It’s one of many footballing myths I’ve been wanting to investigate, but not found the time or means to do so.
Another thing I’d love to investigate are “is a player more likely to score when he is playing against his old club?” (this is often referred to as “the immutable law of the ex”, and the answer, I suspect, is no as this has a heavy dose of confirmation bias thrown in), but I’m not sure how I would go about this.
Anyway, it’s often claimed that the long away trips and the Thursday-Sunday playing pattern experienced in the Europa League cause clubs (ok, Spurs) to lose focus in the Premier League.
Having checked the numbers, I do not believe this is true, at least for games immediately following Europa League matches. There may be a case for arguing that it takes its toll over the course of a season, but I’m not investigating that (for now). As other clubs don’t qualify as consistently as Spurs do, European competition being something of a novelty for the likes of Southampton, I haven’t considered them for now.
League games played following Europa League matches: 73
Points in League games after Europa League matches, scaled to 38 games: 66
Points in League games after Europa League away matches, scaled to 38 games: 69
Average points in a League season (38 games) when Spurs have been in the EL: 62
The figures suggest that there is no drop in results after Europa League games.
They have played in the Europa League for 8 seasons, playing 80 games in the process. Following these 80 games, 73 league games were played the following weekend, 3 League Cup finals, and 1 FA Cup tie. There was no game the weekend following 3 games (due to being knocked out of the FA Cup).
The FA Cup tie was a draw with Chelsea, and the three League Cup finals were a win against Chelsea, a defeat against Chelsea and a draw (losing on penalties with Man Utd). Due to the cup-tie nature of these games, I didn’t include them in this analysis.
The 73 Premier League games yielded 39 wins, 12 draws, and 22 defeats for Spurs. If we scale these figures and weight them so that away games and home games are roughly even, we end up with Spurs obtaining 66 points over 38 games in a Premier League season, which, predictably, is about how many you’d expect to finish 5th or 6th. Remarkably, though, this is more than Spurs’ average Premier League points total (62) in each of the seasons they’ve played in the Europa League.
This suggests that, in general, Spurs tended to get better results in games following Europa League matches than in other games.
What if we only look at games following away fixtures?
There were 36 of them, which yielded 66 Premier League points: scaling this up to 38 games 70 points, which is more than if we consider all the games, which suggests that the record in games following Europa League home games could be better.
As for away League games after away European games (something Arsene Wenger has frequently complained about in the past even though there is no way the Premier League can know Arsenal will be playing away in Europe when compiling the fixtures), there were 14 of those, with 26 points gained: while we’re getting into shaky territory with not enough data to draw any firm conclusions, that’s a pretty decent away total in anyone’s book (it’s championship winning away form).
The conclusion to draw here is that playing in the Europa League, home or away, doesn’t cause results in the next games that are massively out of character with the results in the League. So whatever caused Spurs to miss out on the Champions League in past seasons, it wasn’t hangovers from Europa League games.