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Paul Merson Says: I’m still not convinced by Tottenham… they’ve still got a Spursy performance in them

Paul Merson: «Tottenham have still got a Tottenham in them. I don’t mean that in a horrible way. Everyone was going mad about them but they could’ve been blown away in the first half against Aston Villa.»

In his latest column, Paul Merson reflects on why Arsenal could still pip Tottenham to fourth spot, the problems at Manchester United and gives his verdict on the Premier League title race…

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I still feel Arsenal have got a chance. Arsenal have got to go to Chelsea and Tottenham have still got to face Liverpool, which will be a different game. With Chelsea beating Southampton last weekend, that’s sort of cemented their top-four place.

What I would say is that the Arsenal players are at their ceiling. They’re playing as well as they can and there isn’t too much more in the locker. They had a day against Brighton where they dropped off that level and they got beaten.

If you take a couple of players out who are very influential in that team and things aren’t great. The squad’s not big and Mikel Arteta virtually picks the same players all the time and against Brighton, they bumped into a team who had nothing to play for and who had a free swing.
I felt it would be a dodgy game. Brighton hadn’t been playing well but you sensed it would be a nice football match. Arsenal couldn’t get their full team out and it became a bit of a struggle. Kieran Tierney is a massive player and Thomas Partey has become increasingly influential.
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I still feel Arsenal are in it because Tottenham have still got a Tottenham in them. I don’t mean that in a horrible way, but they still have got a Tottenham in them. Everyone was going mad about them but they could’ve been blown away in the first half against Aston Villa.

Villa should’ve been out of sight and they only have to have one of those days in the next seven weeks. The 4-0 win over Villa covered over the cracks. They did some great stuff, don’t get me wrong, but in the first half Hugo Lloris had to make save after save. So I’m still not convinced by Tottenham.

The top four is still very much on for Arsenal.

We’re all clever after the event so there’s absolutely no point looking back. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored 10 goals in 14 appearances for Barcelona but La Liga isn’t a great league. Football is open and it’s free-flowing in Spain and he was a bad influence at the time at Arsenal.

What Piers Morgan said is typical from someone who’s not been involved in a football club.
Arteta had to make a call whereby if he kept him there and he was having a negative impact on the other players, no one mentioned whether Aubameyang should still be there three or four weeks ago. All of a sudden, we’re hearing that Aubameyang shouldn’t have been sold.

You’ve got to look at the future of the club and towards the younger players. They all respected Aubameyang and he was a bad influence at the time. The manager made the right call.

Arsenal would not be able to bring another player into that club while Aubameyang was there on £350,000 a week. Everyone would’ve wanted those wages. I didn’t hear from Piers Morgan three weeks ago when they were playing like the Harlem Globetrotters.

The reason Arsenal have lost their way recently is because they’ve had a couple of players out and have had bad days. They lost at Crystal Palace but I saw Chelsea and Man City recently go there and struggle. Chelsea were very fortunate to win there.

It’s easy to say things in hindsight but you’ve got to think about the future of the club. There’s a lot of young kids there and you’d be surprised how much they follow the example of an older player.

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I called the result on Saturday against Everton. I told everybody that Manchester United would lose that game. There was no way that Everton were losing. There’s talk of a new manager coming in but those United players aren’t running around for a new manager.

It’s been a shambles from the day Ralf Rangnick walked into the club. I’m not saying it’s his fault, but United needed to get their permanent manager in immediately after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked. This is Manchester United. It’s stop-start.

If it is Erik ten Hag who gets the job, he’s someone who has managed in a two-team league for however many years. He’s never worked in this league before and he’s never really worked with massive football players. He’s been at places where he’s motivating players towards getting big moves.

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He’s worked with hungry footballers whereas the United players are already at the top. When you look at the Eredivisie, Dusan Tadic is the best player over there. I’m not saying he’s not a good player, but where would he be in the top 50 in the Premier League?

I didn’t see anyone else falling over to get hold of him when he was at Southampton, just to put into perspective the two leagues. Ten Hag might be a good coach, but he’s worked with players who have been told if they work hard they will get their big move to the Premier League.

These Manchester United players are at the biggest club in the world but judging by how they’ve performed, you’d think they were pulling teeth. You’ve got fans who go to every away game, and you’ve got the players who just shrug and want to get the season out of the way.
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They’re still in with a shout of finishing in the top four but they’ve been absolutely atrocious. For me, this is what United deserve after bringing in an interim manager. Rangnick came in with a reputation but he’s worked with players lower down.

