How will Europa League exit affect Tottenham's top four chase?

Europa League Final

Tottenham Hotspur were knocked out of the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday night by FC Basel in a match that ended 4-4 on aggregate, 2-2 on the night and 4-1 on penalties.

Spurs tried ardently to steady their own ship and capsize the opposition’s but, all square after 120 minutes, 210 in total over the two legs, it came down to the dreaded spot kicks.

Tom Huddlestone had his penalty saved by Basel keeper Yann Sommer and Emmanuel Adebayor’s effort went high and wide of the mark.

Manager Andre Villas-Boas and his team, along with the fans, will be disappointed at the exit but, nonetheless, proud of their achievements to reach the quarterfinals of what is along and arduous competition.

However, there are positives that can come from this defeat and, in fact, their Europa League exit could be a blessing in disguise as Spurs head into the business end of the season fighting to remain in the top four.

Spurs have just 6 games left to play domestically and they can now focus all of their energy, time, and effort on making the top four – there are no distractions competing with what has to be regarded as their season’s overall objective in the first place: qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Time and energy especially are hard to come by when you face away fixtures in the Europa League late on Thurdays and don’t get back from the voyage until Friday, oftentimes to prepare for a league fixture on Saturday or Sunday.

Preparation, preparation, preparation – Spurs can now devote a week more or less to pre-game training and tactical arrangement and could be all the better for the rest in between – the tired legs on the weekends, especially to their midfield, really show in the last 20 minutes of league games.

The other positive is that, in a backhanded kind of way, this could galvanize the team and the manager. Disappointment works in mysterious ways and can often focus the minds of those who suffer it. They can heal their hurts on the pitch.

In the negative column there are some concerns. Tottenham are not just any team, they are team and a club with an unfortunately long history of being also-rans – ‘nearly-men’ and this defeat may foster doubt in the minds of the players, the manager, the club and the fans.

They simply cannot afford to feel a hangover from this defeat – they have to get back on their feet quickly and shake off the disappointment. But form is a strange thing.

The way in which they’ve got out of Europe will sting a little bit – penalties are always hugely upsetting for the losers, there is an unfairness and cruelty to it some ways.

Meanwhile the confidence and morale of the team as a unit and the players of individuals will be lower than usual, and shaken by the defeat – especially Emmanuel Adebayor’s who, in fairness, hasn’t been at his best all season.

They still await the return of Gareth Bale and they face Manchester City in their next fixture on Sunday 21st April – they have plenty of time to rest, reset and prepare for that.

This is not a time to cry, this is a time to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get back on track in the league. They cannot afford to let one disappointment lead to another or else they really will be in hot water.

image: © nicksarebi

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