Over the last three years, Tottenham Hotspur has faced a weekly dilemma during the latter half of the season over whether to act like the Europa League doesn’t exist, go after the competition halfheartedly, or focus entirely on the Barclays Premier League. Well, that time of year is here again, and after beating FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 3-1 on Thursday night and 3-2 on aggregate in the Round of 32, one thing is clear — Totteneham must go all out for the Europa League winners medals this year.
The win to advance to the Round of 16 was everything that anyone could ask for, and it showed players around the world the best and the worst of playing for Tottenham at White Hart Lane. This is because the game was both incredibly up-and-down, yet also was an enthralling match that had everyone off their seats for the final 40 minutes of the game.
The Spurs looked to be a team that was unmotivated for large swaths of the first half, and after letting up a goal in the 48th minute to go down 2-0 on aggregate, it appeared the club was done in Europe for the season. But in classic Tottenham fashion, the club’s players seemed to step up when things looked at their worst, dominating the final 42 minutes of the game, as Emmanuel Adebayor, Christian Eriksen and Michael Dawson each specifically took the game by its horns with their dedicated play.
The fact that the club was able to score three goals along the way and engage Roman Zozulya into headbutting Jan Vertonghen was a bit lucky, but also a bit well deserved. Tottenham was clearly the class of the pitch for the final half of the game, and fans can only hope they take this hardworking and attractive football into Barclays Premier League play this weekend.
Fans were certainly not in a mood to look forward to the weekend on Thursday though, as they showed players on this year’s Tottenham team, and future players, just what support they can get. After Eriksen hit a fine free kick into the back of the net, the crowd slowly started to boil up, and by the time Adebayor scored his second goal of the night in the 69th minute, the lid had erupted at White Hart Lane. Even those watching at home could blatantly see that the crowd was going wild and that they were providing an atmosphere that looked more accustomed to a cup final, not a mere Round of 32 tie.
There is no doubting that Tottenham wants to win the fourth place position in the Barclays Premier League above anything else this year, but at this point, there is no excuse to go all out in the Europa League as well. After all, the club has as many as 18 different players in its first team squad that are consistently called up by their respective national teams, so depth is certainly no issue in fighting on two different fronts.
Furthermore, and possibly more importantly, prospective players want to see a club that is moving in the right direction by winning trophies, and the Europa League has the opportunity to fill this gap. It certainly is not the UEFA Champions League, but it is one more European trophy than any other English club has a legitimate opportunity at winning in 2014.