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.
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.