Monday, May 04, 2009

European qualification

There was a recent comment left over at tldorc which threw up the suggestion that failing to secure seventh position this season (therefore not qualifying for next seasons Europa League) may actually be in our favour.

So much of recent focus - ie, since the defeat to Hamburg - has been about trying to make a late run to get back into Europe that there hasn't been much analysis on exactly what effect participation in this seasons UEFA Cup has had on our league fortunes.

Whilst most would consider European qualification of any sort a success from a season, for ADUG this will clearly not be enough to satisfy their ambitions. The revamped Europa League is not what they had in mind when they took over, the promised land (and cash) of the Champions League is of course the aim that must be achieved.

It is easy to forget at this juncture quite how early our season began way back in the Faroe Islands, and it is testament perhaps to the training methods of Mark Hughes and his staff that we do still look relatively fresh at this stage, and able to still challenge for that final qualifying position.

Looking at Aston Villa, they had a great opportunity for Champions League qualification this season, but - coupled with a fantastic run by Arsenal - simply ran out of steam, no doubt in part because of the diversion of the UEFA Cup, and they may not get another chance like the one they have had this season.

Now I don't believe that the UEFA Cup campaign has been the ruin of our league season, far from it, but it has to have taken its toll, and rather much has had to do with the changes Hughes has sought to introduce, which haven't all been succesful but the vast majority of which I believe we are beginning to see signs of fruition.

If then, the Champions League is the target, looking ahead now to the 2009/10 season, will we be best served by not qualifying for the Europa League?

Summer signings are now (and will continue to be) speculated about with a feeling that a lack of European football will be a hindrance to our chances of signing certain 'top name' players, but my view is that it is the Champions League that is the attraction and Europa League or not, this will not affect our potential to lure players.

With a more settled squad now, which has had the benefit of at least half a season together, with the long term absentees returning plus any new additions in the summer, we will go into 2009/10 with what is arguably our best ever (certainly that I can remember anyway) squad. With only the league (and domestic cups) to focus on, we could focus everything on making a real run at a Champions League place, which we all know will be such a difficult thing to achieve.

I'm not saying my preference is for us to avoid seventh place, and the UEFA Cup this season has in the main been fantastic to watch. And from the noises coming out of the club the focus is still very much on qualification, but if the bar is now set at a far higher standard, does this include the Europa League?

vote it up!


Anonymous said...

Fulham Fan here:

Oh come on City. Don't give up on Europe; we don't much want it either. We are off to Austrailia for pre season and wouldn't want our trip cut short to play in the quailifing rounds :P

Gary said...

If people don't want to qualify for Europe then there is something wrong, yes the Europa league is not the Champions league but it is a prestigious European competition.

It would also be a very natural step for us, with Europa league football we can attract better players, in turn when and if we get in the CL part of the team will be a good calibre. We can't wait to get in CL and then buy a whole team good enough, it just wouldn't be logical.

It would be stupid to think that the Europa league is beneath us, it is a very important competition and I would be over joyed if we were top qualify.

Falastur said...

A fair point, but two points strike me: 1 - I feel the comments about starting the season early are, of course, true but unfair. If we qualify for Europe, it won't be in the first qualifying round. This would mean that we started somewhere around the start of the Premier League season, and probably more like September, so we wouldn't have to worry about our players having no summer holidays. Also, we'd be skipping several matches that we played last year, so we'd have less problems in general. Point 2 - yes, you're right. An uncongested schedule would be beneficial to the players. Similarly, dropping out of the domestic cups as early as possible could save tired legs. But would this actually help us? Or would it not just make it plainly obvious how unready City are if they ever do reach the CL? I have a feeling that grooming a team on playing as little as possible will simply mean that when the team does have to play games twice a week every week, we will just be embarrassed, repeatedly. And what a stage the CL is to be embarrassed on. Wouldn't it be better to wait another year or two to break into the Big Four and actually be ready for the challenge? We are, after all, City fans. We're used to having patience over accomplishments. What's the rush to become world champions straight away? Far better to build up slowly and be a real threat when we get there.

adam said...

Agreed with Gary here. Even though it's not the champs league is experence towards the champs league and to hold up the trophey would be a good start.

Wigan Blue said...

As with the lottery, you've got to be in it to win it. The argument that it's better to be out of the cup(s) so that you can concentrate on the league is only ever put forward by teams that have just been knocked out of one of the cups. Our own performances in the cups this season demonstrated only that despite having a large squad on paper, we really don't have strength in depth. The return of some of our long-term injured will certainly ease that situation, and judicious buying in summer will reinforce it.

Two first class contenders for each position has to be the minimum for any serious challenge in the league. And with that number of really good players needing first team football, the need to give them something to get their teeth into makes serious challenges for all the cup competitions a necessity rather than an option.

Apart from anything else, we can't go on like this. We need to win something!

Anonymous said...

As someone else has alluded but not actually drawn the right conclusion, don't forget Brighton and Forest knocked out of two domestic competitions fat earlier than we should heave expected. That in itself accounts for the games in the UEFA cup. Anyway this is a ten year project not eighteen months. Good thought provoking article though.

DunstableBlue said...

To me, one of the most frustrating things about the EUFA Cup/Europa League is the fact that all the games are played on a Thursday, which then means that all EPL games are played on a Sunday; I really dislike waiting through all those Saturday afternoons, listening to all the results, not being interested in MotD, just waiting for our games.

The other side of this is that the TV companies do not appear to take into account that there will be games that we HAVE to play on a Sunday, and they choose another game for Sunday viewing that could have been on a Saturday!!!