After earning four points from their opening two games, Tottenham’s Premier League restart has been solid if not spectacular. The draw against United was solid but, after getting the better of West Ham on Tuesday night, the race for Europe heating up.
It is a race that sees Tottenham in a slightly awkward position though, as they are currently straddled between a return to the Champions League or having to make do with an appearance in the Europa League instead. It is qualification for the latter which is currently splitting opinion amongst their supporters.
The much maligned Europa League and its regular cycle of playing Thursdays and Sundays is a schedule believed to be unconducive to winning the biggest biggest prizes.
Many feel that if you are caught in that rotation, your ability to compete in the Premier League substantially diminishes and, if you are to miss out on the Champions League, you may as well miss out on midweek continental football altogether.
It is a theory that has been backed up by both Leicester and Chelsea in recent times. Although the pair have seen periods of boom and bust in equal measure, the low points have at least afforded them some incredible highs.
Their respective lack of Europa League action allowed a refined focus on domestic matters as they could stay fresh for all things Premier League. It played a huge part in Leicester’s 2015/16 and Chelsea’s 2016/17 title winning tilts.
With this in mind, some quarters of Tottenham’s fan base are advocating that the North London outfit follow suit and, if the reward of a Champions League place becomes unobtainable, Jose Mourinho should fold his cards early and drop out of the race for Europe altogether.
Only one of the previous 22 league champions (Manchester City, 2011/12) have done so whilst playing in the Europa league. It is sufficient evidence that there is now a clamour for the North London outfit to game the system.
Supporters reason that if you finish eighth or ninth in the table, you give yourself a perfect chance at finally breaking the glass ceiling next time around. It is a plan that sounds almost too easy and that it because it does come with a huge caveat. If Tottenham did take the gamble and missed out on Europe altogether, failure to make the top four at a minimum in 2020/21 would generate huge derision from the fans.
Additionally, believing you are too big for the Europa League sets a rather dangerous precedent and, when you consider how competitive the top flight has been this season, a short-term lack of momentum could lead to long-term isolation.
Therefore, the case for qualification becomes stronger and, with Jose Mourinho having proven that he has the necessary credentials to win the competition, it could provide his new employers with a an additional route back to Europe’s top table.
Of course, Tottenham have not won any silverware since 2008 and, if they are to get back into a winning habit, success in the Champions League’s younger brother maybe the catalyst for even greater things.
To complicate matters further, there remains a possible plot twist involving Manchester City, a two-year UEFA ban, a Swiss Courtroom and a fifth place finish.
Should City’s visit to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) not go the way that their expensive legal team intends, fifth would offer the same coveted prize as third in the table and, if Tottenham can secure that, an unexpected end of season leg up presents itself.
With seven Premier League games left to go and a small amount of traction behind them, the North Londoners have every right to consider themselves a part of the Champions League qualification conversation.
Furthermore, with football finances taking a hit across the board, any form of additional competition revenue will be welcomed by chairman Daniel Levy. Although missing out on the Europa League may provide shortcuts elsewhere, its not a path the balance sheet is willing to take. As one of the few Premier League clubs to have taken criticism for attempting to furlough staff, it wouldn’t be a good look to willingly give up revenue.
Therefore, although there is a temptation to take the easy route and have a year off from the continent, the positives outweigh the negatives. With a huge question still hanging over the value of a fifth place finish, Tottenham should dig deep in the final stretch of the race for Europe.
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