Premier League being left behind by Europe's elite?
Premier League opinion: Top clubs must make key signings this year to keep pace with Europe's elite
Since the turn of the millennium, English football took a turn for the better.
What we have seen are increased broadcasting of the matches on television, foreign riches being poured into clubs, lots of high quality imported talent being showcased by English clubs and finally, the fast paced, eye-catching game exciting many throughout the globe.
Champions League's two biggest moments since its incorporation since 1991, Manchester United's rise from death to win 2-1 over Bayern Munich in the 1999 final and Liverpool's 2005 triumph which saw them come back from three goals down to make it 3-3 against Italian giants AC Milan, a game which the red half of Merseyside would go on to win on penalties.
English football was on a roll. Arsenal were finalists in 2006 but lost out to an emerging Barcelona team. Liverpool were finalists again in 2007. AC Milan trumped the Kop, avenging their 2005 defeat. 2008 saw 3 teams in the semi finals, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea - this led to an all-English final in Moscow between Manchester United and Chelsea, which United won on penalties with the game being held at 1-1 at the end of 120 minutes.
By this point of time, the rest of Europe had to swallow a bitter pill in admitting that England was the most potent force on the continent. Reinforcing this fact as Manchester United, who once again powered their way into the 2009 finals at Rome where they lost out to Barcelona.
But what has happened since then, which has led to former legendary players from Germany, Spain and Italy literally mocking the English league for its lack of quality and zero representatives in this year's quarter-final stage?
Yes, Chelsea did defeat Bayern Munich at their own home 11 months ago to become European Champions. But a majority of fans and viewers will agree that Chelsea won, not due to their supremacy on the field but rather because of Bayern Munich throwing the game away. Daniel van Buyten missing a sitter from three yards out, Arjen Robben's missed penalty in extra time shocked the globe. Chelsea won, just won.
This cannot be accounted to a re-emergence of English football though. Manchester United crashed out in the group stage last year as did neighbours Manchester City while Arsenal were undone by AC Milan in the Round of 16. 2011's Wembley showpiece saw Manchester United comprehensively beaten by Barcelona, who were at the peak of their powers then.
So what must the giants of English football do to stamp their mark around Europe once more? There is no lack of quality inside England. Manchester United may have sealed the league title, but there is serious fight among Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton to qualify for the Champions League next season. Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso left for Real Madrid and Cesc Fabregas for Barcelona in the past four seasons. The Premier League lost these greatest talents to La Liga, weakening the English sides who once had these players in their ranks. Manchester City's enormous wealth saw them splash out heavily on foreign talents Yaya Toure, Kun Aguero and Edin Dzeko.
Unfortunately, team chemistry and experience matter more in football than individual talent, something City lack and something which make them sort of shoo-aways in Europe. Manchester United lost out to Real Madrid on Karim Benzema, Angel di Maria, Fabio Coentrao and Raphael Varane. These players would have made United a fearsome force to reckon. Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger's reluctance to spend big, plus the mass exodus of his hand picked superstars each year makes the Gunners a fading star at home and abroad. Chelsea's financial strength makes their squad strong on paper, but the revolving door of the manager's office causes a lack of stability. Manchester United and Arsenal, who have stable and able managers must make sure they land their top targets this summer.
Edison Cavani, Stevan Jovetic, Hulk, Leandro Damiao must be taken to England this summer. Apart from Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Kun Aguero, Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez, there aren't any superstars in the league. Manchester United landing Cristiano Ronaldo will cause a power shift in Europe for sure.
Tottenham Hotspur, whether or not they qualify for the Champions League must focus on getting a top hit-man like Damiao or Gonzalo Higuain and most importantly, prevent the sale of Welsh wing wizard Gareth Bale.
Arsenal must make sure their bids for Jovetic, Mario Gotze or David Villa is fruitful and hold on to star players like Laurent Koscielny, Lukas Podolski and Jack Wilshere.
Chelsea and Manchester City boast terrific squads but their owners must ensure that they give their managers a more free reign than threaten them with a fire order each time a mistake is committed.
Liverpool are no longer European quality, whereas the entry of Everton, a spirited and committed side, will see them battered out of Europe.
There has been a meteoric rise in quality of German football, Juventus and AC Milan showing better fight in Europe this season and Spain's duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona being ever so strong, English football clubs must pull up their socks and sort out whatever deficiencies they have before the start of the next Champions League.
If not, the wonderful end-to-end, physical, blistering paced type of football portrayed by clubs from England and loved by many around the world will only be a distant memory.
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