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Are the English clubs falling behind?

In the Champions League the English clubs reigned supreme for many years, consistently getting to the latter stages of the competition with consummate ease. However things have changed somewhat since then, and now it is a struggle to even get out of the group stage.

This is down to a few reasons, one being the unsettled nature of the ‘top four’; with Liverpool’s dominance ending, and Spurs’ and City’s emergence starting. This new found competition happening, leads to Spurs and City getting tough groups due to low seedings. Instantly meaning getting out of the groups is difficult. Which Man City are finding out this year, in the group of death, and after another disappointing result last night, leaves Manchester City on the brink of an early exit, and a challenge of even getting into the Europa league.

But another probably more crucial reason, is the improvement that has happened in the other major divisions. Ligue 1 with PSG, the Bundesliga with Borrussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, and La Liga with Real Madrid, Malaga and Barcelona. Obviously Bayern, Madrid and Barcelona have been at the top for years, but the more recent emergence of Malaga and PSG has created more competition in Champions League. This is of course mainly down to more investment as it usually is in football these days. Especially with PSG, who followed the City blueprint, but the French side have previous Champions League experience meaning they got a decent seeding. Dortmund are different to a certain extent, they have a rich history but they have now managed to become a very useful outfit; from being a decent side who did OK for many years to a real threat. The result the German side got a Real Madrid last night really shows that they have come along way.

This sort of improvement has happened amongst many European club sides, who have adapted new playing styles, with creative centre attacking midfielders playing in the hole as a reliable structure for winning matches. For example, Ozil for Madrid, Gotze for Dortmund and Xavi and co for Barcelona, to name a few. The British sides do possess such players, in the shape of Sliva for City and Hazard for Chelsea. But the style of the British game is still  being adapted. The need for patience in possession needs to be heightened particularly. Whereas the other European sides have edged ahead albeit ever so slightly in this respect as the passing principles exist already. But another problem is the defending, the English sides struggle for clean sheets in the Champions League nowadays, with City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all conceding at least two goals in their last Champions League outings. This lack of defending ability coupled with a lack of patience on the ball, leads to tough matches even against the lesser European sides, such as Ajax, who scored 5 goals and conceded 3 against the English Champions in 2 matches.

For example the Italian influence in the Champions League was huge a few years ago, but the game changed. And Serie A’s sides have fallen behind, due to the emergence of the other European leagues, the English sides are not there yet and won’t be until the Premier League loses its draw, which will take time in itself. But the English sides must be aware of the threat the new European elite pose as they rapidly keep improving, and they must start catching up and fast.

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