The Europa League has been both a blessing and a curse so far this season.
It’s well documented that it can have an impact on the season, not just in terms of tiredness but also league schedule. Like today for example, we are playing on a Sunday again after being in action just two days previously.
Fortunately it hasn’t been a real issue for us, yet, as Alan Pardew has managed to use the competition to give players who, with the greatest of respect, probably wouldn’t get much of a look in during a regular Premier League season. However this is where the problem kicks in, as some player shave shown a real spark in Europe which means that they should, in theory anyway, be knocking on the first team door for our Premier League games.
Like Gabriel Obertan for example. It’s like watching two different players. Domestically we see a player who regularly frustrates with his lack of any real contribution, but in Europe we see a player who knows when and where to use his pace to beat a man and, as we saw on Thursday, knows how to strike a ball.
Shane Ferguson is another. I’ve always rated the lad and he’s rarely disappointed when he’s been called upon in any competition, but by being given more chances in Europe he is also showing that he can contribute on a consistent basis and can offer the team and extra dimension with his crossing (some of which is superb by the way) if he is drafted into the first team for any Premier League match.
How about Samy Ameobi, who showed some neat play on Thursday? Or Gael Bigirimana, who continues to impress whenever he is called upon, whether it be in the Premier League, Europa League or cup competitions?
The question I’m asking is whether any of them have done enough to feel aggrieved if they get left out today? We know we are likely to revert to our “strongest” side today and that most of our senior players will return to action for the visit of West Brom, but are there any players that have played themselves into contention for a place on the pitch today?
Over to you on that one…