Football

Chelsea and Manchester City highlight English fear factor

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Since Chelsea won the Champions League crown against Bayern Munich almost three years ago, English teams have been outclassed whenever facing top European opposition in the continent's premier club competition.

But why is this? 

The Premier League is constantly held up as being "the most competitive", "most difficult" and "most expensive" league in the world. And while all those assertions have some truth in them, surely if the best English teams can't match the best German and Spanish teams, then something is wrong.

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What's the problem?

Is it a lack of quality? Or an over-reliance on physicality? Is it a lack of "games-man-ship"? Perhaps it's a combination of all these factors, but I think it's as much to do with fear and over-respect on the part of England's best teams which really holds them back.

On paper Chelsea and Manchester City both have teams which could match even Europe's best. Chelsea have one of the best young goalkeepers in the world, a rock solid defence which has experience, ability and physicality in abundance, a midfield which can combine creativity with mettle, and includes one of the game's next great players in Eden Hazard, and in Diego Costa one of Europe's most sought after front-men last summer.

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City, meanwhile, in Sergio Aguero have one of the best strikers in the world, David Silva is a world class playmaker and both would walk into any team, including Barcelona and Real Madrid. In midfield, Yaya Toure is one of the best around when on his game, and again when on song, Vincent Kompany is an experienced and quality centre-half.

And yet, both of England's best Champion's League hopefuls this year fell at the first knockout hurdle, and were throughly outclassed too. This was particularly so with Chelsea, England's almost certain runaway champions this year.

They were undone by a PSG team who had a man sent off mid-way through the first half of the second leg, and yet they still couldn't take control of the game, and looked thoroughly average, unable to defend or effectively attack, despite their numerical advantage.

This performance was a far cry from the usually dominant Chelsea we see most weekends, and while this could be put down to a masterclass in midfield by Marco Verratti that game, or Chelsea's pathetic attempts at gamesmanship.

Fear factor

But a bigger factor is English teams fear and timidity when playing European opposition. English sides don't have faith in their ability to dominate a game technically, and instead seem to rely on their "courage" and "work-rate".

Though of course these are important, it's this attitude which so hamstrings them. Going into a game expecting to be outclassed technically usually means exactly that will happen, even though in terms of quality this shouldn't be the case.

I'm not trying to argue that this is the only reason for England's failure in recent years, but that it seems a marked feature every year in the Champion's League that Premier League teams rarely play well in the knock-out phases, and going through in recent years usually is the result of a hard slogged, tough fought battle rather than a technical triumph.

This isn't only the case against Barcelona or Bayern Munich either, it seems to happen against even lesser quality opposition (Arsenal vs Monaco this year, or Chelsea PSG as I've already mentioned).

I don't think consistent failure in recent years can be put down to lack of quality, the Premier League has by far the most money, and while that doesn't buy everything, it certainly does mean the top English teams have their fair share of world-class talent in their ranks.

It's an attitude problem, a fear of going out on big European nights and wanting to dominate the opposition. Instead English teams expect to be outclassed, and try and slog out victories as a lower league team would in an underdog FA cup clash.

This negative approach is what is holding England's top teams back, and while I'm sure proven winners like Jose Mourinho recognise this, when this attitude will change is another question.

Why do you think English teams are finding it so difficult in Europe? Let us know below!

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Topics:
Manchester City
Football
Real Madrid
Arsenal
AS Monaco
UEFA Champions League
Chelsea
Barcelona
Paris Saint-Germain

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