The Europa League Effect – Is It Real?


After Tottenham lost to Newcastle this weekend, and fans immediately blamed the Europa League, it got me thinking – is what some call ‘The Europa Effect’ a real thing? Well, to look into it, I thought it best to see how the 48 teams have faired in their leagues the game after each of their three group games so far. Some interesting results:

+ 25% of the 48 teams have won 100% of games directly after their group games.
+ 40% of teams are unbeaten in games played after the 3 group games so far (19 Teams).
+ Only 6% of teams have failed to get a point, with 17% failing to win in 3 games.
+ 60% of teams have taken at least 6 points from 9 in their league games after Europa commitments.

If you take away 2 teams (1 during the 21st fixtures, and 1 during the last set who did not have a game the weekend after) Then in 142 games – there have been 81 wins, 22 draws and 39 losses – a 57% win ratio.

That may look like the managers and fans complaining are being whimps – but I looked at it from a different view. Only 5 of the 19 teams unbeaten play in the top 7 leagues (England, Germany, Holland, Spain, France, Holland and Italy). These leagues are the most competitive – and if you look at those unbeaten, they include teams like Sparta Prague, Club Brugge, PAOK, Dinamo Zagreb and Copenhagen – leagues that do not have nearly as much quality, and are dominated by just a few.

Of those who had just won 1 game or less, 9 of the 19 were in the top 7 leagues – which goes to supporting the view that in the harder leagues, it does have an effect. When you look at those who did not win a game, or even gain a point in some cases, 63% of those 8 are in the top 7 leagues (Torino, M’gladbach, Lille, Guingamp and Estoril).

So – although the stats above made it seem like there is no underlying issue, delve deeper and you find that those in more competitive leagues do suffer. Those in less competitive leagues have no problem – where the quality of opposition is like having Premier League teams play Championship teams most weeks, if not worse.

Premier League Issues with Europa League

The teams who complain most about the competition are Premier League teams from England. European football is all well and good, but since 2009, when the group phase was introduced, 8 have not made it into Europe the following season. Wigan and Birmingham were relegated, Newcastle and Everton were not far off that, and the likes of Fulham were 12th. Liverpool, Tottenham are two of three to re-enter the next season, with Man City the only one to have made it into the Champions League the following year.

66% of sides do not re-enter Europe, then. Mauro Pochettino and Alan Pardew both heavily criticised the competiton in recent years, especially because during those games their players have been injured (like Ben Arfa, pictured above) – and it severely affected their league positions. With Champions League teams dropping down after the group stage, it does raise issues with the fairness – why work hard all season to qualify, make it through the group stage just to be given a team who have failed in their main competition?

Unfair and Pointless

When Newcastle and Tottenham made the Quarter Finals in the 11/12 season, they had Benfica, Basel and Chelsea (and more) in their way. Several dropouts from the CL have won the EL. It needs to be independent to gain any credibility. Some say it is there for sides who have fallen by the wayside in recent times, to give them a European tournament to keep them happy – I beg to differ. Look at a small selection of teams in the competition this season:

Sparta Prague, Napoli, Inter Milan, Fiorentina, Tottenham, Everton, Wolfsburg, Sevilla, PSV, Celtic…for example.

It also gives newer teams, ones who have succeeded in domestic cups, or been bumped down by teams who spend treble their budget, like Astra, Steaua Bucharest, Lokeren, Minsk, Qarabagh, Estoril, Rijeka or even Torino!

If organised well, it could be a brilliant competition, with the only connection between this and the Champions League being that the winner gets a place in the latter the following season. If you finish 3rd in the Champions League Group phase, thats it – you are out!

In conclusion – for the bigger teams, it does have an adverse affect. For the big teams in small leagues, it does not. One way teams are getting around it is using younger, fringe players. Tottenham have used the likes of Nabil Bentaleb, Harry Kane and Ryan Mason in recent times, and it has brought them on a level, and now all three regularly play Premier League football (or at least make the matchday squad, rather than go out on loan to Torquay…)

Like it says above, if restructred, it could be a great competition, but as it stands, it is problematic to 40-50% of teams aiming for Champions League football – they would rather finish 7th or 8th and not get into it than 5th, failing to qualify for the Champions League on the final day of the season – and that speaks volumes! Take note, Michel Platini!

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