The Europa League: A Help Not A Hinderance

Spurs’ qualification into the knock-out stages of the Europa League won’t settle the long-running argument about the importance of this tournament. However, there’s no doubt that this Europa League has been of huge benefit to this Spurs team. In future years, maybe not, but it’s moved the team-building process on more swiftly than if we had not participated.

The theme running through my last few posts is progress. Andre Villas-Boas is closer to understanding what suits his players and is getting the best from them. Many managers make little effort to hide their irritation with the Europa League but for Tottenham it has been a help not a hinderance.

I wonder if it is a generational thing. Games against teams like Maribor that take place in the early stages of each group barely keep the pulse beating, never mind set it racing, but those of us of a certain age still hear echoes of glory glory, however faint. I suspect that they are out of range of younger generations brought up on the Champions League for whom the EL has the equivilent importance of the Anglo-Scottish Cup. Commenters, let me know.

Villas-Boas has taken the bold step of playing strong teams throughout. Granted there’s the danger of burn-out later in the season but right now I can’t recall a Spurs team in recent years that has looked so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. AVB is building a new side rather than scrabbling together the remnants of the old, so what better way to move forward than get them to play together.

He’s seen the Europa League as an opportunity not a threat. Each game is another chance for him to put over his methods and ideas, to enable the players to become familiar with their roles and those of their team-mates. Not everything has worked – there have been some flat-spots along the way – but better to make them in a EL group game than in the glare of the Premier League.

Contrast his approach with what’s going on a couple of miles up the road. Wenger likes a moan at the best of times but their league form is solely down to fatigue, apparently. It won’t wash. Maybe Spurs have better fitness coaches because we haven’t seen any signs of that. On the contrary, the team to a man appear invigorated by the growing realisation that they could be part of something good.

It’s more an attitude of mind. The difference is that the years have wearied Wenger as he creates yet another side without the full backing of his board in terms of buying players of the highest quality. In contrast, Villas-Boas’ desire to succeed burns like an everlasting flame. Without a footballing career behind him, like Wenger the only way he can prove himself is through his team and he has communicated that enthusiasm and desire to his players. They want to play, to play for him, and he deserves credit for getting through to them. Few can now doubt that this is his side, that this young, mild-mannered man is in charge and has the respect of the players. The risk he took in playing virtually full teams in the Europa League has paid off.

Dempsey, a man who needs to fit in more than most, has been played throughout, giving him game time and his performances are slowly improving. More assists on Thursday night. Dawson’s role and the authority of captain meant he wasn’t excluded from the first team action and helped produce those fine Premier League performances when his chance came. Carroll, Huddlestone and Sigurdsson have all had useful time on the pitch, while AVB’s gradual introduction of Lloris to the English game, much derided in September and October, could in hindsight be a managerial masterstroke. Everyone has had some chance, none have been excluded. This is all shrewd man-management.

I wasn’t at the Lane on Thursday but watched on TV. We did more than enough to win without playing well throughout. Just as the jitters set in, class told. We think it’s always us, these periods where we seem to switch off. While we have to cut them out if we are to get close to the final, every other team does it. All the other British sides that I’ve seen have the same inexplicable lethargy at some period, making the games dull to watch. If it helps us learn lessons, then I wouldn’t worry about it. Two-legs ties increase the pressure, let’s make a judgement then.

10 thoughts on “The Europa League: A Help Not A Hinderance

  1. Pingback: The Europa League: A Help Not A Hinderance - Unofficial Network

  2. I couldn’t agree less about this competition. It’s the not the cup we once proudly won, and quite frankly is a substandard Frankenstein of a tournament. Athletico Madrid won last year, but gained only 8.5m in prize money, which is a fraction of those competing in the CL. Whilst you can say about the game being about glory, there just isn’t any kudos in winning a trophy that has losers coming in at the knockout stages.
    If we do manage to win or reach the final, that’s another 9 games to go through, totaling 15 games in all, all of which are obstacles in our quest to reach the last four in the PL, which is the modern equivalent to winning a trophy, whether we like it or not. Winning the EL will not give us any financial rewards and won’t entice players to our club, whereas the CL will do both.


