Only in England could winning a trophy be seen as failure if it means sacrificing the Champions League. Premier League title and the European Cup itself aside, we’re in this near-nonsensical age of football where qualifying for Europe is seen as something more than it actually is; something maybe along the lines of a good enough substitute for an actual piece of silverware.
The buck doesn’t stop with Arsene Wenger, though. I’m sure he’s trying to placate the fervour created by another company, who do not need to be named. The flashing lights, the Hollywood anthem and the biggest and very best of the world’s sponsors. Let’s be honest, no one with a clear head on their shoulders would want to trade a trophy for something that brings more excitement than substance.
I maintain that Andre Villas-Boas is doing an excellent job with what he has. So there’s talk that Spurs have become a one-man team behind Gareth Bale and that the wheels will come off once he leaves for good. Well I’m sure Villas-Boas and Daniel Levy are smart enough to address that issue when it arises, but for now winning is winning, and they’re not exactly doing it ugly either.
Why do fans care about Champions League football? Teams like Barcelona, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid go into it for the long haul and with the expectation of emerging victorious come the end of the campaign. Most others are just in it for the money.
And here’ the thing: football fans are placing far too much worth into the financial background of clubs, citing the need for UEFA’s top competition to help them move forward. I’m not going to take anything away from how important that Champions League revenue is for many clubs, but the end product of sports is winning, and no one really looks back or cares who qualified for a bucket load of cash. After all, shouldn’t the Champions League be a little more true to its name? A whole continent’s worth of clubs who believe they should be playing in a competition in which they really have no right.
Spurs are in the best position at the moment from the perspective of English football – more so than Chelsea and even Newcastle. Sure, the effects may be similar if Newcastle win the Europa League, but having Chelsea pick up that trophy won’t do a whole lot for its image in this country. Chelsea are a Champions League regular, where winning a trophy like the Europa League will only be seen as something forgettable for them.
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Tottenham’s potential winning of the Europa League will offer it the reputation as something of a boost for those making the permanent switch from edge of mid-table to top of the ranks. You only need to look at the rising reputation of clubs like Atletico Madrid and Shakhtar on the continent. Tottenham have plenty of people talking about how they can challenge for the title in two years; well it’s steps like this that allow for something significant in moving forward. And for whatever Tottenham might think of themselves now, they’re not an established top Premier League team.
It’s the need to do away with “Champions League or nothing.” Again, only in this country is a reputable cup competition seen as something of a nuisance, especially to those who are good enough to win it. UEFA need to play their hand in this too. For whatever they may what to say about it, Thursdays just do not feel like a football night. They’ve got time; change it to a Tuesday and Wednesday in weeks where the Champions League isn’t played. And on top of that, the winner should go into the following year’s Champions League group stage.
Tottenham want bragging rights and something clear cut to give them a footing in the argument against Arsenal. All of that is fine; it’s sports. But it has to be said that even sections of Arsenal support and the club are kidding themselves to a degree if they believe qualifying for Europe for how many years is an achievement worth parading around. As mentioned, no one cares if you qualified for Europe in the 2010/11 season. Almost everyone will look back to that year as the final where Barcelona once again put on a clinic against England’s best.
Tottenham would be doing a lot for themselves to go ahead and win the Europa League, as well as enhancing its brand in this country. One thing’s for sure in the battle for supremacy with Arsenal; I’m sure many at the Emirates would love to see a trophy added to the inner walls of the stadium. There is no glamour to be lost from a cup that has been lifted by some of Europe’s grandest clubs.
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