Why Harry had it right
After Sunday's result I found myself wishing away the end of the season, praying we finish 7th, and letting Everton and United contest the Europa League next year. Don't get me wrong, I want to win trophies, but the stats do not lie. Nearly every time we play in the Mickey Mouse league, the league game that follows is a shambles. It doesn't matter if we rest players or we prioritise the league game, Sunday is a day of woe.
So, stats man that I am, I began looking at results not just this season, but last season. I was aghast at what I found. We have played 22 Europa League games over the past two years. In games that followed we have won 10, drawn two, and lost 10! To put that into perspective, over a season we would finish on 55 points, likely around 10th, and 8th place last year.
In games that didn't follow a EL game, we won 27, drew 12, and lost 7. Again, over 38 games, we would finish on 77 points. This would have seen us 3rd last season, and surely would get top 4 this year.
Then I started wondering. Is this an affliction that just affects Spurs. I think you know the answer.100% not. This Europa League plague is killing off Europe's 'second-tier' teams. To prove my point, I randomly selected teams who a) play in a competitive league and b) aspire to, but are not guaranteed Champions League football - just like Spurs. Those teams are Lazio, Valencia and Lyon.
Poor old Lazio. Last season they only won 4 of the 12 games they played following EL games. They also had to play both Rome derbies following EL games (sound familiar?) and were embarrassed against Siena and Torino - games they would be expected to win. Played 12, won 4, drew 2, lost 6. This year was even worse, winning only one game, drawing 3 and losing 2. Record overall, played 18, won 5, drawn 5, lost 8 - bottom half of the table form.
Then Valencia. Following 8 EL games this season they have won just 3 games, losing 4. Defeats include 4-1 to Villareal, 3-0 to Atletico, and defeats to Real Vallecano and Real Sociedad. Again over the course of a season this form would see Valencia in the bottom half of the table.
Lyon are interesting, as like us they want to be a CL team, but have found themselves outmanoeuvred by money men, and playing EL the last two years. Their form can be described as mediocre at best following EL games. Last season they only won 2 games following EL games. Once they went out of the EL their form picked up! This year it has been even worse. Following NINE EL games they have won just twice, and defeats include humiliations against Montpellier (5-1) and PSG (4-0). Sound familiar? Their form over the past two season after EL games reads P 17, W 6 D 6 L 5. Again middle ground in Ligue 1.
But if you need further proof, look no further than Liverpool. Last year they played EIGHT EL games, all before Christmas. Their record following these games? ONE WIN. Yes, just one win, a fluke 3-2 victory at West Ham. They drew five and lost three. This is RELEGATION form. If you take away their games following EL matches their form last season would have seen them finish on 70 points - touching distance to the Champions League and not the lonely 7th they actually did finish.
For those who are saying we must finish as high as possible, I say, NO WAY! We must do everything we can to finish 7th this season and ensure Everton and United play Europa League. I don't even want to send reserves. There are other issues as well, such as CL teams playing two legs over three weeks, but EL teams playing two legs inside a week. Why?
The Europa League is a UEFA con designed to keep Europe's true elite at the top table for as long as possible. They want the big grounds filling up, with the biggest sponsorship deals possible. Little old Spurs, as well as Lyon, Lazio, Valencia (and I'm sure there are others.) don't fit into that equation. We must 'do a Liverpool' and have a clear run at the League next year.
Written by Sebastian Short