The horror scenario Tottenham Hotspur fans came to fruition today in the FA Cup, but thankfully Spurs did just enough in the league to minimize the negative consequences. Arsenal defeated Chelsea 2-1 at Wembley Stadium today, winning the FA Cup and qualifying for the Europa League group stages, despite finishing eighth in the table.
Although Tottenham had qualified for the group stages by finishing sixth in the table, Arsenal’s (ugh) trophy win pushes Spurs out of that spot, and eliminates Wolverhampton Wanderers from the competition entirely. Instead, Spurs will now need to progress through three rounds against low-level European competition in September in order to make the group stages.
Thankfully, COVID-19 shortens the process — in prior years the qualifying rounds were home and home, meaning Spurs would’ve needed to play six matches before even making the group stages. Now, these are single matches, with the home team decided by draw. That means Spurs could be heading to Albania or wherever for must-win matches just to make the damn competition, but at least they’re still in the tournament.
The full list of teams in the 2nd qualifying round hasn’t been fully determined (there are two rounds of qualifying to be completed before the Q2 draw) but some of the teams Spurs could face include Motherwell, Ventspils, Shamrock Rovers, CSKA Sofia, Prògres Niederkorn, Hammarby, and Anorthosis Famagusta. Not exactly Barcelona or PSG, but that’s why you play the games.
The 2nd Qualifying Round Draw will take place on August 31, with the matches taking place September 17.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it — watching Arsenal limp through a worse season than Spurs had in 2019-20 and still fluke their way to an FA Cup trophy is pretty damn galling, but there’s nothing we can do about it. The only solace we can take is that they couldn’t #banter us out of the Europa League entirely. I feel bad for Wolves, too.
Hey, at least we can still be mad at Chelsea. That’s a (very) small comfort.