Newcastle's potential Europa problem

Posted by Lee Ryder

Ian Kington/Getty ImagesNewcastle boss Alan Pardew has not hidden his desire to avoid the Europa League.

Should Newcastle United manage to achieve what Alan Pardew has already suggested -- that he doesn't really want to achieve and qualify for the Europa League -- perhaps the Magpies need to simply make their intentions clear next summer when it comes to their approach to continental competition.

Last season's struggle is still fresh in the memories of Pardew and his backroom team who know that the long winded and much maligned Europa League, or UEFA's B competition as described by some newspapers, had disastrous effects on the campaign last time around.

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And that's not being dramatic because it was only with a game to go that United secured their Premier League safety last term when a 2-1 win at already relegated Queens Park Rangers in May kept Pardew in a job.

Newcastle may well be six points from possibly qualifying for the Europa League this season. But already Pardew has stated he would turn to UEFA to ask about potentially moving games to a Monday night. Whether UEFA would change anything is up for debate.

Yet Newcastle have a couple of options should they qualify for the monster of a tournament next season. The problem last time was that Pardew's squad simply couldn't cope with three games in a week plus a lot of travelling thrown in.
By the time a Europa game was done and dusted on a Thursday night, a Premier League game -- worth more money these days -- was soon looming large with so many games on a Sunday, Newcastle found their weekly routine out of sync which had a knock on effect on the rest of the week.

In short, there isn't much time for recovery after the rigours of the Europa League nights. And last season long journeys to places like Athens, Moscow and Kharkiv took their toll on Pardew's squad.

If things went well this season and United do net sixth spot or fifth spot, they could face play-off games to qualify in August and then the series of group games that keep you busy between the start of the season and the beginning of the festive period.

Take into account the already busy festive period in the Premier League and the potential of cup runs in the League Cup and FA Cup, there's every chance your squad faces burnout before the knockout stages of the Europa even get going in February.

Therefore, United are faced with two options if they end up back in the competition they reached the last eight in last time around. Either they plan accordingly and bolster their squad with a host of players with first team experience who are prepared to experience squad rotation, or they face facts and admit that the first team roster they currently have won't feature much -- if at all -- in Europe. True, this policy wouldn't go down well on Tyneside.

Pardew's ears are still burning after he opted against fielding some of his key men in the FA Cup against Cardiff and lost 2-1. Fans have a valid point when they talk about throwing away the chance of silverware in the Europa and while the Magpies did get to the quarter-finals only to lose against Benfica last time around, having experienced the Europa last term, they know that Thursday nights can be followed by flat performances in the Premier League.

So what is the other option? Is there one that would work? Well, perhaps fielding a B team is Newcastle's only real alternative if they aren't prepared to spend.

This was an idea that Pardew initially spoke about last summer during the club's German training camp in Munich.
Then he suggested that half a dozen players would be left behind for European nights, but when injuries kicked in he had to rip up these plans.

Yet rather than loaning out youngsters, the chance to play in Europe would serve them well if managed correctly.
While the first team prepare for the Premier League games back on Tyneside they would have the option of turning to fringe players like Sammy Ameobi, Gael Bigirimana, Massadio Haidara, Paul Dummett, Haris Vuckic, James Tavernier and Adam Campbell. There's others too like Conor Newton, Shane Ferguson, Mehdi Abeid and Dan Gosling.

And what would Sylvain Marveaux and Papiss Cisse do for starting a few games this season?

Then there's the layer of youngsters coming through below like Johnny Quinn -- who bagged a hat-trick against Sunderland in the FA Youth Cup -- Monday night and Adam Armstrong, Rolando Aarons, Greg Olley and Olivier Kemen.

Newcastle are also looking at more "Haidaira type" signings in the summer which could help make up their "B Squad" as they feel their way throw the competition.

If they could keep their hopes alive in the tournament and help younger players develop, they could also take the FA and League Cup more seriously. Of course, this will throw up arguments both for and against.

Yet depending on how the season goes and how many points United picked up in a season they could then re-assess where they were in the competition.

In a group stage format in the early rounds you are usually in control and have more flexibility in terms of picking and choosing when you roll out the big guns.

United aren't there yet of course, but a Plan B in UEFA's B competition could be the way forward for Pardew & co. next term.


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