The Europa League is often touted as a meaningless competition which is a far cry from the bright lights of the Champions League. It has been stated that it ruins league form and prohibits teams from making a real run in domestic cup competitions. But is this really true? Using statistics from last year’s English entrants, Manchester City and Liverpool, as well as Fulham’s from two seasons ago, I’ll compare form in the league following Europa League outings.
This chart shows us what we would have expected with City and Fulham, but it’s strange in the way that Liverpool were far more efficient. However when you factor in league games four days after Europa, they drop in points per game significantly. Strange to say the least. We can certainly read into this a little bit more, though, based on individual performances. Bobby Zamora enjoyed his most effective goal-scoring season in a Fulham shirt, with 8 Premier League goals in 27 appearances and 8 Europa League Goals in 17 Appearances. Damien Duff and Danny Murphy, each with 7 goals total, also enjoyed their best season for us.
This season, the schedule has set up OK for us. Our three away Europa group games are in Denmark, Poland and Holland. Travel isn’t too bad when compared to that of Spurs; they’ll head to Israel and Ukraine, once just before we meet them at the Cottage. The six home games will also be fantastic. Should help our lads recover quickly. The trickiest stretches will be this weekend, as we have our League Cup match with our good friends at the Bridge, and just after our final Europa match as we head into the Christmas period.
Essentially, I don’t think the Europa League is a bad thing, no matter how poor in comparison to the Champions League. I think it will help Bryan Ruiz get his feet under him with the pace/style, as well as the motivation of seeing his old team in the form of Twente on two occasions. I do see us getting through to the knockout rounds, though I’m not sure we’ll top the group, as it will certainly be competitive. My only fear is that the added matches could add to the pressure already building, following our less than impressive start.