Europa League helps to attract players to Spurs, says Christian Eriksen
A Europa League spot would help to lure Tottenham’s transfer targets to White Hart Lane this summer, according to Christian Eriksen, who says it was a factor in his decision to sign for Spurs in 2013.
The debate about the merits of the continental competition is a familiar one at Tottenham, who once again find themselves playing solely to qualify for a tournament they may not want to be in.
Mauricio Pochettino was unusually frank about the drawbacks of the Europa League in his press conference on Thursday, stating it is “very difficult to manage the Europa League with the Premier League and both cups” and suggesting the only benefit is “because it is good for the financial side of the club”.
Eriksen agrees the tournament undermines a top-four challenge, and concedes his boss faces an unenviable task when it comes to managing his resources to keep Spurs competing strongly in England’s top flight and abroad.
However, the former Ajax man says he would have thought twice about joining Tottenham if they had missed out on a European spot two years ago.
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“I’d rather play in Europe than nothing,” said the Danish midfielder. “Of course there are many games but if you have a big squad like we have I think it shouldn’t be a disappointment to play in Europe. A lot of players want to be in Europe.
“Is it a factor when it comes to signing players? I think so, it would be for me personally. I don’t know if it is for anybody else but I think so. Of course that will probably help the team and the club as well [if we qualify].
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“I always wanted to play in Europe, to be seen there or in the Premier League, so it was a big chance and for me it was a good thing.
“Does it help you to finish in the top four if you’re not in Europe? Yes of course it does. I heard we’re one of the teams that has played the most games. But you only get better from playing so I don’t see an issue in playing. At the beginning of the year we can probably count that but later in the year we hope we’ll go to win it.”
The Europa League has greater value these days now the winners are rewarded with a place in the Champions League, offering Spurs a second route to their primary goal.
However, they have slipped further and further away from the final in recent years. Andre Villas-Boas’ side were a penalty shoot-out away from the final four in 2013, but the Lilywhites bowed out in the last 16 under Tim Sherwood in 2014 and Pochettino’s outfit exited in the last 32 this term.
“Given what we have shown and what we are capable of, I think we should do better in Europe,” said Eriksen. “But, again, we have to be focused on the league as well and there are so many games so probably not everyone is playing all the games. Of course it’s a difficult thing, I’m glad I’m not the manager who has to pick the team for those games.”
Tottenham will end the season having played 57 matches in all competitions, which would test any squad, and they have also covered more ground in their Premier League fixtures than any top-flight team apart from Burnley.
Pochettino has rightly been credited for installing such a work ethic but, as Eriksen points out, such an effort can be a double-edged sword, taking its toll over the course of the campaign and probably helping to explain why the season has petered out so early.
“It’s a plus and it’s a minus,” he said. “If you run a lot you’re maybe running too much, if you run too little it’s maybe too little. It always needs to be a balance and I think we’re trying to find it, so I think we’re going forward.
“It [that balance] is difficult to find. For the manager it’s the first season so first we have to lean what he wants, and he has to learn what we do. There needs to be a balance but I think it’s a good start to run a lot and after we see where to go.”
Having finished sixth with 69 points last season, critics will suggest that Spurs – who are currently sixth again with 58 points – have not made obvious strides forward under Pochettino, but Eriksen believes the Lilywhites are heading in the right direction.
“It’s been a little better than last season - not so many ups and downs,” he said. “Of course we’ve had a few of those but there haven’t been the stupid results, so it’s been a bit better in that way. We’ve been trying to get into the top four and we still have a little chance, but of course we’re just fighting for a European place now.
“We’ve got a really young team so I think it’s a good team to build on and that’s one of the things we’ll do better next season because everyone knows what to do, and the manager’s still here and the players are here and we have something to build on.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs