When it came to West Ham’s involvement in the Europa League, we came, we saw but we certainly didn’t conquer after getting unceremoniously dumped out of the competition after just six games.
I’m not exactly crying in my cornflakes about our early Europa League exit though. I’m embarrassed and a bit disappointed but how easily we capitulated against Romanian side Astra Giurgiu, but I’m also sorry to say that I think our early exit from the Europa League was a blessing. West Ham quite simply aren’t ready to compete in any other league except the Premier League right now.
If we had to play two games most weeks, the extra time we’d spend on the pitch per week would destroy us. At the moment, West Ham normally only play for 80 minutes per game. Think of how many games last season in which we had a goal scored against us in the last ten minutes of the game — it’s a disparagingly long list.
We can barely play for 90 minutes each week — there’s no way we’re ready to play 180 minutes per week instead. Furthermore, the trick to doing reasonably well in Europe and the Premier League is to do with depth of squad — something which West Ham are certainly improving on, but still haven’t quite mastered. At the time our B-side consisted of Matt Jarvis, Modibo Maiga and Kevin Nolan — three players whom fans have spent the past few seasons moaning that they aren’t good enough for the Premier League — so are they up for the job internationally? Probably not — a highlight of our first home Europa League game was watching Jarvis narrowly get past an FC Lusitans defender who was wearing just one boot.
It didn’t bode well for playing against teams like Ajax and Schalke. The biggest obstacle for West Ham to have the depth in squad is to do with injuries. Our league position is the most crucial focus in the season heading into the Olympic Stadium. We have to prioritise a mid-table or higher fi nish in the league at any cost to maintain stability and a sense of growth.
I’m not sorry we rested our best players against Astra in order to record an inspiring win over Arsenal — those are three tremendously valuable points, especially considering the subsequent lack of points against Leicester City and AFC Bournemouth at Upton Park.
I would love for us to play in Europe, but I would love it more for us to do so when we genuinely have the depth in squad to ensure we don’t suff er in the league and right now, regretfully, just isn’t that time.