What is it with the Europa League?

Any need for so many changes?
Alan Pardew is the latest in a long line of Premier League managers to reveal the difficulties associated with juggling the respective schedules of the Premier League and Europa League.

In the past, clubs like Aston Villa, Liverpool, and Spurs have effectively forfeited the European campaigns they fought so hard to get into in favour of concentrating on a strong domestic season.

Just last year, Alex Ferguson described dropping into the Europa league as a ‘penalty for not qualifying’ (from the group stage of the champions league), and both his side and their cross city rivals dropped out of the competition before the quarter finals.

While the quality of teams in the competition cannot be compared to the Champions League, the Europa League is invariably heralded as difficult to compete in because of its schedule. Why is this? How can playing matches on a Thursday and Sunday affect a team’s league form so differently to teams competing on a Wednesday and Saturday? Is it just an excuse?

Back in the 2002/03 season, Newcastle played 38 games in the Premier League and 14 in the Champions League. United had a squad of 28 players; however 10 of those made 10 starts or less across all competitions. With this in mind, it is fair to conclude that the first team squad consisted of 18 senior players, with only a handful of appearances spread throughout the reserves.

Of the 18 first teamers, Shay Given made the most appearances, turning out 51 times for the black and whites, including all 38 Premier League games and 12 times in Europe. 32-year-old Alan Shearer made 48 appearances along with Aaron Hughes and Kieron Dyer, while Nol Solano, Jermaine Jenas, Andy Griffin, Laurent Robert and Hugo Viana all made 40 appearances or more. Craig Bellamy, Gary Speed, Andy O’Brien, Shola Ameobi, and Olivier Bernard all took to the field more than 30 times that season.

By my reckoning, that’s a group of 14 core players playing week in week out, twice a week from August through to March, with an additional four (Titus Bramble, Nikos Dabizas, Lomana Lua Lua and Steven Caldwell) making up the 18. United ended the season in 3rd and made it through to the last 16 in Europe. Based on these statistics, the argument of players playing too many games appears somewhat invalid.

Pardew has hinted recently that playing on a Thursday interrupts the training schedule, with the early part of the week (Monday-Wednesday) focussed on preparing a team for the Europa league, leaving only Saturday to prepare for a game in the league (assuming a day’s rest on the Friday). If we had qualified for the Champions League, we would have been training Sunday-Tuesday in preparation for Europe, leaving only Friday to prepare for the league game on Saturday. How would this have been any different?

Perhaps the biggest reason for our inability to reproduce consistent form across both competitions is the nature of the changes Pardew makes from week to week, mainly in personnel. Back in 2002/03, United played the same core personnel twice a week for the vast majority of the season. Why can’t we do the same now? Why can’t Alan Pardew prepare a squad of 14 for both the Europa league and Premier League from week to week, rather than having to prepare two separate squads for two separate games? This would allow the squad to develop some rhythm, and allow the players to understand their specific roles on a match day.

United’s current first team consists of Tim Krul, Davide Santon, Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Danny Simpson, Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba, with Shola Ameobi, Mike Williamson and Vurnon Anita making up 14 senior players. On the fringes of the first team, we have Sylvain Marveaux, James Perch, Gabriel Obertan, Shane Ferguson and Gael Bigirimana. Surely this tightly knit squad of 19 (excluding long term absentee Ryan Taylor) could be prepared sufficiently from week to week to compete in both Europa League and Premier League games?

Do the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Demba Ba, Chiek Tiote, and Fabricio Coloccini need to be wrapped up in cotton wool each week? If a 32-year-old Alan Shearer and a 34-year-old Gary speed can play 48 and 36 games respectively, then the relatively youthful Coloccini and Tiote would be more than capable of repeating the feat?

If the spine of the team remained relatively intact from week to week, it would be far less likely that the team would be pushing December and still ‘struggling for rhythm’. Granted, injuries and suspensions haven’t helped our cause, but our form this season would suggest that wholesale changes have been less of a help and more of a hindrance – particularly to our bread and butter.

Anyone else agree?

108 thoughts on “What is it with the Europa League?

