After a 3-0 second-leg playoff win over Paços de Ferreira overturned a first-leg deficit and booked Spurs’ place in the group stage of the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League, some pundits and fans alike have questioned if the club should take the new competition seriously.
Following a seventh-place finish, Carabao Cup final loss, and missing out on both the Champions and Europa League last season, it does seem to be a fair question to ask. Should Spurs really try to win a third-tier European competition? Or should they focus more on finishing in the top four to reach the Champions League and attempt another run in a domestic cup?
As a relatively new supporter of Tottenham and a fan of mostly US-based sports teams (that also don’t win often), I’ve put together some reasons I think the club should put forth the effort to win the Conference League trophy.
1. A trophy is a trophy
I think this argument is the easiest one to make. Yes, it’s a third-tier competition in Europe. No, it’s not ending a 60-year league title drought. But it is still a trophy for a club that hasn’t won a trophy in quite some time.
The last trophy Spurs won was the 2008 League Cup against Chelsea. They haven’t won the FA Cup or the FA Community Shield since 1991 (the latter trophy they shared). They haven’t won a European title since the UEFA Cup in 1984, They haven’t won the league since 1961.
So no matter what you think of the Conference League, Spurs are one of the favorites in the tournament without a doubt and a victory in the competition would end a 14-year trophy drought.
2. Use minutes for developing the squad
Although qualifying for the main tournament was a bit more difficult than anticipated, Spurs turned around the second leg and walked out 3-1 winners and now are in the group stages of a European competition for the 15th time in 16 seasons.
Taking on Rennes of Ligue 1, Vitesse of the Eredivisie, and NŠ Mura of Slovenia, Tottenham will be easy favorites to top the group and advance to the knockout rounds. Which should be a perfect opportunity for development and giving minutes to fringe players.
As seen more in the first leg of the qualifying round, Spurs can hand out minutes to academy players (Dane Scarlett, Nile John, J’Neil Bennett), younger, inexperienced players (Joe Rodon, Ryan Sessingon), or fringe, second-team players that need playing time in case of being called on for league or domestic cup matches (Ben Davies, Pierluigi Gollini, Harry Winks.)
Any way you look at it, players that need first-team minutes can get them via this competition, especially in the earlier rounds.
3. Qualify for Europe again
Alright, so this one is the least likely but as a Spurs supporter, you just never quite know what could happen during a season.
Taking all nine points from the opening three matches of the Premier League campaign and sitting top of the table heading into the first international break of the young season, Spurs should be aiming for a top-four, Champions League qualifying finish.
But if things do end up falling apart for one reason or another (injuries, new signings not performing, new manager, and system adaptation) Spurs could end up having a difficult time qualifying for next season’s European competitions.
A win in the Conference League guarantees at least Europa League football for the next campaign – assuming the club doesn’t qualify via its place in the table or a domestic cup – while also giving the club silverware and keeping it out of next season’s Conference League. Sounds like a pretty good option if things don’t go as hoped in domestic competition.
So those are some of the reasons I think Spurs should chase glory in the UEFA Europa Conference League. What do you think? Should the club chase a long-awaited trophy? Should they focus only on top-four and returning to the Champions League?
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