playing in Azerbaijan.
The playmaker’s nation of Armenia are technically at war with neighbouring Azerbaijan, where the Gunners play tonight (5.55pm).
Uefa said it was a “mutual decision” taken by Arsenal and Mkhitaryan “not to travel to this match for safety reasons”.
Azerbaijan claim it is possible for Armenians to enter the country if granted a visa.
Arsenal boss Unai Emery has plenty of options instead of Mkhitaryan and deemed the process not worthwhile.
“If Henrikh Mkhitaryan would come to Azerbaijan it is not the first time,” Gurbanov said.
“But until now a lot of Armenian sportsmen came to Azerbaijan but it is the choice of Arsenal that they didn’t send [him] in front of 60,000 Azerbaijani fans.
“Mkhitaryan has some pressure and that is why they didn’t send Mkhitaryan.
“I didn’t want politics to interrupt the sport but we could not do anything on this issue.
“But Arsenal Football Club tried to save this player but it is not a matter for us if he is coming or not.”
Mkhitaryan was joined in London by Aaron Ramsey, whose wife is to give birth to twins and requested permission to stay.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has also not made the 1,600-mile journey as he has been sick this week.
“My work is football,” Emery said when quizzed on the political situation that meant Mkhitaryan is unavailable.
“I respect each person, I respect each people, I respect each culture, I respect each country.
“But I don’t know each situation in every country. For me, he cannot play tomorrow.
“There is respect for Micki and respect for you. Today we are here with the opportunity to play well.”