Munich 2012: The last time the Premier League enjoyed being home to a European Champion! After Manchester United in 2008 under Sir Alex Ferguson and Chelsea in 2012 under Roberto Di Matteo, no English club has even made it to the Champions League final. The "Best League" in the world seems to be keeping its respected members too busy to even attempt walking the hard path of becoming a European juggernaut. Is this actually the case? Or is the calamitous form of the Premier League footballing forces an even more complex conundrum to solve?
"Barcá" in the Premier League:
UCL Round of 16 2017 1st leg: PSG 4-0 FC Barcelona
"PSG are certain to go through" "Absolute shambles from Barcá, is it necessary to play the 2nd leg?" These were the quotes echoing after the 1st leg.
UCL Round of 16 2017 2nd leg FC Barcelona 6-1 PSG Agg: 6-5
Let's all stop for a moment and answer as to whether there exists even a single PL team at this moment in time capable of pulling off this feat? Absolutely not.
It's not because of lack of talent in the Premier League. Probably, the Premier League is at the apex when it comes to talent generation and football branding, but what it quite glaringly lacks is the pragmatism, guile and drive in football that is pivotal in situations like the one highlighted above.
The kind of football played by the English is very predictable with most of the top teams following the tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation with a solitary focal point at the apex of attack. Although, this set up works like a well oiled machine in domestic games in England, but at the European stage it's pretty much a cakewalk for elite teams from other leagues to rip this setup apart and put the English teams to the sword season after season.
The Premier League quite predictably needs a " Barcá-esque" representative at the European stage to have any chance of European glory in the near future.
Beaten? Nope, humiliated:
Getting beaten by a formidable opposition at times is an acceptable proposition, however getting humiliated season after season is just sickening. Yes, I'm being critical but it's not only Arsenal I'm talking about but it's in general. If playing in the Premier League is considered an honour then it is most definitely a duty to maintain those high standards at the European stage too. However, the reality is Premier League teams are used to under-performing in the Champions League. Take this year's Champions League for instance..
Leicester City : R16 1st leg Lost 2-1 (A) to Sevilla 2nd leg to be played at home.
Arsenal : R16 Lost Aggregate 10-2 to Bayern
Man City: R16 Won 5-3 vs Monaco at home. 2nd leg to be played away.
Tottnham: Eliminated in the group stage. Out of the Europa League in R32.
Meanwhile, other Premier League big-hitters like Liverpool, Chelsea aren't involved in Europe this season and Manchester United are favourites to win the Europa League (R16 1st leg vs Rostov 1-1 Away goal advantage). In a nutshell, the Manchester clubs are the only the glimmer of hope for the Premier League to have even a minuscule opportunity of European silverware this season.
Success at the European stage is directly related to the calibre of the players in the team and maintaining focus under pressure during crunch games. Despite the talent at the Premier League's disposal, further investments to lure players from other top leagues is an utmost necessity. And with the improved television deals kicking in next season it'd be surprising not to see some real superstars from other leagues jetting into England this summer.
All criticisms aside, the Premier League is still the best and the most competitive league in the world. However, European glory in the near future is almost a necessity for the Premier League to retain its place at the pinnacle of the footballing world in the years to come.
Over to you Chelsea, Man Utd, Man City , Arsenal, Liverpool or maybe someone else.....
What changes do English clubs need to address better performance in the Champions League? Let us know in the comments below!