As we embark on another season of top class European Football in both the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League, it can be observed that English based clubs have regressed significantly over the last five years in regard to their competitiveness in each competition. Many perspectives have been shared concerning why English teams have recently performed poorly, particularly in the UEFA Champions League. All the angles such as talent, tactics, style of play, etc… have been highlighted to some degree with the conclusion being that, drastic improvements are necessary. However, less spoken about, but mentioned regardless, is the dismissive approach of English clubs towards the Europa league. However with Sevilla’s recent display of dominance in the competition and with winners now being granted an automatic spot in the Champions League, top four hopefuls such as Everton, Tottenham, Southampton and so on, now have an entirely new way to build their club’s reputation.
Firstly, it must be said that winning a European cup regardless of what it is, would be a massive achievement for most English teams especially those struggling to break into the top four. It’s a basis of which to build from and will attract quality players as it is a plus point during negotiations. The problems these teams seem to highlight is that they simply cannot afford to build a squad strong enough to play European games on Thursdays then play again in a league as physically intensive as the English Premier League. With most teams deeming the risk not worth the reward and the opposition not worth their time in most cases, they prioritise an assault on the top four. Even though it may appear as an impossible task, we have seen where Newcastle, Everton, Tottenham and even Liverpool in their regressive years, have managed to push themselves into the top four, albeit not having successful European campaigns, but still reaped benefits and showed that it is possible. But with the league and teams in the Europa League now being given a chance to have five representatives in the competition, is that approach and perspective about to take a dynamic shift?
Putting all the obvious necessities like scouting and coaching aside, the mid tier English clubs will note that the significant gulf between themselves and the top four is genuinely because of money. This gives them first access at the negotiation table for the world’s best players as well as them being closer to titles and being in the premier European competition on almost a yearly basis. Despite this, a possible solution to maneuvering the seemingly unfair playing would start with the management of their own resources. Teams such as Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham and Stoke have somewhat flown under the radar for careless spending. Stoke endured five years under Tony Pulis while having a higher net spend than Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool who have spent record fees on flops. Everton broke their transfer record on Romelu Lukaku, who has yet to fulfil on the promise of his youth career. Nonetheless, with the Premier League gaining a 70% increase television revenue, the windfall will positively affect clubs pockets, granting them a chance to build a squad which can manage a rigorous campaign that involves European football and the premier league.
Even though Premier league teams will have financial advantage over most Europa league teams, it does not guarantee them success, Wolfsburg, Manchester City and Manchester United have all proved this in recent years. The teams in the competition rely mostly on clever management and tactical awareness to advance through the different stages of the competition. Although the Champions league is a different competition, the struggles of the best English Premier League teams reflect badly on the chances of those below them who may be in the Europa League. To the Premier League’s benefit, European managers are becoming the norm within the league, especially managers who have experience managing clubs with continental match schedules. The managers have brought an alternate tactical perspective to the league, which does offer up some trouble to the top teams occasionally. Again highlighting that the resources put towards ascertaining a top four finish, can now be shifted towards a different goal, which comes with no play-off games, a trophy, and two prize money amounts being qualification for the Champions league and for winning the Europa League. How the mid tier EPL clubs are beginning to structure themselves have put them in a position where they can indeed win the secondary European cup.
The possible increase in television revenue for clubs, coupled with a successful Europa League campaign opens up new possibilities for the mid tier Premier League club. With clever team management, careful financial management and the procurement of Champions League football, this may see the English Premier league evolve to an all new competitive plain. The mid tier Premier League club, should welcome this opportunity, alter their perspective and attack this chance at new found glory. Theorising about the possibilities of course are always easier than application, but English teams have always had the resources necessary to push further in the Europa league and in a summer transfer window where we have seen Sevilla — last season’s Europa league winners — sell their highest top scorer to an abysmal A.C. Milan team, Premier League clubs can indeed find the necessary quality in the market to make fully assault Europe’s secondary continental club competition and build from there.