Football

Premier League clubs are too cocky in Europe

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For the best part of two decades, the argument has been raging as to which domestic league can claim the title of the world's best, and it has been dominated by the Premier League and La Liga.

In the early to late 2000s, despite Real Madrid's first round of modern Galacticos, the Premier League won by a landslide. Between 2001-2009, there was a total of 15 English teams in the semi-finals of the Champions league. In the six years after that, we have seen only three English teams progress that far, with no team making it past the last 16 in last season's competition - something that was unthinkable a decade ago.

In the same six-year period, 11 Spanish teams have made it to the semi-finals, of the Champions League. An argument often heard is "Real Madrid and Barcelona are the only two good teams in La Liga". Atletico Madrid have undoubtedly joined this elite company, and, while they may not be as good, are considerably better than any team in the Premier League at the moment.

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And looking at the opening round of fixtures in this season's UCL, only Chelsea won their game out of the four English teams, with United and City both squandering good leads, and Arsenal not even in contention in Croatia. Three of the five Spanish teams actually top their group at the moment, with Barcelona only denied a win from a 60-yard wonder-strike from Alessandro Florenzi.

But let's take a step down from the elite competition that is the Champions League and look at Europe's secondary tournament - the Europa League. Supposedly made up of the secondary teams in each league, the ones that can't quite make it to the UCL, Spain have dominated that thoroughly for the past half-decade with Atletico and Sevilla winning two apiece, Chelsea won the tournament in 2013.

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It is fair to say that Spanish football is enjoying a golden period at the moment, exemplified by their national team's domination between 2008-2012, however, is the Premier League falling behind the pace compared with the other leagues as well?

Slaven Bilic, the former Besiktas manager who guided his team to victory against Liverpool last season, has said that English teams lose against 'weaker' opposition because they underestimate them. And perhaps he is right.

While it would have been an exceptional travesty for Chelsea to lose at home against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the fixtures presented to Arsenal and United were considerably tougher than they thought. Ferguson's United would have blown away a PSV team who had just lost two of their star players.

Even the somewhat underachieving Arsenal of five years ago should have easily coped with a Dinamo Zagreb side who, despite having no well-known world-class players, actually finished with more shots on target.

Meanwhile, whilst Manchester City have obviously been handed another tough draw, they have blown the Premier League away in their opening five games and were playing a Juventus side that have gained a solitary point from their opening three fixtures and have lost a host of stars including Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Fernando Llorente, Simone Pepe, Mauricio Isla and promising youngster Kingsley Coman. Realistically, they should have won.

While it is a stretch to say that English football has fallen behind anything further than second, their performance in Europe does not pose much of a case, and a shakeup is required if it is to get back on track. A lucrative TV rights deal is quite clearly not the answer, and a poor second round of fixtures will pose more questions of the wealthiest league in the world.

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Topics:
UEFA Champions League
Premier League
Arsenal
Manchester United
Chelsea
Manchester City
Football

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