— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) February 20, 2014
With Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood refusing to blame a European hangover for his side’s defeat at Norwich yesterday, we looked at some of the figures to see what sort of effect Europa League qualification has on a club’s season.
Qualifying for the Europa League costs a team at least two places in the Premier League on average.
Since the competition started in 2009, qualifiers have dropped an average of 2.09 places in the Premier League the following season (excluding Birmingham City, who were relegated in the same season they qualified).
And that average is helped out by big-spending Manchester City and traditional ‘big’ teams Liverpool and Spurs being able to buck the trend every now and again.
At clubs where Europa League qualification is probably the best that could be expected from a successful campaign, the effects are even more damaging. Fulham dropped five places after participating in the 2009/10 season, Aston Villa lost three places in 2010/11 and Newcastle dropped a huge 11 places in 2012/13.
Swansea look like they’re on course to drop around three places this season, and it remains to be see where Spurs will end up.
While it’s easy to criticise someone like Newcastle owner Mike Ashley for trying to get his club to tread water below European qualification but inside the top 10, the figures seem to suggest that it’s better to avoid getting yourself caught up in the Europa League.
Of course, Ashley’s motivation is the money that comes from staying in the Premier League and finishing as high up the table as possible. Not exactly sporting ethics, but arguably no less so than Michel Platini’s bloated tournament and its attempts to drag out the process for maximum profit.
The competition has been going downhill since group stages were introduced to the old Uefa Cup in 2004/05. Rather than going back to basics, Platini rebranded in a way that made the tournament look even more like a poor cousin to the Champions League.
What the tournament had going for it was that it offered pre-Christmas knockout football; exciting two-legged continental affairs while the Champions League boys were still jockeying for position. It gave something different, whereas now it’s just a longer version of the Champions League without the top teams involved.
With the current group stages, a team faces four far-flung away trips and Thursday/Sunday routines before they even get a shout of knockout football. Outside the top five (and sometimes even inside the top five), squads can’t cope with that.
The result is that seasons are undermined, the competition is undermined and, as a result, nobody really minds if they qualify or not.
Here’s the record of Premier League sides after qualifying for the Europa League:
Fulham – Finished 12th in Premier League (7th previous season) -5
Everton – Finished 8th in Premier League (5th previous season) -3
Liverpool – Finished 7th in Premier League (2nd previous season) -5
Manchester City – Finished 3rd in Premier League (5th in previous season) +2
Aston Villa – Finished 9th in Premier League (6th previous season) -3
Liverpool – Finished 6th in Premier League (8th in previous season) +2
Tottenham – Finished 4th in Premier League (5th in previous season) +1
Birmingham City – Finished 4th in Championship (18th in Premier League previous season) N/A
Stoke City – Finished 14th in Premier League (13th previous season) -1
Tottenham – Finished 5th in Premier League (4th in previous season) -1
Newcastle – Finished 16th in Premier League (5th in previous season) -11
Liverpool – Finished 7th in Premier League (8th in previous season) +1