He’s worked in the Bundesliga where the mentality was also about challenging players to get a bigger move. It’s the same with Ten Hag. He’s going to come in and work with players who are already there, players who at 22 will be on £150,000 a week. How do you get them going?
They know they’re already a million miles away from Liverpool and Man City. I wouldn’t take that job in a million years. Why would you? What for? Not one of the United players would get into the City team and most would struggle to even make the bench.
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Cristiano Ronaldo is now 37. What’s happening at United will be driving him up the wall. He’s been one of the greatest players of all time but he can’t now do what he used to. This league is relentless, it’s too hard. I’m not going to say, ‘I told you so’, but I could see this happening.
He got Solskjaer the sack, simple as that. They beat the record for the longest run of away games without a defeat and they played a certain way. Rangnick brought off Marcus Rashford at Everton when he was United’s best player because he didn’t want a repeat of what happened earlier in the season at Brentford.

I was at that game and it was embarrassing. He shouldn’t have to justify his decision as he’s the manager. At Ronaldo’s age, you can’t play every game. United need Rashford more than they need Ronaldo going forward.

The other week, they had Edinson Cavani alongside Ronaldo up front. It needs to stop sooner rather than later, otherwise this club is just going to fizzle out from being the biggest in the world. They won’t be for much longer at this rate.

It’s not over as you just never know but I’d be shocked if Man City didn’t win the Premier League from this position. It would be a major shock as I think they’re too good. Both they and Liverpool are amazing teams and I don’t see anything other than City reeling off the wins they need. I don’t see them dropping a point.

There’s no doubt that Liverpool have still got harder fixtures. It would be a different game if City had Liverpool’s games. Manchester United at Anfield isn’t the hardest game in the world but surely they’re going to turn up for that?

They’ve still got to play Tottenham at home, who are fighting for the Champions League whereas you look at Manchester City and their next two games are gimmes – Brighton and Watford at home. I don’t see anything other than City winning the league.

It was in Liverpool’s hands on Sunday but it’s out of their hands now. As soon as it’s out of their hands, it’s a different game. Jurgen Klopp hasn’t won the FA Cup which is strange so that’s on the line this weekend and to be honest they’ve done very little wrong.

They’ve been outstanding but they’ve just bumped into an unbelievable team at the same time. If this City team weren’t around, Liverpool would win everything in sight. Sport is about timing.

There’s been talk about whether this is a great rivalry or not, but you don’t have to beat people up in order to be a great rival. We saw that in the way Kevin De Bruyne reacted to being hacked down by Virgil van Dijk.

Sometimes in the past when you’ve seen players staring each other out, what are they doing? It’s just a front up. You don’t have to stand there and stare people out in order to have a rivalry.

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Matchday Guide: Boro vs Mariners

Take a read our matchday guide ahead of tomorrow’s game vs Grimsby Town at The Lamex Stadium in Sky Bet League Two…

Kicking off at 3pm in Sky Bet League Two, Steve Evans’ men know three points will be enough to secure promotion to League One when Paul Hurst’s Mariners visit SG2.

In front of a sold-out Lamex Stadium, the atmosphere is set to be electric as Boro aim for one more win to complete their season objective.

Saturday’s fixture is completely SOLD-OUT. No tickets will be sold on the day, so if you do not have a ticket, please do not travel.

For those with seat tickets, we recommend arrival at the stadium earlier than usual to ensure you are seated in your allocated seat.

Our North Stand and East Terrace are operating at 90% capacity due to restrictions placed by the Safety Advisory Group.

A Message to Supporters
At this crucial stage of the year, we must remind you in the interests of safety for everyone inside our stadium, that the pitch is for managers, players and match officials, while the stands are there for you to support the team.

Pitch incursions are dangerous and anyone who does encroach onto the playing surface will face strong sanctions that could include a ban from attending matches here at The Lamex Stadium, across the country and police action.

Furthermore, the use of pyrotechnics or smoke bombs at football grounds also carries an automatic ban and is something we take very seriously.

We appreciate your relentless support for our Club, but please do not put others at risk in doing so.

supporters are encouraged to stick around after Saturday’s final home league game of the season against Grimsby Town, in anticipation of the 2022/23 Supporters’ Association End of Season Awards.

As a reminder to supporters, these awards can only take place if the pitch is clear and safe for the players.

Club Shop & Ticket Office…
The Stevenage FC Club Shop is open at the earlier time of 11:30am on Saturday, closing at kick-off. The shop will also be open briefly at full-time.

Visit us in-store to collect Barrow AFC (A) tickets or purchase and browse our new leisurewear selection.

The North Stand Ticket Office, located on Broadhall Way, opens at midday and closes fifteen minutes after kick-off (3.15pm) for match ticket collections or queries. No tickets will be sold on the day.

