Champions League: Can Arsenal or Man Utd save EPL blushes?
With the ‘top four’ seemingly blown into a ‘top six’ or even ‘top eight’, the wide-open nature of the Premier League appears to be affecting clubs as they are losing ground in their quest for success in Europe.
As the Champions League enters the knockout stages, the top two teams from each major league in Europe last season are present, except England’s.
While this may be due to Roberto Mancini’s bizarre tactics or being placed in ‘the group of death’, last year’s Premier League champions failed at the first hurdle.
When the English teams have played Europe’s elite in recent years, the gulf in class has been evident. An example- although they won on both occasions- is when Chelsea played Barcelona and Bayern Munich last season. They were outclassed and they won due to the ‘park the bus’ tactic and by catching their opponents on the counter attack.
Europe’s top clubs seem to play a more ‘philosophical’ type of football which is more pleasing on the eye. Managers teach their players to play creatively, with youthfulness and exuberance.
This is why teams like Man City and Chelsea failed to advance in this year’s competition, crashing out in place of Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk. Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat to Juventus and Arsenal being turned over 2-0 on home soil by Schalke 04.
Jurgen Klopp’s exciting Dortmund beat Man City 1-0 on the final match of the group stages to end their embarrassing exit with a measly three points from six matches.
When England’s ‘top four’ was still present, the Premier League was represented much more often in the latter stages of the Champions League.
But why has the ‘top four’ disbanded and how has this affected their progress in Europe?
Man City and Tottenham have used their financial backing to be regular contenders for the Champions League places whilst Liverpool’s presence near the top has since seen them slip off the radar in recent years.
Everton, with lesser resources, have used David Moyes’ managerial prowess to build a solid team of battling players who have proved to be more than capable of holding their own with the Premier League’s elite.
The new Television rights for the 2013-2014 Premier League season has also seen smaller teams such as QPR make frantic attempts to beat the drop by paying over the odds prices for top players.
Although the two Manchester clubs (particularly United) appear to be running away with the league, any team in the league can beat anyone on their day. This has led to Champions League sides prioritising Premier League games over Europe and the general standard falling behind that of Germany’s Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga.
City may argue they have inexperience in the competition and examples in recent years such as Tottenham’s exploits as they defeated both Milan teams’ shows what the English teams have brought to the competition.
But this year, the foreign teams have been on another level, sweeping aside most of the English sides with ease.
Britain’s representation in the Champions League at this stage includes just Man United, Arsenal and Celtic and it will be interesting to see how the sides fair against Europe’s elite, particularly Man United’s forthcoming matches against Real Madrid.
The mega TV windfall in the coming years may see English sides continue to invest in new players to compete in Europe and oust the aesthetically pleasing sides representing the Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A.
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