  3. I think you are right, at the moment it’s about valuable game time to sort out the team and the tactics
    and give opportunities to especially younger players like Carroll.
    Fatigue is not an issue at this stage of the season nor is thinking about winning anything.
    The Glory Glory stuff is a long way off.
    Carroll has made a very promising start. He needs to develop a greater range of passing and try to carry the ball occasionally. His tackling is poor but he is confident, available, and keeps the play moving well.
    I have great hopes for this boy and the Europa has given him an ideal arena.


  4. Essexian76, with respect, you’ve got it all wrong. What is a football club if it’s not measured by its history and the trophies it wins? In fifty years time, fourth place finishes in the Premier League and round of sixteen or last eight in the Champions League will count for very little.
    Nobody I know agrees with the failed CL teams joining the EL, but there is still plenty of kudos attached to winning this trophy. Many of the great names in European football are trying very hard to win it this year. Platini’s idea to only have an enlarged CL fills me with dread. Radically cutting down the avenues to actually winning things is a terrible idea.
    The new stadium will generate the revenue we need in the long term and the strength of our current squad is evidence that we can attract plenty of top quality players.
    I have a space on my wall and am aching to fill it with pictures of what will be the eighteenth trophy in our glorious history.


    • No my friend, you’re living in the past I’m afraid-today’s game is all about either winning the PL and or the CL or it’s qualification-those are the only criteria for modern football clubs to maintain a healthy balance book and be able to attract and invest in quality players. Winning the LC in 2008, which is the domestic equivalent, still saw our two best players depart for clubs who were in the CL. Winning it meant nothing, even to the players who then spent the next few months on a protracted holiday. Newcastle are now feeling the pinch, and Liverpool, although qualified gave the impression they’d sooner be resting than travelling through Italy . Are you seriously suggesting you’d forgo a CL place and win the EL? I’m pretty sure I’m not alone, when I say, thanks, but it’s not for me!


  5. I was worried by the losing of our way for 15-20 once they’d equalised, but felt we would turn it round and win. We’re looking like there are more goals in the side than seemed to be the case earlier in the season. First half we lapsed a bit otherwise I think we’re moving it around quicker, which is part of them getting to know what AVB wants I should think. Anyhow, we look a lot brighter and have a more coherent plan (or at least one I can understand better) more recently.

    Hopefully BAE, Parker, Kaboul and Dawson can come back soon as one or two will get tired playing so many games. The running key players into the ground was onew of the valid criticisms of Harry. We’ll see I won’t worry about that yet.

    I thought Lennon was terrific again on Thursday. Three very lovely goals too. Dempsey really is looking like the player who posed a big threat at Fulham. A real bonus, since the Emirates.

    I think we should go all out for both the EL and CL spots (one or two astute signings in Jan and we could win the flaming thing this season I reckon) it doesn’t have to be either or, which I made the mistake (imo) of thinking earlier in the season.


    • And there your Honor, I rest my case, yet another two goals conceded in the final minutes of a game, which cannot be anything other than tiredness, especially against sides who’ve had a full weeks break. CHasing this worthless pot is going to cost us dearly!


  6. Each to their own, but I would rather win the Europa League than finish 4th.
    I know there is no money / perception of glamour, but basing love of football with money is what is going to be the end of football for me.

    Surely it is all about the trophies – how good was winning the Carling Cup a few years ago, and yet many already sneer at it….


    • There was i thinking we wanted to be a big club, but if you’d settle for being another Middlesboro’ or Fulham, good for you-I’d sooner we concentrate on getting into the CL and have a chance of keeping our quality players at the Lane!


  7. In the end, winning things is most important. Good football can bring trophies and 4th place (and above). The aim is good football, be a contender and go for all you can.

    Regards, Al


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