As I write this we are getting destroyed away to Stoke 3-0 and by the sound of it we haven’t put up much of a fight for the whole game. Chiriches having a calamitous afternoon didn’t help but as I have not seen the game I can only gauge by the TV and radio reports about how inept we have been and this off the back of an encouraging performance against Man City last week. The autopsies have started. “Poch is to blame”; “The players can’t be bothered”; “our players are rubbish”; and so on and so forth but to what end? Frustrated fans end up in heated debate but without any of us actually knowing what the reasons to what goes on inside a club and for the tepid finish to this season are we can only make assumptions. Bear in mind that we have in recent years seemingly ended our seasons just as tepidly so this is not a first for us. Players and coaches at WHL need to be drilled in the understanding that the footballing season ends in May and does not come to an abrupt halt at the end of March!

That said, we have played a lot of games this season. It ought not be an excuse but it seems that the Europa League competition seems to take the brunt of the blame. But should it? Of course we have had stats recently showing us that Christian Eriksen for example has run further than any other player in the Premier League and so you can understand the fatigue element perhaps. Others look similarly drained; Ryan Mason for example in his first full season at senior level for one. So this is the one small gripe I have against Pochettino and that is with fatigue clearly playing a part for the end of season slump then why not dip into your squad and give more playing time to Stambouli or Paulinho for example? Hell even give Yedlin or Adebayor a run? I can only assume that he is not that impressed with the squad quality outside the first thirteen or fourteen players and that is his prerogative. It is also sadly understandable but I am hopeful that the summer will bring new faces in that he can trust.

Back to the Europa League, and for me whilst the competition adds to the workload, there is no denying that our form dropped off once we came out of the competition. Yes that also coincided with a loss in the Capital One Cup Final (something that we have all long since forgotten) and perhaps this defeat hit us harder than we may have thought, but the Europa League offered us a different focus and one that we had the capability (if not the belief) to endure.

Bill Nicholson once said that “It’s magnificent to be in Europe, and this club – a club like Tottenham Hotspur – if we’re not in Europe…. we’re nothing. We’re nothing.” And I remember when Martin Jol got us back into Europe after a very long absence and how fans rejoiced in “going on a European tour”. So Bill Nick’s quote quite aptly sums up why we ought to be in Europe; and why we need to beat off the stigma that the club has; and we as fans have too; that somehow the tournament is beneath us and only serves to take our efforts away from the real prize of challenging for a top four spot. This is slightly delusional in all honesty as we are not really a top four contender, well not yet anyway, and what we really need to do is accept this and give the Europa League a real good go.

We always seem to breeze through the group stages of the Europa League and then just switch off. The issue seems to be mental as we have made some unfortunate exits in latter rounds, but I am sure that had we applied ourselves better we could have progressed and who knows, maybe won the thing. Fiorentina are/were in the semi-finals this season and they did not look a better team than Spurs over two legs. But what else does the Europa League give us?

I mentioned a different focus. This means that when an EPL game doesn’t go your way then you don’t have time to dwell on it. You have a game Thursday to focus on. You get it out of your system. I suppose playing games retains the intensity that may fall off with training sessions who knows? The Europa League has also seen us blood and keep fringe players occupied and that keeps the harmony in a squad at a more optimum level. Players want to play. Would we have seen Harry Kane make the step up if it wasn’t for the Europa League? And who is to say that next season it won’t have the same impact for Alex Pritchard or any of the other promising youngsters coming through our ranks?

And if the squad composition is addressed in the summer then who is to say that we won’t have the tools to contend with the number of games? The Europa League offers us the chance to win a trophy; to learn what is required to win trophies and forge a winning mentality; and it is another route to the Champions League if nothing else. Should we be in the Europa League? Damn right we should, even if we do seem to be doing our best to toss that opportunity away with defeats like today’s at Stoke. Missing out on the tournament is lauded by some because it’s a distraction, but I tell you what. You wouldn’t half regret not having all those midweek games to look forward to.

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