30 Aug 2011

Why Liverpool FC may suffer as a result of being out of Europe this season

Guest writer David Bolt argues that failure to qualify for this season's Europa League could actually be a negative rather than a positive for Liverpool this season.

Last season, Liverpool failed to qualify for Europe for the first time in 12 years. The response from the majority of fans was an overwhelming ‘meh', with many fans actually pleased not to be involved in the competition. I wasn’t one of those fans - I think that not being in the Europa League this season may hurt us a bit more than most fans think.

Jamie Carragher was one of those who was indifferent to Liverpool being in the Europa League. He said:

“The main thing for us next season is getting back into the Champions League. Not being in Europe will give us a better chance of doing that. We want to get back in the top four and do well in the cups. Playing Thursdays and Sundays isn’t ideal.”

Harry Redknapp stated something along similar lines, saying:

“The Europa League takes an even bigger toll [on league form] than the Champions League. Playing on Thursdays and Sundays every week, it’s not ideal. It’s one of those competitions that teams get into and then they try to get out of. You look at the English teams, and they all seem to have played reserve teams.”

I completely disagree. Okay, the Europa League isn’t nearly as prestigious as the Champions League, there’s no point pretending otherwise, but that doesn’t mean it has no merit. Liverpool are renowned for winning trophies, and has 3 UEFA Cup/ Europa League wins on its honours list. Would those fans who believe the Europa League is worthless like to see those removed?

I think it’s a shame that the club hasn’t got the chance to add another European trophy to the cabinet. I also disagree with Carra that being in the Europa league would have jeopardised our chances of making the top 4. Manchester City competed in the Europa League last season and managed both a cup win and a 3rd place finish in the league. I see no reason why Liverpool wouldn’t be able to do something similar, especially with the improvements made to the squad this summer and the positive start to the season.

I don’t accept the notion that the Europa League is a competition for lesser teams. There are plenty of good teams providing tough opposition. Look at the winners over the last ten years: Feyenoord, Porto (twice), Valencia, Sevilla (twice), CSKA Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg, Shakhtar Donetsk and Atletico Madrid. None of those teams would look out of place in the knockout stages of the Champions League, and all have been consistently strong in their domestic leagues (except Feyenoord, but they’re historically one of the Netherlands’ best teams).

As for being a competition solely for reserve players, look at the starting XI for the FC Braga game that put Liverpool out of the competition: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Wilson (the only fit left sided defender at the time), Meireles, Maxi, Cole, Lucas, Kuyt and Carroll. Hardly a reserve team is it?

Instead of being solely reserves, Liverpool’s teams in last season’s Europa League were a mix of first-teamers, squad players and some youth, and that’s the right way to go. Liverpool have reaped the benefits of blooding young players like Martin Kelly, Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey in the competition, meaning that when those players were needed in the league, they were ready.

By not playing in the Europa League this season, Liverpool will be limited in the opportunities they can give to some of the up-and-coming young players to try and gauge whether or not they are ready or good enough to play in the Premier League, which may hinder their development.

Of course, for all of his managerial experience and know-how, Kenny Dalglish doesn’t have much experience of managing in Europe. His experience of managing Liverpool in Europe runs to the 4 dismal games against Sparta Prague and Braga in last season’s Europa League. Other than that, he managed Blackburn in the UEFA Cup, getting knocked out first round against Swedish side Trelleborgs, and later managed Newcastle in the Champions League where they beat Barcelona but got knocked out in the group stages, and that’s it.

Whilst I have every confidence that Dalglish can take us a long way in the Champions League, I think it would’ve been invaluable for him to have gained more experience of managing in Europe against a variety of different tactic before entering into Europe’s premier competition next season.

Of course, there are also financial consequences to not qualifying for Europe. Last season, Liverpool made €6,131,224 from their Europa League run. Okay, that’s a drop in the ocean compared to the riches that teams playing in the Champions League get, but it’s still an amount of money that, when gate receipts and other matchday incomes are included, could be used to bring one more player into the squad. Also, with the Financial Fair Play regulations coming into play soon, any potential revenue stream should not to be dismissed lightly.

It’s saddening that so many fans think that the Europa League is beneath our club. It is not. I believe that there were many potential benefits and learning experiences that could have been gained from Europa League participation, which would have been valuable for the club as we look towards mounting a serious challenge in the Champions League next season.

David Bolt


  1. In the medium to long term not being in European football this season will stand the club in good stead for the futuire.

  2. You're a funny bugger, hey?

  3. Felderkirk - I've read some of your comments on other sites - if you're interested in writing something for this site then I'd love to have you on board. What do you think? 

  4. It's such a shame that KD never got to manage in Europe during his first managerial spell at Liverpool, which coincided with  the club's Heysel Euro ban. I have no doubt that the club would've won the European cup at least once, and it would've been great to see the likes of Barnes, Beardsley and Aldo playing against Van basten and Gullit.

    I agree that the EL is a good place for blooding youngsters but the Carling Cup could possibly fill that role this year; then again, the quality of opposition could be lower the real benefit may be negligible.

  5. I think the main point Jamie is that for 'this season' LFC will be able to put everything into getting us back in the CL. Yes, you have a point about finances, player experience etc but with FSG one season will not break the bank and the players will all get a run out in domestic competitions. Still waiting for you to apologise to Suarez for accusing him of diving the other day too...

