Has the Premier League lost its lustre?
Published: 02.04.13 / Written by: David Gold
The Premier League, you will probably have heard, has no teams remaining in this seasonís Champions League.
By contrast, three are still standing in the Europa League, and after todayís last eight draw, all could be in the semi finals. That was once what happened to Englandís sides in the Champions League. Between 2008 and 2009, the only non English team to reach the semi finals of the Champions League was Barcelona.
All has changed this year. In one of the strongest Champions Leagues for quite a few years, there are five big names still standing Ė Juventus, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. English teams have been pushed the wayside and it is in part because the competition has got so much better. Until this year, it was just Barcelona and Real Madrid who were on a level above the English. Now Dortmund and Bayern have both got there, whilst Juventus have done the same. Arguably Shakhtar Donetsk, dispatched by Dortmund in the last 16, are similarly on a par with Englandís finest.
So what has happened? Well for one thing there is a slight exaggeration. English teams are not that bad. Manchester United ran Real Madrid very close, and could make a justifiable claim to have been the better team over the two legs they played. And Arsenal are fifth in the Premier League, yet managed to win away to Bayern Munich, one of Europeís finest sides at present. Chelsea and Manchester City both went out of the competition in the group stage in ridiculously hard groups, and so the mitigating circumstances are there.
Yet the harsh truth is that when Englandís best have come up against top sides this season, they have lost. Every time. Why is that? In part it is because these teams are weak defensively. The Premier League has become more attacking, its leading teams are trying to play a possession based attacking game, and defensive solidity has gone out of the window.
As the tactical expert Michael Cox also pointed out, the two great tacticians who masterminded Englandís dominance of Europe, Rafa Benitez and Jose Mourinho, left Liverpool and Chelsea respectively. Ironically of course Benitez is currently the interim coach of Chelsea and could be replaced by Mourinho soon.
Englandís teams win percentage in Europe this season is poor Ė just 39%. That is behind Italy, Spain and Germany, although is in part explained by the fact that their teams have had particularly difficult games. More concerning though is the stat that English teams have conceded 345 shots against them in the competition this year, and struck only 269. That is a sign of being outplayed. Manchester United broke the mould with one more shot than they conceded, which reflects the fact that they were a touch unfortunate to go out, whilst also had a good group. Arsenal and Manchester City were out shot regularly, whilst Chelsea only had more shots than they conceded because they played a hopeless Danish team they beat 6-1.
So Englandís decline may be exaggerated a touch but it is nonetheless very real. It will be a concern if this trend continues, but for now, the alarm bells are not ringing too loudly.