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We analyse why missing the 'Top Four' can have huge knock on effects

SoccerBy Sunday World
Manuel Pellegrini will be desperate to keep his side in the Top Four
Manuel Pellegrini will be desperate to keep his side in the Top Four

Failure to finish in the Top Four could have a real knock-on effect as our statistics below prove.

As it stands, City are in danger, albeit against the odds, of being leapfrogged by Southampton or Liverpool in the race for Champions League football. Spurs are also tentatively in the race. One of those clubs will join Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United as England’s representatives in the Champions League next year, while two of them will enter the Europa League. One of them will be more fortunate than the other two who finish fifth and sixth — they’ll finish seventh and won’t qualify for European football at all.

Why’s that lucky?

The truth is, qualifying for the Europa League has proven to have damning effects on domestic consistency in England. You are much less likely to advance as a club if you play in the Thursday night European competition.

Since the Europa League adopted its current format back in 2009:

• 6.5% of teams who qualify for the Europa League have managed to qualify for the Champions League the following season

• 26.5% of teams who qualify for the Europa League manage to qualify for the same tournament the following season

• 67% of teams who qualify for the Europa League don’t qualify for any European competition the following season
 
It seems that if you are a club wishing to advance up the table, then finishing seventh is the fifth best position to be in at the end of the campaign.

The Europa League, in its current guise, is poisonous for English side’s domestic advancement.

The statistics tell us that Manchester City or Liverpool or whoever enters it next season will struggle to contest for a Top Four finish next year. Of the 15 English clubs who’ve competed in the Europa since it changed to its current format, 10 have failed to qualify for any European football in that campaign. Basically, 67% of teams competing in the Europe League failed to finish in the Top five or six in the league.

Four teams out of the 15 have renewed their place in the same competition the following year whilst only one — Manchester City in 2011 — managed to qualify for the Champions League while competing in the Europa.

In fact, the average finishing position in the league for an English team competing in the Europa League is slightly over eighth (8.25 to be exact).

And these figures don’t take in to account this season, where Spurs, Everton and Hull City were England’s representatives in the Europa League. Everton are the perfect example of what can happen to club with lofty ambitions. This time last year, pundits were suggesting the Toffees could be Champions League contenders. One year later, after a Europa League-effected campaign, Everton find themselves just about holding off a relegation dogfight.

Of course, the figures can be slightly skewed by the fact that Cup winners can enter the Europa League  — Hull this season being an example of this. Hull couldn’t possibly have ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League, but it must be stated that they are suffering a Europa hangover too as they stare relegation in the face.

Liverpool in particular will be hell-bent on leapfrogging Manchester City as their fans know all too well that the Europa League can be a noose around the neck.
The Reds slipped out of the Top Four in the 2009-10 season having been practically automatic Champions League hopefuls for England in seasons before. They got caught in the Europa League quicksand, finishing sixth (and qualifying for the Europa League again), eighth (and qualifying for the Europa again through a League Cup win) and seventh in the proceeding campaigns. It wasn’t until that latter campaign ensured they didn’t qualify for any European competition at all that they managed to advance last year and qualify for the Champions League with a fantastic campaign.

Manchester United have had a fantastic campaign this year too — void of any European hangovers. If United had have finished 6th last year, and not 7th, things could have been very different in Louis Van Gaal’s debut season.

Of course, there are financial advantages to qualifying for the Europa League with the competition reported to bring in between €13m - €36m depending on how far your club advances.

But the real issue here is the fact that teams who compete in Europe’s secondary tournament find it difficult to maintain a level of consistency in the league the following year.

For the likes of Liverpool or City, missing out this season won’t just effect this season, but next year too.

In fact, as Liverpool know too well, it can have even longer-term implications on the club’s ambitions. Getting caught up in the Europa League quagmire for quite a few seasons is a real possibility.

Simply put, finishing seventh is the fifth best position in the Premier League — especially if you are looking long term. City need to keep an eye over their shoulder.

By David Lyons