The farcical events surrounding Arsenal’s Europa League final clash with Chelsea, which include Henrikh Mkhitaryan opting not to travel to Baku, have been branded a “disgrace” by Emmanuel Petit.
Two Premier League rivals are set to lock horns with a continental prize at stake on Wednesday.
Both sides have made the epic journey to Eurasia, but plenty of fans have opted against making the trip while Mkhitaryan will be playing no part in the contest.
The Armenia international has withdrawn from Unai Emery’s plans due to the political tension which exists between his homeland and Azerbaijan.
UEFA has been widely condemned for allowing such a situation to occur, with former Gunners star Petit the latest to speak out against European football’s governing body.
He has told Paddy Power: “Arsenal are not responsible for the situation with Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the Europa League final. The political circumstances involving Armenia and Azerbaijan are not their fault.
“For me, it’s about UEFA. They should have considered all this before – I can’t understand how they allowed a scenario where a player can’t play a football game because of political reasons.
“When you decide to hold a European final so far away from the usual destinations then you need to anticipate problems such as Mkhitaryan’s. It’s a disgrace. Arsenal and Mkhitaryan are the victims, and I’m very disappointed with UEFA.”
Petit added on the game itself: “On top of this, it’s a nightmare for supporters trying to get to Baku. I wish all the best to the fans trying to get there. It’s a European final and a huge game for both clubs, but especially for Arsenal.
“Chelsea are already qualified for the Champions League, but Arsenal are betting everything on one game. So, I can imagine the frustration for fans having to travel so far – I have nothing against playing finals in new places and expanding the game, but UEFA need to consider supporters more.
“Is there no possibility of an arrangement between UEFA and the fans and travel companies to subsidise the price of flights or accommodation for supporters? The expense is so huge for fans. As a result, the stadium won’t be full – and when you see the capacity of the ground, you have to ask: who decided to hold the final there?
“Supporters are the heart of the football business. I don’t know exactly how much they will have to spend for travel, or how long it will take, but from my point of view it seems like a nightmare for them. It’s a big sacrifice for fans. The cost is ridiculous.”