To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of shipping 10 to Bayern,
Or take arms against Qarabag away.
When Luuk De Jong, a man who couldn’t cut it during his loan spell at the Toon due to competition from Yoan Gouffran, a swarm of Ameobis, and Loic Remy (who to be fair was still decent back then) flicked in a late goal in Eindhoven on Wednesday night, many’s a Tottenham heart broke. Failure to secure three points means that, despite Inter’s loss to Barcelona, the prospects of progressing beyond the group stage this year look, to be optimistic, fairly bleak.
But why does it matter?
Were Tottenham going to win the Champions League this year? No. People may say it’s a travesty that Harry Winks is not yet dining at the top table of European football but his time will come. The reality of the situation is that, on a European front, Tottenham’s season from as far back as August could safely have been predicted as taking one of two paths, irrespective of the would-be transfer coup of Jack Graelish and, honestly, it didn’t really matter that they were once again drawn into a horrendous group. There just isn’t that much Red Star Belgrade to go around.
I – Beat Van Bommel’s cynical mob of cloggers home and away, get something at San Siro and beat Inter at home*, at Wembley, or in some form of 3G pitch in a shed Poch’s mate Dave runs. Accept being outplayed by Barca: don’t question it, don’t get too worked up about it. This scenario sees Spurs cruise through the Group Stage and into what is hopefully a favorable knockout draw. Following this however, even the most glass half full sort of supporter would likely admit that the chances of advancing beyond the Quarter Final stage is fairly slim. It’s not solely a question of quality either. The emphasis that can be placed on European ‘experience’ and ‘know how’ is depressing to no end. Just look at the Inter Milan team the artist formerly known as Jose Mourinho won the thing with in 2010 – Sulley Muntari played. So you make it a round or two past the Group Stage and then quietly exit at the hands of Monaco, Sevilla etc. in a thoroughly underwhelming affair and that’s you for another year, looking forward to repeating the whole process again.
II – The scenario Tottenham currently find themselves in, to fans’ dismay, but is it really that bad? A series of dismal performances spliced with some wretched luck and dubious officiating means you crash out of the Group Stage and enter the weird and wonderful wilderness of Europa League football. Here you can find clubs ranging from FC Cluj (I assume) to Arsenal. Its a bizarre concoction of Postmen, part-time teachers, and fish-eyed Germans earning £300,000 plus per week. For those who might think elite-level clubs do not value the competition, it was more or less the sole reason Emery landed the PSG role. That being said, the whole thing, from its coverage, to the pundits it attracts, just feels a bit……cheap. Where the Champions League has Tony Britten’s masterpiece, based upon a Handel classic, the Europa League may well sound the horn of Gondor. The fact remains however, Tottenham (and for that matter Arsenal), have no realistic chances of competing at the business end of the Champions League. The Europa League however offers a genuine opportunity for a European trophy, as the team from Woolwich came so close to last year.