Is this a blessing in disguise for Tottenham?

Andre Villas-Boas, Tottenham Hotspur

Clearly missing out on Champions League football last term was never going to be something widely celebrated by Tottenham fans. To make matters worse the North London club were narrowly edged by a point to fourth place by bitter rivals Arsenal. Spurs have suffered a similar fate on what seems like countless occasions in recent years, with ‘lasagne gate’ and the Munich Champions League Final immediately coming to mind.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though, the highest points tally in the Premier League era for Spurs could well be the foundation to build from. Free from the rigours of midweek Champions League games, Spurs may well find missing out last year a blessing in the long run.

Many may be quick to point out that Spurs will arguably have more games this season because of the Europa League than the Champions League, and they would probably be right. If Spurs challenge in Europe this year, and I believe they will, the club will find themselves playing on Thursday nights regularly this season.

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The stark difference for me is the gulf in quality, particularly in the early rounds. Spurs find themselves in a group containing teams like Tromso and Sheriff as opposed to a Milan or Dortmund. Tottenham could field a second string team throughout the early stages and get to the knockouts, if anything it may offer the chance for some youngsters and squad players to get some more game time. Contrast this to a Champions League campaign forced to play full strength sides during midweek and the problems become quite obvious.

Aside from maybe Liverpool, Spurs are blessed by the fact of all the top sides they are likely to be exerting themselves the least during the week, a crucial advantage over their divisional rivals in my book. Maybe not quite as marked now, but come next April and May the rigours of top level continental football may just make the difference for a side like Arsenal.

Many were quick to dismiss Spurs’ chances this season because Europa League omits you apparently from the shakeup for the best in the transfer market, a total Myth in my book. Spurs had probably the least active window in recent times when they achieved Champions League football, with Van der Vaart the only major signing. Footballers follow both the money and in many cases the crowd, and this has been notable for Spurs this summer.

AVB has made no secret of his so called ‘project’ at Spurs, something that Baldini and Levy have used as a selling point throughout the summer. Just recently Eriksen has mentioned his own excitement in regards to the clubs plans going forward and this has been crucial to summer spending and not the offer of Champions League football as many would have you believe.

The lack of Champions League football has also shaped the way in which Spurs have approached the market, something which will benefit them long term. Rather than focus on ready-made players with immediate pedigree, they have gone for world class potential. AVB is right when he says they wont win the league this season, but you cannot discount the club from making waves in coming years as it stands.

Europa League football has allowed the club to focus on a progression rather than knee-jerk short-termism, and personally I see this as a massive positive. Aside from Roberto Soldado the rest of the recruits have been remarkably young, something which the club will reap the benefits of in the coming years.

A final point which I also think is important is expectations. If Spurs had achieved 4th place last season, many would have hoped to see another step up this season and for a young side like the one AVB is building this could have been crippling. The current tag of outsiders or dark horses is much more conducive to a side in a developmental stage, keeping expectations in the short term low is key to the success of the project.

Many fans will still be licking the scars of last May, but my view is that come next summer they may well be thankful that they missed out on the Promised Land last year. A revolution is clearly afoot and Europa League football may well be the blessing that allows this current crop to realise their potential.

Was a fifth placed finish last season a blessing in disguise?

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