EPL fans, let’s stop beating around the bush and get straight to the point: Premier League clubs have not done well in UEFA Champions League in last four years. Ever since Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012, not a single club from EPL has come close to winning the most prestigious trophy in Europe.
As a Premier League fan, it is hard to find any convincing reason why this is the case. Many experts have had their say, but the stats say otherwise.
And to talk about this season, the match between Barcelona and Manchester City more likely justifies the notion. A night for Barca fans to savor but one to forget for City fans.
On the other hand, Arsenal F.C and Leicester City look promising, while Tottenham Hotspur are also in with a chance to qualify for the round of 16.
But, why are English clubs failing at the European stage?
1. Do EPL Clubs Lack World Class Managers?
When you look at the list of top football managers in the world, many of them come from English Premier League.
With Pep Guardiola leading Manchester City this season, Arsene Wenger still toiling at Arsenal, Claudio Ranieri taking Leicester City to remarkable feats, and Mauricio Pochettino spearheading Tottenham Hotspurs, Premier League is certainly not short of talented and experienced managers.
And, if we glance at some of the managers of Premier League clubs who aren’t in Europe this season, you will see that the list is quite breathtaking:
- Manchester United: Jose Mourinho (UEFA Europa League)
- Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp
- Chelsea: Antonio Conte
- Everton: Ronald Koeman
So, to question that Premier League lacks top quality managers is a no brainer. A majority of these managers have international experience and have managed teams from different leagues.
2. Flawed Tactics, Style of Play & Defensive Setup
English Premier League is one of the most competitive leagues in the world, and there is no doubt about that. However, the tactics that work in English football might not work in Europe. This is very evident when you compare the tactical abilities of Spanish, Italian, or German clubs to Premier League clubs.
Teams from EPL are at a distant when it comes to the style of play and defensive setup compared to the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Juventus. Even trivial European clubs can unearth the technical failures of Premier League clubs when they go head to head in UEFA CL.
According to Goal.com, majority of the teams to exit UCL in the round of 16 since 2010-11 have been from England, followed by Germany and Italy.
The main problem lies in how Premier League clubs defend against other clubs across Europe. They come up against oppositions that play high-possession football and are very dynamic in their attacking. Take the case of Arsenal last season. They lost to Olympiacos 2-3 in the group stage and then went out to Monaco in the round of sixteen by showcasing some of the worst defensive displays.
On the other hand, European clubs like Atlético Madrid play very defensively but are swift in their attacks. In 2014, they took apart Chelsea and went on to feature in the final of Champions League; exposing the defensive vulnerabilities in English clubs.
Similarly, Another big club Manchester City has faced similar issues in the Champions League. With all their financial superiority, Man City’s most destructive defeat in UCL came this season against Barcelona (4-0). And, with their clash against Barcelona at home coming up soon, it will be interesting to see how Pep Guardiola plans a counter strategy against his former team.
Now if we turn back the clock and look at EPL teams that have won the Champions League in last decade, you can see how they changed their style of play. When Alex Ferguson won the CL with Manchester United against another EPL club (Chelsea) in 07/08, he adopted a more defensively sound setup.
Likewise, Chelsea showed some of the best defensive displays when they won the Champions League in 11/12 beating Barcelona in the semi’s and then Bayern Munich in the Final. Therefore, the missing ingredient for European success for English clubs is to sort out their defensive frailties and perhaps learn from the tactics used by Spanish or German clubs.
3. Maybe Premier League Doesn’t Have Flair Players
Former Manchester United defender, Rio Ferdinand, said earlier this year that English Premier League does not have world’s best players. Ferdinand was at the heart of Manchester United’s defense when they won the UEFA Champions League in 2008. He went on to say that back then, EPL teams had a mentality to go deep into the competition and had the best players. But, this isn’t the case anymore!
At the moment, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are two of the best footballers in the world. Period. Both of them have carried their teams to European glory. But when you look at Premier League teams in last few years, it’s hard to find a player that can propel their team in a similar manner.
The situation becomes even worse when we analyze Ballon d’Or winners. Ronaldo and Messi have dominated the Ballon d’Or and have won 8 awards between them. To find a player who won the Ballon d’Or from Premier League, you’ll have to go back to 2008 when Cristiano Ronaldo won the award with Manchester United.
4. Extraordinary Amounts of Money, But No Show!
The amount of money flowing through EPL is ludicrously high. From player’s wages to television revenue, transfer fees, to the money paid to agents, the financial dominance of EPL is unprecedented. If you look at the top 10 most expensive squads in Europe, you will find that five of these teams are from the Premier League.
Most Expensive Squads in Europe (million €)
Sadly, all this wealth and financial power cannot guarantee success. This is a fact that was seen last season in the Premier League when Leicester City became champions against all the odds. Likewise, teams such as Atlético Madrid, Monaco, and Borussia Dortmund don’t have expensive squads but have done exceptionally in the Champions League.
So can this year be different for EPL clubs? Perhaps, Leicester City can do the impossible and win the Champions League this season (talk about being a long shot).
5. Tight Schedule, Intense Competition & Fatigue
One of the most talked about point, and the primary complaint made by Premier League teams for their shortcomings in UCL is due to crowded fixture schedule and fatigue. Over the years, many managers have criticized the FA for not providing any relaxation for teams competing in UEFA Champions League.
Average Recovery before a UCL Game
The competitive nature of Premier League demands teams to be at their best in domestic and foreign competitions. Managers cannot rest key players or entire squad for a Champions League game while playing in EPL. If they do, the chances are that they may drop crucial points in Premier League. This was put forth by Jose Mourinho in an exclusive interview: “the Premier League and the internal competitions create a very difficult situation for the clubs.”
EPL teams also compete in an increased competition (the EFL Cup) compared to other European teams. The situation gets worse as there is no winter break in EPL. Now that the FA has introduced Friday night football, there are possibilities that clubs playing in UEFA CL can get extra 24 or 48 hours to prepare and rest for their game.
That said, the depth of EPL squads and their financial prowess makes it difficult to contemplate any excuses. Furthermore, the competitive nature of the league should produce much sharper football in Europe as well. But, this hasn’t been the case in recent years in UCL. Perhaps, this year can be different as Friday night football is now in place, and teams can rotate their squads more efficiently.
What to Expect from EPL Clubs in UCL This Season?
With all things said and done, it will be another difficult season for EPL teams in UEFA Champions League. But, if they can learn from their shortcomings in the recent past and change their tactics, the chances are that we might see an English club reach the final stages of the Champions League.
There are a lot of factors that are in favor of Premier League teams this season. From Friday night football, some of the best managers coming into EPL, to more depth added to the squads, you can expect the unexpected this season.
On a side note, there are various ways to watch UEFA Champions League online. You can use various channels to stream the matches live online. And, if you get stuck behind geo-restrictions, then a VPN will bypass all blockades.
So, will EPL clubs do any better this year in UCL 16/17? Let us know your thoughts and predictions in the comment section below.