Losing to Chelsea “would’ve done Arsenal a favour”, says Paul Merson, with the Gunners not good enough to compete for a top-four finish in the Premier League and chase down Europa League glory.Unai Emery’s side, who have raised their game for the big occasion of late, secured derby spoils when beating their London rivals 2-0 at Emirates Stadium last time out.That result has seen them close to within three points of the Blues and the final Champions League spot. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Forcing their way into that pack is considered to be a priority, having seen Arsene Wenger’s reign end with failures in successive seasons, while they are also still in the hunt for a continental prize.Arsenal have reached the last 32 of the Europa League, where they will face BATE, and Merson believes an enforced narrowing of the focus on that competition would have aided the Gunners’ cause for 2019.He told Sky Sports: “It would’ve done Arsenal a favour to get beat the other day, I think, and then they could have put all their eggs into the Europa League.“Now they’ve got to go for the league too but I just don’t think they’re good enough.“They’re hot and cold, you’ve got to be consistent. One minute they’re getting well-beaten by West Ham, but then they’re well-beating Chelsea. The manager’s got to be scratching his head.“This is Arsenal, they need to be playing Champions League football, not Thursday night.“I think Chelsea will edge it, but only just. It’s more the three-point headstart if I’m being honest.”Merson added on the inconsistency which could work against Arsenal, with Manchester United also in the top-four picture after enjoying a resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “Arsenal will get beaten by a team in the bottom half next week probably, they were getting beaten by West Ham last week and they were very poor.“They won’t have the consistency, I think Manchester United will get found out – they can’t keep on being that lucky, and I say lucky but they’re poor at the back.“Tottenham’s games they’ve got without [Harry] Kane are winnable, so I don’t see a problem with them, the top two will look after themselves and I think Chelsea will get it.“Man for man they’re a lot better than Arsenal I think. Defensively, they’ll be more reliable before the end of the season.“Manchester United have got a couple of nice games coming up, they’ve had some nice games, but I’m a great believer that what follows easy games is difficult games. What about when PSG get hold of them?”Arsenal’s next game is set to see them take on United, with a heavyweight FA Cup fourth round clash to be staged at Emirates Stadium on Friday. Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.
The United Nations refugee chief today voiced concern about serious gaps in the protection of Syrians who are fleeing the conflict in their country and arriving in Europe, and urged a more generous and consistent approach as they seek shelter and asylum.“Syrians are fleeing one of the worst conflicts the world has seen in decades, and many of them have been subjected to unspeakable human rights violations and persecution in their home country,” António Guterres said in remarks to a meeting in Lithuania of the European Union’s Justice and Home Affairs Council.“Ensuring adequate standards of treatment for them as they seek safety in Europe should be a priority for every EU member state,” he added. Mr. Guterres noted that just two European countries – Germany and Sweden – had received nearly two-thirds of the Syrians seeking protection in the entire EU. He urged more countries to help Syria’s neighbours shoulder the burden and to offer asylum or resettlement, saying: “A positive example from Europe is now crucial.” According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the agency headed by Mr. Guterres, the number of Syrian asylum claims in EU countries remains manageable, standing at slightly more than 40,000 since the beginning of the crisis in March 2011. This compares to Syria’s neighbours, who are providing shelter to almost 1.8 million registered Syrian refugees. “As the exodus continues and prospects for a political solution for Syria remain poor, there are warning signs of destabilization in some neighbouring countries . . . Lebanon continues to keep its borders open, but elsewhere in the region access to safety is becoming more difficult for Syrians trying to flee,” Mr. Guterres warned. This was “the first real test” to show that the Common European Asylum System (under development since 1999) can function as it should, he said, while citing flaws and inconsistencies in asylum policy across Europe. He said recognition rates varied greatly across the EU; too many States fail to provide swift and fair access to asylum procedures for Syrians; the types of protection and associated rights which Syrians are granted across the EU are inconsistent; and the treatment of Syrian asylum-seekers needs to be improved in several member States, including excessive use of detention.Mr. Guterres also highlighted the case of Turkey, which has received more than 10 times as many Syrians as have claimed asylum in other countries in Europe. “While the management of borders is a sovereign right and legitimate priority of States, the means must be found to ensure that Syrians seeking protection at the EU’s frontiers can gain access to territory, procedures and safety. This is crucial in order to demonstrate concretely the European commitment to responsibility-sharing with Turkey and other host countries,” he said.The High Commissioner proposed five key steps that the EU should take, beginning with ensuring access to territory and swift and fair asylum procedures for those seeking protection, notwithstanding the ongoing efforts to improve border control at sensitive external EU frontiers.Second, a more consistent and generous approach to protection is needed, particularly as concerns the recognition rates and the forms of protection that are being awarded to Syrian claimants. “As the conflict is unlikely to end soon, UNHCR hopes to see protection rates increasing across Europe, and in particular the granting of refugee status with its associated rights,” he said. He also called for more flexibility in the use of existing measures, including helping to reunite family members already in Europe by flexibly applying the Dublin Regulation [which determines the European State responsible to examine an asylum application within Europe until a decision has been made]; dispensing with visa requirements; and facilitating the entry of Syrians for work, study, family or humanitarian purposes.Mr. Guterres encouraged EU States to establish strict limits and safeguards on the use of detention, explore alternatives to detention, and do more to improve the conditions for asylum-seekers who are awaiting decisions on their protection claims.“The EU must engage in more burden-sharing initiatives so as to help mitigate the crushing impact which the refugee crisis is having on Syria’s immediate neighbours,” he added.As many as 100,000 people have been killed since fighting began in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad. The UN estimates that currently at least 6.8 million Syrians require urgent humanitarian assistance, half of whom are children.