  6. Hi Jaimie, I'd be honoured mate! Thanks!

    I have my own opinions about this article and I respect that David has written a well-argued debate in favour of the Europa League, but I unfortunately don't have the time today to write much more than the rather pithy one-liner above.

    Suffice to say, I respect David's opinion on this subject, but I disagree. I could possibly dismiss a lot of what he's argued for by saying that the Europa League, whilst being an unconscionably boring, drawn-out and poorly-run competition, offers little by way of financial benefit and it merely serves to drain the club's playing resources. To rebut his above argument that it acts as a breeding ground for younger players: that might be true - but then how far would we go in the competition with this approach? 

    Basically, by playing a majority of first-teamers, we'd gamble on fitness and lose focus on our main goal. Whereas playing younger players and succeeding would seem to belittle the competition David considers 'competitive'; while playing younger players and LOSING would merely pose the question of why we bothered competing in it in the first place.

    As has been stated in myriad sites and forums, the rewards for competing in the guts of 20 Europa League games don't warrant the efforts, the travel expenses or the strain on resources.

  7. Great! When you want to submit an article (about anything you like), just email me: editor@liverpool-kop.com

  8. I know this is slightly off topic but the Europa league is not the same competition that the old UEFA cup (and even aguably the old CWC Cup) used to be. It has too many games where the results have reduced impact (during the group stages) and is divalued by the fact that 'losers' from the CL Group stages get to enter the knock out stages. It is a good place to give youngsters and fringe players match time and experience.

    I personally don't mind missing out on the competition this year - I'd much rather win the FA Cup anyday!

  9. UEFA Cup Winners

    1972-73, 1975-76, 2000-01

  10. Will do! Thanks Jaimie!

  11. It's all idle excuses as far as I'm concerned - the Europa League apparently stops teams from challenging for top 4 places, but playing in the Champions League doesn't cause same issue? This despite the fact that teams will typically only start to play anything approaching full strength teams in the Europa League once the group stages have been concluded (the group stages are barely anything more than a glorified League Cup but with the added benefit of a safety net!).

    And Harry Redknapp is a muppet - he has a club with big ambitions (supposedly) but a small global profile (relatively), and yet he has the audacity to deride the Europa League as if he's above it (how many European trophies has he even competed for, much less won in his career btw!?). I'd be so pi55ed at his attitude if I was a Spurs fan. As I'm not though, I can just look and laugh at his ignorance.

  12. A fair argument for pushing the dubious merits of the Europa Cup but one with which I disagree.

    As has been highlighted already, this is a bloated, low-income, low-profile competition that only becomes interesting to clubs around about the quarter-final/semi-final stage when they can smell a trophy in the offing.

    The downsides of the EC (to Liverpool F.C.) are, I would think :-

    1. Too great a disparity in revenue compared to the CL.

    2. Played on a Thursday, therefore ensuring most League games are played on a Sunday, means you're playing catch-up to the top teams who may have drawn ahead of you by winning on a Saturday, thereby putting added pressure on you to win. And yes I know we probably feature on more Sky Sunday/Monday games than most but you don't need added delays to so many other fixtures.

    3. Apart from Spurs, if you consider the 'quality' of the English qualifiers this season in Stoke, Birmingham and Fulham (one a mid-table, FA Cup Final loser, one relegated and one mid-table outfit who only got in via the Fair Play rule) this hardly excites the pulses if this is reflected throughout the other nation's representatives.

    4. The Competition starts sometime in July so you could find yourself playing about 4 competitive games almost before the League season has even started - as happened to us last season.

    5. As a supporter, do you really want to shell out 40 quid or so for a ticket, plus parking, programme and pie etc, to see the likes of FC Vorskla Poltava from the Ukraine or worse still, travel to the outskirts of Georgia to see us play the mighty FC Zestafoni ?

    6. Going by last season's experience they would have every chance of having to play in one or more meaningless games in the Group Stages having already comfortably won it.

    No, I appreciate the arguments of giving fringe players and kids an outing, but we managed to do this anyway when we were regularly winning trophies to boot.

  13. i agree with Felderkirk. i read somewhere that in order to make monetary gain, one has to reach quarter-finalish of europa. don't remember what was the source and never investigate it but given the much lower prize money and further travels to majority of eastern european countries, the time and money is not worth it. Travelling equals to less recovery time too, which causes fitness problems. Even with 5 champions league under our belt, if we're not good enough for champions league, don't expect us to waltz through europa and if we're really not good enough, the group stage of europa is one energy sapping mofo, unlike the knock-out nature of UEFA cup.

    would love to see the youngsters getting more game time and kenny for more european experience too but i personally have a dilemma. if the kids are not up to par and lost a match, the radicals and media would jump on kenny for excessive rotation, disrespecting opponents, shooting ourselves in the foot etc....unnecessary negative distraction. we are still a club in transition and stability is number 1 priority.

  14. We finished 5th last season and didn't qualify for the competition so regardless what anybody thinks it doesnt matter,so why bother debating the ifs n buts,also I think blooding youngsters is much better against British teams that fight in carling and fa cup unlike a lot of the negative defensive drivel that's often served up with the lesser European teams.