  1. Big Dave @44
    Kim @45
    Newkie @47

    This comment by Pardew:

    “But he will still not get back in the team unless he has a period of six weeks where he isn’t late”

    was reported in the Chronicle on wed Oct 17
    http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/communities/newcastle/2012/10/17/exclusive-alan-pardew-blasts-troubled-star-nile-ranger-72703-32046154/ so presumably it’s something that Pardew had said the day before. From tues Oct 16 to sun Nov 25 (tomorrow) is a period of 5 weeks and 5 days, so basically you’re just quibbling over a couple of days 🙄


  2. Come on everyone, do you honestly believe that Pardew is advocating ‘hoofball’ from his players? The answer is simple, of course not. It’s hard to say if his tactics are at fault because his real issue is having a profound effect on them. Pardew is just struggling to get get the best from his players at the moment. This is a hard task for every manager, if it were easy, you would not see so many managers getting sacked. It hard to get a team to play a certain way when there is no cohesion between the players. I think we will come out of this form slump, there is no easy way out of it other than hard work.. It staggers me that some are calling for Pardews head.. fickle is the word…


  3. Aussie ,To be fair I think most calling for his head are on a certain other blog 😆 .

    Like I said ,given all our injuries he needs time to bring it round ,but there is a lot of hard graft required now by all concerned.I would also like to see Pards given some decent support from Jabba &co in the form of quality signings come Jan. We CANNOT afford another stint in the championship all our top guys would go and we are too close to the bottom for comfort. It’s gonna get harder too in december ,rotten games coming up.QPR was looking an easy 3 points but if Harry goes in he will work his early doors form on them and suddenly that’s another hard to win game 👿 That was the one game Icould see us getting anything from in december ,typical.


  4. Aussie,

    If Pardew can’t get the players to listen to the way he wants them to play and they disrespect him by hoofing it then he has lost the dressing room respect hasn’t he.

    I don’t like seeing a manager sacked. I want to see stability in this club for once, but he needs to pull his finger out now and prove his worth.

    I really do want him to be the one who turns things around.


  5. Chris FYI Ranger has been with the team all week training with the team all weekand is part of the squad for the game, so he was back in the team in 5 weeks. And if you read what he said at his after dinner speech Ranger would Not play under him again.
    Kim I agree I haven’t heard anyone on here call for Pards head up to.now, I know there are other places that have been calling for his head from he came here.


  6. JJ like you I want Pards to turn it round as we need stability , but I will say that his bullshit is really starting to get to me.
    But if he doesn’t turn it round soon and we go through another usless transfer window I would say there will be calls for him to go, then we’ll have to go through all the shit again


  7. JJ, Pardz does need to get them fired up, that’s my point… Shamrock, Pardz ain’t kicking the ball mate.. Kim, we are having our bad run now I hope 🙂


  8. Dave,
    Ye, those are my sentiments too.

    The other problem I have is knowing this board is there are no garauntees they would hire another manager who is decent.

    They’d take a cheap option. So as much as Pardew is getting it very wrong now, I still want the stability. He should get at least till the end of the season unless things go horribly wrong.


  9. Aussie your right Pards isn’t kicking the ball 😉 but he does tell the team what to do and if he’s not telling them to hoof it, then he needs to drop the culprits that are disobeying him.


  10. You know last season was so odd ,the way we ground out results and really made us hard to beat was very un Newcastle actually. I think that’s why we surprised so many people.


  11. Aussie. Pardew’s job is to dictate the ream’s style of play and make sure his directions are followed through. Naturally there will always be the odd lapse in concentration. Also, it makes sense to have a bit if flexibility in iur play. However, we appear to be using hoofball as our number 1 option. That’s not confusion, that’s orders. If it’s not orders, then Patdew has to go because clearly in that scenario, he has lost his authority and man management ability with this set of players…. This reslly is not even a debate, it’s staring us all in the face week in, week out. ❓


  12. Have to agree with the above sentiments, in hoping that Pardew can turn things around asap.
    For sure we have enjoyed a period of stability, but not near long enough.
    I’m just not sure how long the regime will give him before getting twitchy.
    Its a funny old game tho, a couple of positive results in dec and all will be forgotten again.
    But I must also add, that the players who take to the pitch, need to up their game too. Play for 90 mins, not 60. 👿 Get some fire in their bellies and THINK a little bit.
    I was trying to watch AP on the touchline on thurs night, and tbh he looked bereft of ideas especially in the 2nd half.
    its just a bit worrying……..”if I’m honest” 😉
    Howay the Lads



    For me, Pardew needs to demand money is spent in January and no more excuses.

