Liverpool: Is playing in Europe an honour or a chore?
Stating “It won't be the end of the world if we don't qualify for Europe. If it doesn't happen, then it could end up being a blessing for us.” Further rationalising that “a season free of European football would give us a greater chance of finishing in a much higher position in the league.”
Perhaps a cynic would suggest that this new belief is simply distorting the perspective of finishing seventh to imply it is ‘beneficial’. And prompting some to hope a quote won’t emerge next year that finishing 16th is a good idea as well!
After all, for much of the season Rodgers has spoken about Liverpool's top four aspirations. Then the goal became the top five. And finally, with both firmly out of reach, the manager now conveniently believes missing out on Europe entirely might be for the best.
The recent claims of the manager may be suspect, but it is worth exploring the merits of both the benefits and detriments of making or missing the Europa league - with the two differing arguments containing compelling elements.
Competing in the Europa league is tremendous
Leading all English clubs with five European Cups, Liverpool prides itself on continental excellence – regularly reminding United of such accomplishments. So considering the extent to which the Merseyside club values these triumphs, it could be said that it is dangerous for the manager to have such a nonchalance towards playing in Europe.
When introduced as manager of Liverpool, Rodgers claimed to be aware and inspired of the club’s past, so he must then surely be privilege to knowing the Kop thrives on European nights.
In addition to the pure desire to compete, or even win a European competition, there is still the income generated by participating. Perhaps not the alluring riches of the feature competition, but Thursday nights still raise capital.
And Liverpool are certainly a club in need of every note to help recruitment, but more so, the club needs an incentive to attract quality players. It is wholly evident that the international prestige and reputation of the Reds is on the wane. Recent transfer battles have been lost out to domestic rivals able to attract players with a promise of European football.
Lastly, a season without Europa League fixtures does not guarantee a spot in the top four. And it even seems reasonable that a squad unable to sustain a challenge for the top four domestically due to midweek fixtures would just go on to be a complete disaster in the Champions League.
The exposure and the finance may not be comparable to the Champions League but the Europa League trophy still looks the same as it did 40 years ago and the celebrations would be just as joyous if Liverpool were to ever win it again.
Competing in the Europa league is just dreadful
The best example of a small squad trying to compete both domestically and in the Europa League is Newcastle; and the Magpies season has been a disaster, dropping from fifth in the table last season to now 13th. The extra fixtures have simply shattered Newcastle’s form this season; having lost seven of the 13 games that have followed those pesky Thursday night fixtures.
Meanwhile, the antithesis of this circumstance can be found in Liverpool’s record since exiting the Europa League. With a similarly small squad as the Geordies, the Reds could not cope with the fixture pile up; but since their elimination from the tournament, Liverpool have been in top four form. Indeed it is hard to believe, but since November 24th, Liverpool have accumulated more points than Chelsea and Arsenal.
Even disregarding the hindrance of a small squad, clubs that depend on a talisman to carry them (the definition of Liverpool and Spurs) experience another risk: injuries. Spurs may now miss out on a spot in the lucrative Champions League due to an unfortunate injury Gareth Bale suffered while playing in the quarter-finals against Basel. Potentially losing tens of millions of pounds with one turned ankle.
So has Rodgers convinced you that missing out on the Europa League is beneficial?
The Europa League may not have captured the imagination and it certainly does not come close to the Champions League in terms of prestige and rewards, but it still does provide meaningful incentive for its competitors. There may be a better chance of qualifying for the Champions League without Thursday night matches. Yet given the choice, isn’t the chance to compete and possibly win in Europe worth the domestic hazards?
Regardless of the rest of the campaign and the clever posturing for ‘better circumstances’ for next season, Liverpool and Rodgers need to repeat the positive recruitment of January come the summer. For another season finishing seventh and without silverware will not be accepted.
Calling all Liverpool fans: Where do you stand on this subject? Would playing in Europe be a privilege or a chore? Are you totally convinced by Brendan Rodgers' methods or do you think he is out of his depth? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.