No one reason can be attributed to the abysmal performances put up by English teams in this year’s UEFA Champions League with Arsenal , Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool exiting before the quarter-finals. The English teams’ influence in the prestigious Champions League tournament seems to be waning each passing year. Here are a number of reasons that can be attributed to the blight of English teams in Europe:
The fixture schedule for England is tough compared to that of Spain, Germany as well as the other top leagues. This seems to be having a telling effect on the top four clubs in England with the rolling years. The top four clubs have to play through Christmas and New Year, specifically on Boxing Day and two days after have to play another premiership game. Chelsea for instance had to play 8 games within a space of 25 days while clubs in Germany, Spain and France were on holidays giving players the chance to spend good time with their families. Chelsea’s form seemed to have slumped in the second half of the season as a result of this just at the crucial point within the season. Madrid in point who also participated in the FIFA World Club tournament and later travelled to play a friendly match with AC Milan were also feeling the effects of too much game play as this was accompanied by a series of poor performances in La Liga and was also telling in their performances in Europe. Schalke recently gave them a scare at the Bernabeu. Sir Alex, Mourinho and recently Pelligrini have all added their voices to the need for a winter break in the English game and perhaps it’s high time the English FA considers incorporating a winter break which might to some extent help once more elevate the performances of English teams in Europe.
The scintillating game of football has proven to be cyclical in nature over the passing years. English clubs dominated the Champions League in the periods (2006-2009). This time period witnessed three Premier League semi-finalists per year for three successive seasons. In 2008, an all English final was staged pitting the ‘red devils ‘of Manchester United with ‘the blues’ of Chelsea. The period after this saw the emergence of the German and Spanish teams, Bayern Munich made two final appearances in the 2010 and 2011-2012 editions of the champions league and upon their third final in four seasons, beat their bitter rivals Dortmund in the 2012-2013 edition in an all German final to claim their fifth champions league title. Real Madrid also followed suit making three consecutive semi-final appearances in the years 2010-2013 before thrashing Athletico Madrid(4-1) in an all Spanish final in the 2013-2014 edition to clinch the long awaited ‘La Decima’ thus showcasing the cyclical nature of the game.
The quality of traditional clubs outside the English games has shown over the years and this has been evidenced by the performances of Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona not leaving out the Bavarian giants of Germany- Bayern Munich. The Spanish pair of Real and Barcelona have the two best players on planet earth at the moment boasting of an average of 50-60 goals per season between them in the persons of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The quality of the Spanish game is relatively better than the English game and they also possess all the best talents compared to the top English clubs. Real and Barca boast a flurry of world class players, Bayern also equally boast of world class players such as Arjen Robben , Frank Ribery and Manuel Neuer who were all shortlisted in the top 10 for the most coveted prize in world football- the Ballon d’Or.
Rising talents in the English game in the persons of Gareth Bale and Luiz Suarez who both won the PFA Player of the Year award where quickly snapped up by the two big guns in the Spanish game (Real and Barca) indicating their superiority compared to the top English clubs who boast mainly of average players with one or two world class players.
The blight of Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea in Europe may be a result of the transitional period been experienced. The replacement of Sir Alex Ferguson with David Moyes saw a transitional period for Manchester United who could not even make it to the quarter-finals in last years’ edition. Liverpool who also lost their star man Suarez got knocked out right at the group stage having also brought in lots of talent yet unproven on the highest stage of European football also in last years’ edition. Chelsea however with the second coming of Jose Mourinho was the only English team to make it into the semi-final stage in the last year edition. Manuel Pelligrini evidently seems to suffer from tactical naivety along with Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger as both teams have crushed out of this years’ edition with Manchester City been worse off as evidenced in their games with Barcelona over the last two editions of the champions league. Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team also rather surprisingly displayed tactical naivety by not taking advantage against a 10-man PSG team in the return leg at Stamford Bridge. Such transitional periods have evidently contributed to the blight of the English teams in Europe.
In spite of the aforementioned all is not lost for the top guns in the English game and trust me when I say the English teams would be right back in the mix competing with the best of the best in European football for the subsequent editions of Champions League football.