Last weekend Liverpool were all but guaranteed Europa League football next season. Despite an excellent run after Christmas in the league, defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal severely dented the Reds' chances of playing in Europe's premier club competition next season. As a Liverpool supporter this is disappointing. It's not so much that the Europa League brings you to second rate destinations around the continent, but more so with the fact that the competition has a disruptive impact on the domestic campaign. Saturday games become few and far between, with Sunday 3pm kick-offs the norm. Matches often aren't even screened live.
The second issue is something that anecdotal evidence, suggested by the media and others, points to; that of a "Thursday Cup" travel hangover. I find this odd. Teams playing in the Champions League on a Wednesday often play the following Saturday (a three day break). This is the same as the Thursday-Sunday schedule of the Europa League clubs. It's rarely suggested that the Champions League clubs are impacted the same way as those in the Europa League. Whilst I have shown that teams do potentially have to travel further if in the Europa League, the difference is hardly insurmountable. I wonder does the Champions League produce a similar league hangover?
Below is data for the six teams that played in Matchdays 1 - 6 in both the Champions League and Europa League in 2014. The table presents the outcome in league matches following their European games. League games that were hosted at home are marked blue, while away games are marked red.
Spurs aren't alone. Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Everton all saw a drop in performance following their European games. The 'Difference' total at the bottom of the table quantifies the difference between the 'Mean' (number of points from the six games points European fixtures) and the mean to date (MTD) from the remaining 30 Premier League games.
Only Arsenal hold their own. The Gunners report an identical mean of two points per game. I guess nearly two decades of constant Champions League football will prepare you for almost anything. The Gunners league perfromance doesn't suffer. Yet another reason why Arsenal fans should be grateful for Arsene Wenger. I'd expect nothing less from an economist.