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Five reasons why Spurs need the Europa League

May 20, 2011

In the build-up to Tottenham Hotspur’s clash with AC Milan in the last sixteen of the Champions League, Harry Redknapp made his feeling pretty clear on the Europa League, UEFA’s secondary competition, when he said: “I think everyone that gets in it [the Europa League] wants to be out of it. They put reserve teams out every game.”

He’d only have to look at the reaction of Manchester City and Liverpool when they were both eliminated at the hands of Ukraine’s Dynamo Kiev and Portugal’s eventual finalists Braga respectively. There was no inquisition following the two defeats. No more dissection of what went wrong than other game. No tears cried that their European campaigns had halted all too abruptly. No post-mortem was carried among English clubs to uncover why none had reached the last eight of the competition. The English press, for the most part, appeared relieved to have their Thursday evenings back to themselves. They moved on without notice.

The Europa League is constantly brandished a “distraction” and a “nuisance.” It’s not the sort of competition you apparently want to be involved in if you are going to remain competitive towards the business end of the season. It’s seemingly guaranteed to crush the Champions Leagues hopes of any teams involved; but I beg to differ. Harry finished his comment by stating: “We want Champions League football again next year – it has been enjoyable and we want it.”

For Spurs to get back into the Champions League in 2012, I feel Tottenham need to be in the Europa League next terms and put in a strong showing. Allow me to explain…

Squad Happiness

With every intention of trying to avoid the typical cliché of calling Harry Redknapp a “wheeler dealer,” the Tottenham boos does enjoy signing as many players as he can. He brings player-after-player without worrying about the overall happiness of the squad and then tries to convince everyone he needs backing in the transfer market to make Spurs ‘contenders.’

With the Europa League, Harry has an outlet to look after the happiness of his bit-part players and even allow him to try a switch in tactics of a different mentality. From the first round to the final, the whole tournament spans to nineteen games; effectively an extra half-season of the Premier League to give Niko Kranjcar, Steven Pienaar and Sebastien Bassong enough game time so that they remain  content to promptly sit on the bench.

And don’t let Harry tell you he doesn’t have the squad depth to mount a serious challenge. Even if he were to replace Heurelho Gomes in the summer, he’ll still be left with Carlo Cudicini as back-up. At right back next season, he’ll be picking between Vedran Corluka, Alan Hutton and Kyle Walker, who has a storming time on loan at Aston Villa. In midfield, his central options include Tom Huddlestone, Jermaine Jenas, Wilson Palacios, Luka Modric and Sandro. Spurs could effectively field two completely different but still competitive teams and with the right amount of squad rotation; they’d be a force in the overall competition.

European experience

European competition can be a tricky thing to get right. Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have had years of practice as a bunch of players and a club; and that’s why they all tend to stroll through whatever or whichever group they are involved in. Of course, they are bumps along the way and it’s never perfect but they always get through to the knockout stages.

This year, Tottenham qualified through their group and scored the highest number of goals in the group stages but it took its toll. Around Christmas and into the New Year, their players started to run out of steam and pick up injuries. Even in the immediate aftermath of big Champions League games, Spurs looked ill-prepared in their subsequent Premier League match the following weekend.

Rafael van der Vaart, a player used to a winter break, wasn’t looked after properly in the early months of the season and had to rested for a couple of weeks. Gareth Bale’s back started to play up. The whole Tottenham started to run out of steam and allowed Manchester City to tie up the final Champions League spot five games from the end of the season.

Harry and his coaching staff need the Europa League to build their experience. Before this season, few people involved in the club had prior experience of an all-out assault on European and domestic fronts. Another season with two games a week will stand them in good stead. With a mid-week game and a weekend game to be tactically and mentally ready for, the Europa League, with its lower standard of opposition would be a good building block for Spurs.

A trophy is a trophy

No matter what you try to look at it, the Europa League is a prize to be won.

Tottenham possess the home support and strength of team to torment any team; just ask the two Milan clubs; and the Europa League is unlikely to throw up the same quality of opponents on a regular basis.

The Europa League is a piece of silverware to be claimed; and a piece of silverware that Tottenham would definitely be in contention for from the start.

Source of income

There is approximately £10 million to be made from the Europa League; and even that figure could be a little shy.

The television rights for the Europa League aren’t sold as a large package and then shared out amongst the clubs competing. Should Tottenham qualify, they’d be free to negotiate with the television channels of the UK to get the best deal possible and with the right kind of draw against a headline team from the mainland or even Scotland and they’d be quids in.

Plus a quick Google search has confirmed to me that Tottenham have a specific shirt sponsor for their cup competitions. I can only imagine that without a continental competition to play in, the value of their shirt sponsorship deal with the Investec specialist bank may decrease somewhat.

Transfer market leverage

I can only imagine that the exploits of Tottenham Hotspur this year in the San Siro won’t have gone unnoticed by football fans beyond the shores of the United Kingdom; and should Spurs come knocking about their availability, they’ll obviously be keen to make sure European football is on the table.

The Europa League isn’t the Champions League but it still does offer players a taste of something different from the domestic norm and without it, Tottenham may not be able to do as much business as they’d like.

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again. Tottenham need to be in the Europa League.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Stephen Hughes permalink
    May 21, 2011 1:42 pm

    I agree that Tottenham is big enough to have the squad to complete in the Europa League but not so big that winning it wouldn’t make a difference. MCFC was in the same boat this season but understandably put more emphasis on Champions League qualification. A good run in the EL is also great global publicity: it may mean little here but it’s good for selling shirts in China!

  2. Kenny Palmer permalink
    May 21, 2011 8:37 pm

    Totally agree. But there is no point of us entering it if we don’t put out competitve teams. Worryingly Tim Sherword has already said Spurs intend to play kids in those games.

    Can’t really see the point in that. We have a huge squad why don’t we utilize it?
    Unfortunatey we will lose quality players in JD, Niko, Bassong and O’Hara becasue of lack of game time.

    One of the reason our season petered out was because we didn’t utilize our squad.
    A club of spurs stature should be in Europe on a regular basis even if its the Europa League.

    Looks certain Harry intends to sack the competition off, whch is a shame as you highlighted if we put out competitive teams we could win it.

  3. Richard permalink
    May 21, 2011 11:46 pm

    As far as I am aware (and with a TINY bit of research) it appears that Dortmund were the last team to win the Chamoins League for the first time (Marseille before that) – so in the last 20 years only two teams have won it for the first time in their history.

    Surely Spurs fans would like the idea of playing in a tournament where the quality may be less, but the chance of success higher? As someone with a soft spot for Fulham, I can honestly say that last years Europa league run was super fun and exciting, probably moreso than any of Man Utd’s recent seasons. It felt special, and towards the end it felt like anything could happen. Yes it ended in failure – but by a small margin. And anyway, Spurs have a superior squad in terms of qualitycompared to Fulham.

    In the same way that I hate the importance of fourth spot taking precedence over winning a cup competition, surely winning the Europa League is more fulfilling than getting kocked out in the first knock out round of the Champions League? Surely being the best in a competition is more important than being fourth best, or 16th best? And face facts, the Europa Leasgure still has some fantastic teams in it, moreso towards the end when all the teams from the Champions League enter it?

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