Since 2001 no English Premier League team has won the Uefa Cup, or i should say, the rebranded, Euro-friendly, slightly laughable, “Europa League.” In 2005/6, Middlesbrough went to the final of the competition, but suffered a faltering season in the Premiership. Since then, teams in the Uefa Cup have consistently failed to compete both domestically and abroad, the question is: why?
In 2005, Liverpool won the Champions League, but controversy ensued as they finished 5th in the Premier League, thereby failing to achieve a spot in Europe’s Elite competition for the following season.
Throughout the 2005 season, Liverpool time and again suffered ill League form after midweek games in Europe. This lack of consistency was blamed primarily on a limited pool of backup talent on the Liverpool bench, meaning that key players were over stretched. This essentially meant that one trophy had to be sacrificed for another.
The demands placed on teams in the Uefa Cup are very similar to those placed on teams in the Champions League, with midweek games across the far flung corners of the continent, scattered between demanding EPL fixtures
If Liverpool were considered to have a team that was incapable of fighting on two fronts, putting aside further demands from the FA and Carling Cups, what chance do teams like Everton, Blackburn, Portsmouth, Tottenham and Villa have of succeeding in both at home and abroad?
Last season both Tottenham and Villa were criticised for poor Uefa Cup performances, whilst fielding what were considered under-strength teams and reserving key players for crucial league games.
They can hardly be blamed for such caution as Tottenham in particular took off with aplomb in the Premiership, finishing 8th after spending the first half of the season scrapping at the bottom of the table. Villa of course finished 5th, with a slow burnout, which had they not began their season at the end of July could have been avoided and possibly seen them finish 4th qualifying them for the Champions League instead of Arsenal.
Portsmouth, gaining entry to European football for the first time, suffered horrendously in the 08/09 season, although a lot of that can be blamed on what went on off of the pitch, a demanding European schedule can only have made matters worse as they failed spectacularly in the Premier League.
Without the massive financial incentives offered by the Champions League, the Europa League seems more of a burden to the teams which qualify for it, dragging squads, with limited resources to the edges of domestic oblivion, whilst offering little financial compensation – which lets face it, is at the heart of any successful football team.
Villa and Spurs were both correct to shun the Uefa Cup for Premier League success and indeed survival, after all, it is domestic results which allow you to qualify for Europe, not the other way round.
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