Tottenham, the Europa League, and 'negative spirals'

Europa League Final

How can Tottenham escape the damaging slog that is the Europa League?

By missing out on finishing fourth and qualifying for a shot at the Champions League, Tottenham also consigned themselves to the continent's second choice competition, the Europa League.

In doing so they also suffered a blow for their chances of qualifying for the top four next season, for the damaging effect the Europa League can have on teams which are under prepared for it.

For Spurs, entering from the group stags of the competition, it's fair to say the tournament is a real slog, and a distraction from their main goal.

After all how can you give your all in a competition which you are spending all of your efforts in the league to try and avoid?

The Europa League brings Thursday night games, and frequently long away trips across eastern Europe, leaving a short turnaround time to Sunday Premier League games.

Usually facing an opponent who has had a whole week to rest, if the fixture list is unkind and throws a tough away trip to a side like Liverpool who will not compete in Europe, the job for Tottenham gets tough.

But even the 'simple' games are made more complicated by virtue of the Europa League, as seen by Tottenham's 1-0 home defeat to Fulham in March, the game which really scuppered the club's efforts to finish in the top four.

Yes the Europa League gave Spurs a memorable win over Inter Milan, and exciting moments along the way, with youth stars like Ryan Mason getting on the pitch in the early rounds, but the benefits do not outweigh the negatives.

Spurs frequently rotate their squad in the early rounds, but given their likely seeding, even this makes it relatively simple to cruise through.

And there is no use wishing for defeat and elimination, for if the club and manager attempted this it would be an insult to the paying fans who travel across Europe to support the team.

The club were eliminated in the early rounds last season, finishing in the top four under Harry Redknapp, but fates with Chelsea conspired to knock Spurs out of the Champions League running.

And perhaps that is the best chance of breaking the 'spiral of negativity' which the Europa League can suck a team like Tottenham into.

Those were the words used by Andre Villas-Boas after Spurs beat Arsenal in March, but apply more aptly to his own club's situation right now.

Surely the answer for Spurs is not to try to hope for failure in the Europa, but build a better squad, without loaning out so many useful players. 

The depth Chelsea had paid off when it came to crunch time in March, April and March, and if Tottenham can leave themselves in as good a scenario next season, they too may keep their momentum rolling rather than trailing off.

How can Spurs balance the Europa League and the Premier League next season?

image: © nicksarebi

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