One of Pardew’s glaring managerial deficiencies, considering he talks of himself as a top class manager, was his inability to successfully juggle a Europa League campaign without nearly relegating the club.
He claims this is down to the competition itself and the strains it puts on a squad – he claims this to be a universal truth and has frequently commented on how he sees other clubs struggling in a similar way. But how do other clubs in a similar situation really cope with it? We looked at the records of other clubs who have competed in the Europa League/UEFA Cup since the group format was introduced following a Europe-less league campaign, how many games they played, and how the transition affected their league form. Is there a pattern of teams struggling to cope with the extra burden, as Pardew’s comments would suggest, or was Newcastle’s struggle down to other factors?
This is important because one of the things most often used to defend Pardew’s position is that he took the club to a 5th place finish, with the insinuation that he could repeat the feat. But what if he does? Could the club feasibly trust him with another European campaign?
These figures are purely a representation of the numbers, obviously they do not take into account managerial changes, player turnover, domestic cup commitments or any other factor that typically affects the fate of a football club. However, a few things stand out:
On average, a team that qualifies for the Europa League following a season out of Europe will win just over 4.5 points less during their participating season. Under Alan Pardew, Newcastle United earned 24 points less – more than any other qualifying team.
On average, a team that qualifies for the Europa League following a season out of Europe will find their league position negatively affected by 2.4 league places. Under Alan Pardew, Newcastle United finished 11 places lower – more than any other qualifying team.
But Pardew took us to the quarter final! Surely that lengthy run accounts for much of the under-performance in the league?
In fact, if we just look at the teams with large European commitments (10+ games), it actually appears that a long European campaign has a minimal effect on league form. In this scenario, teams who play 10+ Europa League games only see their league form affected by 1.5 places on average and lose only 2.2 points – less than one win over an entire season.
Furthermore, if we just take the teams who qualified due to league success (rather than by the back door e.g. Fair Play, Intertoto, Cup runners up etc), we find that teams who finished 6th or above only find their league placing affected by 1 single position, and their points go down by 1.8 per season. Again, Newcastle, who were amongst that company of high league finishers, lost 24 points and 11 league places.
It’s interesting that one of the worst performing teams in our table is the West Ham 2006-07 side, the only team in our list to be knocked out in their first European tie. Even without any European commitment after September, they still only managed to accrue 14 points by December and were 3 points from safety when they sacked their manager – Alan Pardew.