Why missing out on Europe could be a good thing for Tottenham ahead of a new era in dugout

·3-min read
Why missing out on Europe could be a good thing for Tottenham ahead of a new era in dugout

The story of Tottenham’s spring has been of steadily revising their targets downwards.

At the start of March, Spurs were eyeing runs in the FA Cup and Champions League but, in the space of eight days, their horizons narrowed to merely another top-four finish.

Spurs frittered away any serious hopes of returning to the Champions League with defeats by Bournemouth and Newcastle, and their season target was downgraded again to a place in the Europa League.

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They could still slip further if they end up playing for nothing but a spot in the Europa Conference League, which will increase in probability if Ryan Mason’s side do not address the slump at home against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Spurs are currently seventh, enough for the Conference League, but above Aston Villa on goal difference alone ahead of a visit to Villa Park a week tomorrow.

Mason has refused to set his players a tangible target, but privately the acting head coach will want to salvage something from a dispiriting campaign by delivering European football.

With a place in the Champions League out of sight, however, should Spurs actually want to be in Europe next term?

Undoubtedly, some supporters would actively welcome finishing eighth, and a first year out of Europe since 2009-10. The Conference League is widely regarded a booby prize, with the potential to do more harm than good to a club of Spurs’s ambitions, while even the Europa League enthuses few.

There is some logic behind the apathy. Spurs are clearly in need of a total reboot from the top down, and there is a case that a season out of Europe would be beneficial, allowing their new manager space and time to thoroughly assess and reprogramme the squad.

Spurs do not have to look far for an example of the benefits of a fallow year or two, given Arsenal’s consecutive eighth-place finishes from 2019-21, while the transformative results of free weeks on the training ground were demonstrated by Leicester in 2015-16 and Chelsea a year later, who both won the title under a new coach and without European football.

Being out of Europe would potentially help Spurs to have a similar reset as Arsenal, especially if the loss of prestige and revenue proves a wake-up call for Daniel Levy, pushing the chairman into the ruthless decisions that are so obviously needed.

That said, the loss of earnings would hit Spurs’s ability to compete with their already-wealthier rivals and fewer matches would potentially give the new coach an immediate squad-management headache, decreasing opportunities for fringe players and the club’s hugely promising crop of youngsters.

It is damning that Spurs have never got beyond the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

Surely, though, the most compelling argument for another season in Europe is that Spurs are desperate for silverware and would be well-placed to win either competition. Almost every English club which takes the Europa League seriously, going all the way back to Middlesbrough in 2006, tends to do well, and Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea (twice) and Manchester United (twice) have all reached the final in the past decade.

Really, it is damning that Spurs have never got beyond the quarter-finals of the Europa League or Conference League, despite 12 seasons in the competitions since the turn of the century.

The Europa League, and especially the Conference League, should be more winnable for Spurs than the FA Cup or even the League Cup, which would likely involve having to beat Manchester City or another big-six rival.

And perhaps that is a small comfort for Spurs. They were never going to win the Champions League next season, so the narrowing of their options to no European football - and the chance to rip everything up and start again - or a place in a competition they can actually win may be no bad thing in the long run.