Food & Drink…
The 76 Lounge

Open to home & away supporters from midday, at half-time for North Stand ticket holders and again for all from full-time to 8pm.

Supporters can also purchase hot food and drinks inside The 76 Lounge from 3.15pm which can be accessed via both side door of the North Stand.

Fans can move between The 76 Lounge and the tea bar area inside the North Stand to purchase food & drinks.

The Broadhall Suite

The Broadhall Suite is open to both sets of supporters from midday until kick-off, with a variety of drinks to choose from as well as a hot food matchday menu. This venue opens once again at full-time until 8pm.

Tea Bars

Tea bars around The Lamex Stadium are card only when purchasing food and drink around the ground.

How to Follow…
UK-based supporters can listen to Stevenage vs Grimsby Town with an iFollow Audio Match Pass, available to purchase for £2.50.

Overseas supporters can watch the action live with an iFollow Audio Match Pass, available for just £10.

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Match Preview: Stevenage vs Grimsby Town

Stevenage can secure promotion to Sky Bet League One tomorrow as they welcome Grimsby Town to a sold-out Lamex Stadium…

After Tuesday’s triumph in Swindon, Stevenage sit third in League Two and four points clear of Stockport County in fourth with just two games left to play.

Grimsby Town occupy eleventh place in the league table and, whilst they are unable to reach the play-off places, they will undoubtedly be looking to spoil Stevenage’s fun. The Mariners’ away form has been satisfactory this campaign, winning nine away league fixtures from twenty-two. Grimsby also had a successful FA Cup run, reaching the Quarter finals before being knocked out by Brighton and Hove Albion.

They have had a mixed bag of results recently, so will be unpredictable going into tomorrow’s match. On Tuesday, they picked up a 2-0 victory at home to Crewe Alexandra through goals by Gavan Holohan and Danilo Orsi. But three days prior, Grimsby suffered a 2-0 defeat away to Tranmere.

Paul Hurst is currently enjoying his second spell as Grimsby boss after spending 2011-2016 in charge of The Mariners. Last season, he led his side to National League Play-off Final glory, after beating Solihull Moors at The London Stadium. Hurst previously had managerial spells at Ipswich, Scunthorpe, Shrewsbury and Boston United.

Will Finnie has been appointed Match Referee for tomorrow’s match, with Scott Williams and Damith Bandara as Assistants, and Stephen Finch as Fourth Official.

Finnie has handed out ninety-five yellow cards and just one red in thirty matches this campaign.

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The Link Between Religicide and Violence Against Women

Violence against women has emerged as one of the hallmarks of religicide. Religious, civil society and business leaders must stop it in its tracks.

Involuntary sterilization and birth control in China. Honor killing in Iraq. State-sponsored rape in Myanmar. Forced marriage in Syria. Female genital mutilation in sub-Saharan Africa.

These are among the weapons used to control women today and throughout history – and likely among the many practices that will be denounced and discussed today on International Women’s Day. Yet an unrecognized form of human rights violation must be added to this litany of abuses in which women’s bodies are the battleground: religicide.

Religicide is the systematic, highly targeted effort to eradicate an entire religion, including its practices, adherents, sacred spaces, habitats and cultural heritage. Religicide plays out largely by controlling the reproductive choices of women, who they marry and who has access to their bodies.

Violence against women has emerged as one of the hallmarks of religicide. It has been practiced in China against Uyghur Muslims, in Iraq against Yazidis and in Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims. This abuse of women is a form of genocide-in-slow-motion.

Intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence against women, affecting around 641 million women and girls globally, according to the World Health Organization. Religicide fosters a form of such violence – rape, which is used as a weapon to wipe out religious identity. In religicide, women forcibly “married” to men of other faiths – or no faith – often must submit to those men or risk losing their lives along with their religious identities. Children from these marriages are under their father’s control. Women escaping religious enslavement would have to abandon their own children.

In China, the Communist Party is taking control of Uyghur women’s bodies through forced birth control in the form of implants, involuntary sterilizations and pills, according to The New York Times and other outlets. Some women say they’ve been forced into giving up their faith and marrying Han Chinese men. They’re free to get pregnant in these marriages – with babies through whom their Muslim faith will not likely be passed on.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, women say they have been raped repeatedly in prison and subject to genital torture with electric prods. Outside of prison, according to the rights group, Uyghur women’s reproduction is monitored by the local government. There are harsh punishments for unauthorized pregnancies, with violators being sent to reeducation camps. Unless removed by a state-approved medical practitioner, those who take out intrauterine devices – even for medical reasons – are subject to fines and imprisonment.

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