Friday, 7 May 2010

Europa League

This has been true for a while, but it feels good to say it now: we have qualified for European football for next season, for the first time on merit since 1977/78. We were in it in 2003/04 and 2008/09 but only due to fair play qualification. Which is nice but does feel rather cheap.

Given that we are guaranteed fifth or sixth place in the Premier League, we will be entering in the play-off round. This means a draw on 6 August and ties on Thursdays 19 and 26 August, and hence our early Premier League fixtures being shifted back to Sundays 22 and 29.

Should we scrape through the play-off we have a group stage that starts in September and ends in December.

The glamour, the prestige, the opened door of Champions League football will be a felt absence at first. But being in the Europa League isn't all bad. For a start it's easier to win than the Champions League. If competing in it increases our chance of ending the trophy drought then that's a good thing. (The obvious counterpoint here is that being in the Champions League would allow us to buy better players and therefore increase our chances of winning any of the domestic trophies.) Looking at this year's field I think we could beat any of the teams in it (possible exception of Benfica), and while of course a long cup campaign is a distinct skill we have got to be among the early favourites.

Then there's the fact that it allows for a more careful pace of change than Champions League football would have done. Had we made fourth it is well known that huge bids would have been made for the world's top players. We wouldn't have signed all of them or even half, but it is a fair prediction that four or five genuinely top bracket players would have arrived. Now we can do things a bit slower, address felt needs, induce more cohesion and coherence within the squad. It's clearly going to be the Jérôme Boateng plan rather than the Fernando Torres plan, which could be in the club's long term interests. As Mancini said - you start with the foundations, not the roof.

So this doesn't mean that next season won't be fun.


Anonymous said...

You could tell that to Portsmouth FC who won the FA Cup not so long ago, I think you have bought into the 'you cannot do it without superstars' theory which is total codswallop.

We dont need Champions League to get us to the top, we need Star players who are willing to sweat for glory and not a half-arsed Kaka or godshite Buffon.

Take a step back my friend and really think about everything, afterall we are City fans.

thomas said...

hear hear!