Premier League teams too arrogant in Europe

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It was only a decade ago when Liverpool came from 3-0 down at half time to win their fifth European Cup in Istanbul in a game that harked in a new era of English dominance in the competition.

In the following four seasons, English clubs had at least one representative in the final, including the all-English 2008 final, but since 2012 only one English team has made it to the semi-finals.

Following the first week of the new UEFA Champions League season, that doesn’t look like it’ll be changing.


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But why suddenly have English teams gone from consistent finalists to struggling out of groups, has the rest of Europe gotten better or have England gotten too arrogant?

European improvement

Let’s not doubt that clubs around Europe have gotten a lot better since the mid-noughties, their youth development is far superior to anything in England, the players at the top club’s disposal are more technically gifted than England and most importantly, their managers never come across tactically naïve.

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Throughout the first decade of this century, most English clubs went out and signed the best-established players around Europe and most neglected to develop new young players.

Whereas their European counterparts after losing their top players instead developed young players for the long-term.

Over time the top teams in Europe have not only loaded their club teams with top technical but have also built their successful national teams too, all while leaving England in their past.

England might be where the money is at but that has helped breed a generation of sub-par greedy club football mercenaries in England, the glory is all on continental Europe.

English arrogance

There is a hint of arrogance across the teams in England when they play in Europe. Look at the way some English clubs treat the Europa League compared to their opponents – most of the time top players are rested and defeats aren’t scrutinised enough.

Last season, when it was clear Liverpool and Tottenham were going to struggle to make the top four of the Premier League instead of putting their resources in trying to win the Europa League to not only qualify for the Champions League but win European silverware – they played weakened teams and crashed out early to sides that on paper shouldn’t be beating them.

Instead, Sevilla went on to win the Europa League after finishing fifth in the Spanish La Liga and are now the fifth Spanish team in the Champions League.

In the 2015/16 group stage, English teams have already started resting their top players, both Chelsea and Arsenal rested some of their better players and although Chelsea convincingly beat Maccabi Tel Aviv, Arsenal were humiliated by Dynamo Zagreb.

You can’t blame teams for using their squads but do players seriously need rest five-league games into a season?

It only comes across as arrogance when a team replaces some crucial players because they believe the opposition is that much weaker than them.

Would Arsenal really be starting Mikel Arteta – who looked a shadow of his former self – in a league game?

Tactical naivety

English club’s real issue is how tactically naïve they all come across – especially in the latter rounds.

European teams are very compact in first legs, to steal an NFL expression they: 'take what the defence gives them', they prey on the mistakes of their opponents whilst trying to contain them and ensure they themselves don’t make mistakes.

In second legs, assuming they’re in front, they commit tactical fouls, they break up the game with tackles, they do anything to stop the opposition playing, whereas English teams especially Arsenal and Manchester City seem to always leave themselves so open trying to chase games.

Take the first leg against Monaco for example; Geoffrey Kondogbia scored an amazing long-range effort.

It was unstoppable, but instead of remaining calm and ensuring they remained in the game the Gunners went screaming forward for an equaliser early in the second half and were twice caught on the counter and ultimately out of the tie.

Even when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got a goal back, giving Arsenal a glimmer of hope and something to build on, they were caught out to give Monaco the 3-1 win at the Emirates.

Predictably, Arsenal scored two goals in Monaco that had they only lost 2-1 at the Emirates would have been enough to progress to the Quarter-finals for the first time since 2010 but instead they crashed out unable to find a third against a resilient Monaco.

Will it ever change?

Perhaps when England starts to produce talent on the levels of the talent Spain, Italy & Germany can produce it can catch up.

At the moment, teams are so focused on chasing the top dollar top four places; they have no time to develop a youth movement like FC Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund or Ajax can produce.

Look at Dortmund’s 2013 Champions League team and their top players Mats Hummels, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze (who missed the final) and Robert Lewandowski all were either signed early in their careers and developed under Jurgen Klopp or developed at the club.

England’s scouting needs to step up drastically, it’s inexcusable to me that a league that is the richest in the world can miss out on so many top players at a young age and continue to throw money at talent that doesn’t deserve it or wasted in a system that doesn’t fit them.

Perhaps the best thing to happen is for England to finally lose its fourth European Cup place.

With a bigger club in the Europa League and that competition being perhaps its only viable option of qualifying for the Champions League they may take it more seriously and actually try to win it.

The three in the Champions League may also count themselves lucky and try to improve rather than thinking their bank balances and names alone can get them to the late rounds.

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