Everton, Tottenham, Hull City into next year’s Europa League

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Manchester United misses out entirely on European play as Tottenham’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa dumps the Red Devils out of Europa League contention.

Everton joins Spurs as qualifiers through table position in fifth and sixth respectively.

The FA Cup final often decides whether the 7th-place finisher gets to play in the Europa League, but in this case Arsenal have already qualified for the Champions League, so the runners-up get the place automatically. Those runners-up are Hull City, so Steve Bruce will have to navigate the depths of the Europa League next year.

MORE: Final Premier League standings

The fixture congestion coming from Europa League play is always a concern for mid-table clubs, and Bruce addressed the issue, adding that the draw of European play will bring players to the club.

“There’s a huge complication with Europe,” said Bruce. “However, let’s not derail it before we get into it. When the draw comes out in mid-July then to see our name in amongst it is fantastic. That’s when it will grab hold of people. Big clubs with huge traditions and histories. To be part of it is great.”

European play can be fatal for teams that aren’t equipped to cope with yet another competition, and Bruce will have to weigh an improbable run to the Europa League later stages with securing Premier League safety for yet another year.

It can be done, as Fulham showed a number of years ago with their incredible run to the competition’s final, just losing in extra time.

Tottenham, meanwhile, are no newcomers to the rigors of the competition, having played in the tournament for the last few years.  They fell to Benfica in the Round of 16 this past season, a decent run having beaten clubs like Dnipro and Anzhi.

Spurs manager Tim Sherwood insisted the competition was coveted by the club, saying,

“I think that is hugely important for a club like Tottenham,” Sherwood told Sky Sports. “Everyone aspires to be in the Champions League, but we know how difficult it is to actually achieve that. We’ve got a big squad of players and when they’re all fit… they need a games programme and I think the Europa League gives them opportunities to play games, keep themselves mentally prepared and physically ready.”

For Everton, they will be upset at missing out on a chance at the Champions League, which would have been a big boost to the club.

However, Roberto Martinez will no doubt relish his chance in the competition, making the playoff round through their 5th place finish.

The draw of European play will be most benficial to the Toffees, who have the most holes to fill following the expiry of a number of important loan deals. Europa League play along with the promise of a fight towards Champions League qualification would go a long way in convincing players like Romelu Lukaku to stick around.

The double-edged sword of European play rolls on, but ultimately the achievement is a mark of a successful season for these three clubs.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.