Tottenham appear to be assembling an impressive collection of world-class talent to fire their Premier League challenge. While Champions League qualification is clearly the priority, what does this mean for the club in terms of their Europa League exploits? Should they continue rotating their squad with youth and reserves?
Spurs have historically always been a cup team, with only a couple of First Division titles to their name. There has always been an onus on trophies, the mantra being that “the game is about glory”, to quote the famous Danny Blanchflower, and it has been a Spurs tradition harking back to the days of Bill Nicholson to always treat cup football with the respect it deserves.
Obviously in modern times a gulf has emerged between the Premier League and the perceived lesser competitions of the Europa League/League Cup. That being said there was still a degree of frustration surrounding Harry Redknapp’s dismissive attitude towards cup competition during his tenure. Do Spurs fans still attach the same importance to cup competitions as they once did?
Having spoken to a number of fans at the back-end of last season when the club was in the running for both 4th place and Europa it was interesting to see the response as to what would be preferable. Many wanted the return to the promised land of the Champions League whilst some were quick to point out that celebrating that as a trophy made them decidedly similar to their North London Rivals. In the end Spurs continued the habit of a lifetime by gratefully snatching defeat and despair from the jaws of imminent glory.
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So what is the plan this year, should Spurs be more cautious?
Villas-Boas’ overhaul of the squad this summer may well avoid ever having to play a truly second rate side. Of course against the lesser sides in the early stages of Europa, Spurs have every right to rest key players without any real threat of being knocked out. Branding the likes of Capoue, Sigurdsson and Holtby as second-string may be a little harsh, but this is the reality of the strength in depth that Spurs now possess. Couple this with some of the talented U-21’s squad, which includes the likes of Tom Carroll, Iago Falque and Kevin Stewart, and Spurs can happily rotate without playing a side which would be perceived as weak.
If Spurs want to challenge for the top four, it is important that star names remain fresh and don’t end up playing midweek and at weekends until the very latter stages of the cups. This is an aspect where Spurs have an advantage over their near rivals who may well have to risk certain key figures in the more competitive Champions League group stages.
The importance of integrating youth team players into the first team is also a key process for the club in general. Regardless as to whether there is an eye for a permanent first team place or a transfer away, the invaluable experience gained from the rigours of the Europa league will stand a number of prospective talents in good stead for the future. It also prevents the common feeling of a glass ceiling in the academy, where players simply exit at the age of 22 or 23 to begin their career down in the lower leagues. This may well end up being the case for many but at least some experience of first team football will give them a fair opportunity to express themselves at a higher level.
I imagine Villas-Boas will continue to take the Europa League seriously, a competition that he holds in high regard even if the English media appear not to.
For me the early stage Europa question isn’t one about cup ambition at all, Villas-Boas understands the traditions well. The rotated and youthful look that I believe will be favoured simply represents prudent planning for what will no doubt be a long and important season for Spurs coming up.
Should Spurs continue with a sensible youth-focused rotation in the Europa League?
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