How Far Off Are English Teams in the Champions League?
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on March 21, 2016
Largely down to the pure entertainment and unpredictability it creates, the Premier League is widely renowned as the best league in the world. In terms of quality, it’s clear to see there’s a huge difference compared to some of the other European elite leagues.
Over the last few seasons England have had 4 teams competing in the Champions League but since 2012 the question looms large – Has any English team really looked like causing a threat in Europe at all?
In 2012 Di Matteo masterminded a Champions league win for Chelsea after dramatic wins over Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Since then, it’s been an extremely disappointing and almost embarrassing few years, which has led to the best teams in England being easily brushed aside by teams who are the best in other retrospective European leagues.
In the 2013/2014 season, the 4 teams in the Champions League were; Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal. Each team was given a relatively easy group, despite Manchester City having German champions Bayern Munich. As expected Manchester United topped their group consisting of Bayer Leverkusen, Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Sociedad. Manchester City also came through the group, finishing 2nd behind Bayern Munich, claiming 15 points from a possible 18, with CSKA Moscow and Victoria Plzen below them. Chelsea also topped the group, but they didn’t dominate it like expected, finishing with 12 points with a group of Schalke, Basel and Steaua Bucharest. Lastly, Arsenal finished 2nd in their group, behind Dortmund and ahead of Napoli and Marseille. In the last 16, Manchester United and Chelsea marched through, with United coming from 2-0 behind to beat Olympiacos 3-2 on aggregate, and Chelsea beating Galatasaray over 2 legs 3-1. Sadly, for Manchester City and Arsenal, finishing 2nd in the group brings adverse consequences, as City drew Barcelona and Arsenal faced Bayern Munich resulting in their demises, crashing out in the last 16.
In the quarter-finals, only United and Chelsea were left, as the competition went on, the opponents got even tougher, United this time getting arguably the hardest draw against Bayern Munich, and Chelsea coming up against French champions PSG. Once again, England was left reliant on Chelsea in Europe, United lost 4-2 over 2 legs to Bayern, whereas Chelsea scraped through on away goals, after a 3-3 draw to PSG. However Chelsea fell at the next hurdle to the ever impressive Atletico Madrid meaning all English teams were out of the Champions League.
In 2014/15 season, the 4 teams representing England were Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, with City, Chelsea and Arsenal all hoping to go further than the season before, and new comers Liverpool hoping to use their rich history to motivate them to go far. Group stages had Liverpool scrambling at the first hurdle, failing to come through a fairly easy group of Real Madrid, Basel and Ludogorets finishing 3rd after an underwhelming showing. Arsenal once again came up against Dortmund, and once again finished behind them in 2nd place, all too familiar a story for the Gunners. City also experienced a case of deja vu, finishing 2nd in the group behind the formidable Bayern Munich outfit. Once again Chelsea coasted through their group, finishing top, ahead of Schalke, Sporting and Maribor. The quarter finals though left a familiar bitter tastes in the mouths of Manchester City fans who once again were victims of a Spanish demotion job courtesy of Barcelona. Chelsea had another close affair with PSG, but this time PSG came out on top, going through on away goals after another 3-3 aggregate score. Arsenal however, were extremely disappointing given the fact they had possibly the easiest draw available against Monaco losing the tie on away goals. An underwhelming showing, again.
All this underachieving has got to make us question whether we are the mighty league we think we are? To me, there are at least 5 or 6 teams in Europe consistently better than the best team in England. We all know this could change in the matter a 2 or 3 years with the quality of managers coming in i.e. Pep Guardiola and managers rumoured to be coming in i.e. Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte. This, alongside the fact that Premier League clubs keep on becoming richer and richer with astronomical revenue from TV deals means that the top English clubs have the potential to attract more big-name, world class players from around the globe.
Next season could again prove to be a frustrating one for English teams in the Champions League. Unless anything extreme happens, 2 out of the 4 teams representing England will be Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspurs. Despite the praiseworthy spirit and energy of Leicester City, doubts still linger whether they will be capable of performing well on a European level, their squad is precariously thin and whether all the players in the squad are of sufficient quality to compete in the elite club competition remains to be seen. Spurs do have a large squad which has proven to withstand the strains of European football in the Europa League and have a manager which has proven to be tactically astute, but this season they were mercilessly derailed by Borussia Dortmund (a club which isn’t even the best in Germany) in the Europa League – Is this a sign of things to come?
If Manchester City and Arsenal don’t sort out their poor run of form, both clubs could also miss out on Top 4 as teams like West Ham, Manchester United and Liverpool all are on their coattails in an effort to snatch the final Champions League slot. Chelsea are going to miss out on Champions League qualification next season, which can be considered a blow for English football considering they have arguably performed the best out of the English teams in Europe in the last 4-5 seasons.
Juventus’ exit at the Last 16 round of this year’s Champions League means that England are guaranteed 4 Champions League spots for 2 more seasons, but if our teams don’t rapidly improve in Europe’s elite competition there is a serious risk of the Premier League losing 1 out of their 4 their Champions League allocations.