The end of the season is within sight and once again Tottenham will fail to qualify for the Champions League, having at one point looked to have been in with a shout.
That leaves the Europa League as the unsatisfactory consolation prize. Another season of Thursday nights and disappointing results on Sunday beckons. The mammoth competition stretches any squad and makes a top four spot extremely difficult to secure.
Spurs would be better off out of it. Next season they need to shed a lot of players unwanted by Mauricio Pochettino. Even with more bodies from the youth setup boosting the squad, it’s going to be difficult to make enough signings for Tottenham to have as large a pool of players as they currently do.
The inevitable result of a smallish squad having to play a lot of games are core players having to play too many games. When that core is as young as Spurs’, burnout can occur. Nabil Bentaleb, Christian Eriksen and Ryan Mason certainly look ready for the season to end.
Some will counter that European football of any kind is a necessity for a club like Tottenham. The Europa League also offers entry to the Champions League for the winners. With the current top four of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City all likely to dwarf Tottenham’s spending this summer, it may well be easier to win the Europa League than qualify through the Premier League.
Yet sometimes you have to take a step back to take two forwards. If Manchester United qualify for the Champions League as they look likely to, then for the past two seasons it will be the team that finished seventh the season before that broke into the top four. Neither United and Liverpool had to worry about Europa League commitments derailing their Premier League campaign.
It’s true that Liverpool had Luis Suarez, while United have been able to spend a fortune on new players. Europa League or not, Spurs will find it tough to break into the top four next season. Nevertheless they will benefit from playing less games. A young squad would would have more time to work with Pochettino rather than constantly being on the road.
With Tottenham sure to finish at least seventh in the Premier League, the only way to dodge the Europa League would be for either or both of Aston Villa and Reading to do us a favour. Spurs fans won’t need any encouraging to cheer on Reading against Arsenal, but we should get equally behind Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa when they face Liverpool.
That win percentage has to be good for something, right?