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Lyon 1-1 Tottenham: Why AVB Is Right to Focus on Europa League

LYON, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 21:  Andre Villas-Boas of Spurs looks on as Lyon score a goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, second leg match between Olympique Lyonnais and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Stade de Gerland on February 21, 2013 in Lyon, France.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Frank WagnerCorrespondent IJuly 10, 2016

In the waning moments of Thursday's match, when Moussa Dembele bagged the incredible goal that sent Tottenham past Lyon and to the Europa League Round of 16, it was natural for all supporters to be thrilled.

After all, it's not every day (or season, for that matter) that Spurs pick up such a dramatic victory on the European stage.

As the ecstasy of the win wears off with time, though, Tottenham fans are faced with an obvious question: Should one be happy with the way manager Andre Villas-Boas is approaching this season? Should he really be focusing so much attention and effort on the Europa League?

Shouldn't finishing in the top four of the Premier League and qualifying for the more prestigious European competition, the Champions League, take top priority?

There is some very valid logic behind the trepidation one might feel for Spurs' handling of their Europa League endeavor this season.

Over-extending a side is a real issue that managers must deal with in football. For evidence, one need look no further than last season's Atletico Madrid side, whose run to the Europa League title came at the cost of Champions League qualification.

Even Tottenham suffered a similar fate last season, as it can be argued that their run to the FA Cup semifinal was a hindrance to their league form, resulting in their failure (no matter how unfair) to qualify for the Champions League.

From the onset, the goal of Tottenham's season has been qualification for Champions League football.

With a group of players as talented and ambitious as Spurs', a lot is riding on this pursuit, as failure could open the door for the exit of some players (most notably Gareth Bale) and close the door for negotiations with some hot transfer targets.

Hence, it makes sense to wonder if it might be better for Spurs if they were to have been knocked out on Thursday and just had the Premier League run-in to concentrate on.

However, there is more going on here than meets the eye.

Through this Europa League run, Tottenham are gaining some invaluable experience on the European stage.

Yes, a lot rides on the qualification for next season's Champions League, but what about after that?

Without the experiences Spurs have already gained, it is not outlandish to imagine they would struggle in the top flight of European football, leading to a failure that would no doubt cause the same problems next season that the club would face should they fail to qualify this season.

Hence, AVB is faced with a dilemma: Go for everything and hope the pieces fall in the right place or put the eggs in one basket at the expense of long-term success.

His decision, which has clearly been the latter all season, is the admirable one and, logically, the better one.

Sure, if the league unravels between now and the end of the season, it will be easy to wonder what might have been should Tottenham have decided to quit on the Europa League.

However, rest assured that, hindsight aside, AVB is making the right decision for his club.

In the end, if Tottenham can't hold on to fourth place, then they just don't deserve the Champions League spot anyway.

 

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