Tottenham’s chances of a top four finish seem to be getting slimmer by the week. It’s looking likely that Mauricio Pochettino’s men will find themselves playing in the Europa League next season, but this may be more of a hindrance than anything else.
Europa League matches are played on Thursdays, often in hard to reach places, and leave little time to travel back home to train for a weekend domestic fixture.
Managers often cite fatigue from playing these Thursday games as the reason why they’ve ultimately underperformed in the league which has to be a clubs main focus. After all there is no point in making it say to the semi finals of the Europa League but then face relegation come May.
Everton were close to having this problem when a good European run seemed to correlate with the Toffees dropping precious league points this season. They seem likely to avoid the drop as fortunately there are several teams having a worse season than them, but there have been scares along the way.
Unlike competing in the Champions League, where you may get the chance to play opposite high quality stars of the game like Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, the Europa League is just a distraction unless you win it. No one boasts about making it to the quarter finals or semis of the competition.
The Europa League is a good first taste of european football and would suit an emerging team like Southampton, but Spurs have been there before. They gain very little from these fixtures considering that by now they should be breaking into the top four consistently.
But being down in seventh with five games to go means they’ll probably miss out for yet another year.
Pochettino is likely to rebuild his squad in the summer, with numerous players said to be on their way out of White Hart Lane, so with the right acquisitions Spurs may prove to be contenders next season. And while their new signings are settling in it would probably help to not have to deal with meaningless Europa League matches.
It may look like a failure for the club to finish lower than they did last season, but Spurs should take notice of Manchester United’s resurgence.
Last season the Red Devils finished in seventh, just missing out on the Europa League, and it looks to have hugely benefited them. They have had fewer fixtures and less travelling, meaning they have been able to concentrate on their domestic campaign. Just 12 months after that embarrassing finish United look to have regained their spot in the top four.
Spurs are unlikely to start throwing matches even though they would be better off staying where they are. And with both Liverpool and Southampton currently occupying fifth and sixth respectively, they might force Tottenham out anyway, leaving everyone happy.
Except perhaps Liverpool.