Liverpool and Tottenham both suffered that morning after the night feeling over the last couple of days, with both teams losing to seemingly lower opposition over the weekend.
There has always been a debate surrounding the so called European hangover for English teams, with a number of solutions being put forward including either a winter break or re-arranging fixtures to suit the teams that compete on the continent.
Part of this comes from the likes of the Spanish top tier where you see the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid having fixtures played late in the night on a Sunday to accommodate a suitable resting period between games. The Spanish teams have a lot more support from their FA in regards to helping them win domestic silverware and compete to their full ability in Europe.
Over here however there have often been complaints from the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger that the English elite do not get given the same fair treatment with some teams having to compete as early as two days after a mid-week fixture and having the squad spread too thinly to accommodate the fixture list, suffering injuries and set backs in the process, often dropping points the weekend after a big night in Europe.
This however, is difficult to argue if you take some time to consider some of the evidence. First of all let us take a look outside the top flight at the Football League. There are more teams per division and more fixtures to play, a lot of the time you will get mid-week games as well as weekend games. Lower league football clubs are seeded into cup competitions a lot sooner than their Premier League counterparts meaning even more fixtures are added to the equation. Over the length of an average season (taking play-offs into account at times as well) most teams in the lower Leagues can play between 46-60 games.
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I have not seen much complaint coming from a lot of these clubs at the packed fixture list. Some may argue that the glory the top clubs are pursuing is more important, but try and tell that to Nottingham Forest who were once European champions and are trying to win the Championship this season – ask their players and fans if this season isn’t important to them. Every club, whether big or small, is fighting for some sort of glory, be it a legaue title, a cup win or run, avoid relegation, or simply improve on last season’s finish.
I’m not saying that the packed fixture list does not trouble anyone, I’m merely suggesting that there is evidence to suggest that the “bigger” teams are not being as harshly treated by it as they like to suggest.
If you take this weekend’s results and fixtures you can see further evidence that a European hangover is just an excuse for poor squad rotation and management. Arsenal played away to an in form Aston Villa at 3pm on Saturday. Liverpool faced West Ham United a whole two and a half hours later, hence giving them more time. The Gunners romped to victory in an easy 3-0 win, whereas the Merseyside crumbled to a humiliating defeat at Upton Park. Tottenham played in Europe a day later than the others, but also played on Sunday instead of Saturday, and still managed to lose to relegation candidates West Brom, yet Chelsea and Manchester City still managed to share a point each in their game without suffering any ill-effects.
It is not a case of your team being hard done by by the extra football fixtures, if it was then why are Liverpool and Spurs so desperate to do well enough to qualify for the competitions themselves? Yet throughout this season, for as long as either team are in Europe, you will see them struggle the following weekend and drop points. This could have a really bad effect for the Scousers in particular as they want to push for that ever elusive Premiership title, the one that looked so certain last season.
If European football is so damaging for them, and they struggled to beat a team last week that I had not heard of until they qualified, maybe they should focus on the league and drop out of the competition all together. They are not serious enough contenders to win the thing this season. Spurs on the other hand might put in a good challenge to win the Europa League this season and should pursue that option as far as they can take it, but if they are to do so, then the manager needs to manage his squad rotation properly and stop making excuses for such hopeless displays such as the one we witnessed against West Brom.
Manchester United and Arsenal have managed to get on OK in the Champions League, season after season and despite their managers moaning from time to time, they have still delivered results (most of the time)
European football nights are killing Premiership ambitions for Spurs and Liverpool, but they only have themselves to blame, not the fixture list.