    If there’s one thing I can’t abide its politicians towing the party line when you know they don’t agree with the policies. They do it to save their jobs. Those who make a mark in life and can hold their heads high are those that speak their mind and sacrifice self gain by sticking to their principles.

    Pardew surely can’t agree with the transfer policy. We know he was fizzin over not getting the players he wanted in the summer but eventually towed the party line.

    Stand up Pards and if the board let you down again then say so.


  14. Regarding Ranger.
    If he plays then he gets my support. Same goes for xisco.
    and tbh they cant be any worse than Cisse and shola ( 👿 ) this season.
    You just never know, he might yet turn his life around and get his football back on track.
    I’ll not believe it ’til I see it, but still……….


  15. I agree Troy, what has he to lose ❓
    If things continue the way they are, then he will get the bullet anyway.
    Might aswell go down fighting than with a whimper.




    He would get the full backing from the fans. This is not about spending fortunes but as in the summer, quibbling over £1m or so for a player backfires.

    The CB failing has been atrocious. For over 2 years we have been crying out for one. Excuse after excuse. Yet they spend £6m on Anita?

    I’m not writing Anita off but good homework, which is what Carr gets praised for, certainly wasn’t done in this case.


  17. Pardew will be given money in the January transfer window, because by then we will be deep in the relegation shit. The next logical media fuelled musing will be whether the January funds come from Cashley’s wedge or from sales of one of our “purple” players. Same old shit every transfer window… 👿

    One worrying thing is that people have there eye on the Europa League and are lulled into thinking we are ok in the league. We are light years away from turning around our poor form from this season, and with the injuries and suspensions we have it isn’t going to get better quickly.

    Wouldn’t it be ironic if Ranger or Xisco were the catalysts for kick starting our season.


  18. so it would seem Troy. 😕
    As with all new players tho, it takes a while to find their way in the EPL.
    I’m not writing Anita off yet.
    But I also take your point about the CB situation.


  19. Anita is a bit-part actor, he’s not the main man. Too light weight for the EPL. He needs to be given more time, but you’d expect a six million pound signing to be performing better.


  20. The europa isnt important to me anymore.
    We clearly wont win the damn thing anyway.
    Our Prem survival is paramount now, and must be our sole focus imo.


  21. Munich,

    Exactly. Anita is probably a very tidy little player. But he is seems more obvious now that he was bought as a ultility player that the board were hoping could fill three positions that needed strengthening.
    They pay for one player instead of three and only have to fork out one wage instead of three. Thats how thick they are!
    Talk about being cheap.


  22. JJ, there is no doubting that Anita is a flexible utility player who can fill in in several positions. It’s just that he is no more than average in each of the positions, and when we come up against a top 10 EPL side he is way out of his depth. At the moment I would put this signing in a “6 million pound not very well spent” category.


  23. Beardsley, I would be more than happy to be proven wrong regarding Anita. As yet though I haven’t seen anything about him that would prove contrary.

    Who is Henry K by the way ? ❓



    The point is tho BB, its about buying players at the right time. We haven’t got the resources of Chelsea or man city who can buy players for big sums and give them time to mature.

    CB has been a priority for at least 2 seasons yet we spend £6m on a utility player clearly not yet ready for the premier league.

    Plenty of credit was given to the club last season and deservedly so, but they must equally be open to criticism this season, deservedly so.


  25. Yes Troy, and if they spend money to close the stable door in Jan, they may find its too late and the horse has already bolted.
    Only got themselves to blame


  26. Pardew is the biggest problem. Put him in Man City and when they start going down he imply they have not got the players.

    Pardew has been playing his favourite 11 players most of this season and he still has only 3 wins in 12.

    I don’t expect us to be beating Man utd, Chelsea, City and Arsenal. But a competent manager would expect to beat our bread and butter teams with a few exceptions here and there. The players we have cannot compete with the big four but they should be able to compete with our bread and butter teams while slipping in a few of our developmental players but we have not done this.

    Does he want world class players like Ronaldo and Messi to field against Southampton? There is no need to kill a cockroach with a nuclear bomb when your shoe can do the same job.


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