Europa League football. All the accomplishment of getting some bunga bunga with an eight out of 10 combined with all the eventual disappointment of finding out you’ve now got chlamydia for your troubles.
There’s lots of reasons not to like the Europa League – the feeling it’s a similar to the Champions League, just with about 2% of the money; the fact it tends to involve a lot of travel to countries that only seemed to pop up last year; the sense you’ve already used up your enthusiasm for second-rate competitions for last season’s League Cup.
One of the more popular grumbles is how it requires you to play on Thursday and then on Sunday, therefore disrupting the natural Wednesday/Saturday order of things. Although playing Thursday and Sunday provides the same recovery period as the Wednesday-Saturday schedule, it’s just a colossal pain in the arse. Not just for players. The fact that any celebrations/drowning of sorrows will be hindered by the pesky stalker that is Monday morning often leads to crowds being rather more subdued than we’ve come to expect from all Sky Sports ads.
But is it actually a complaint that stacks up? The Paddy Power Blog has looked back over the last three seasons to contrast how teams playing in the Europa League on Thursday fare in their domestic matches on the following Sunday.
In general, the data does seem to back up that theory – but not by as big a margin and by no means as conclusively as you might expect from the near constant grumbles about.
In the 12 Europa League campaigns played by Premier League/Championship clubs over the last three seasons, we see that five of them ended up with better win rates on the Sunday after playing on Thursday, six of them didn’t and one was bang in the middle.
Teams clearly can do perfectly well on a Sunday after playing on Thursday, It’s just often they don’t and that’s what gets remembered. Even when the win rate drops below the season average, it’s often not by a dramatically different figure. The truth might just be that players, managers and fans use the Europa League’s scheduling as an excuse and your team really is bad enough to get hosed by Sunderland.
One important caveat comes in the form of the difficulty in incorporating the standard of opponent faced on the aforementioned Sunday. Certainly last season Spurs seemed to get the faeces covered portion of the stick, facing two north London derbies (both lost) and Manchester United and Liverpool (drew 2-2 and lost 5-0 respectively). That’s on top of the generally tricky games you get in the Premier League.
Any Cribbing Sunday
How it will impact Sunday’s football is unclear, but there are some inklings of a trend. Certainly the last time Everton had to endure the irritation of the Thursday-Sunday schedule, they didn’t fare well. While over the course of the three seasons they had a win rate of nearly 48%, their win rate on the Sunday after playing on Thursday dipped to 23.5%. Although United are far from convincing and an in-form Everton could cause them huge problems, an over 6,000km round-trip to southern Russia may blunt the Toffees’ threat.
Things are less clear when it comes to Spurs. They are hardened Europa League veterans at this stage and the schedule should be second nature to them. Accordingly, they’ve done alright with the Sunday after Thursday arrangement. In 2011-12 they had a win rate of 83% on Sunday versus a general 49% for the season while in 2012-13, they were neither better or worse – amassing a 50% win rate in both situations. If they struggle at home to Southampton, it’ll be down to the fact the Saints are playing well and they’re struggling generally rather than their European commitments.
If the patterns continue, it points towards Everton not being at their best at Old Trafford and Spurs just about being ok at home to Southampton. It’s far from nailed on, but if the trends continue, Eur’ in with a decent chance of a tasty double.