Since Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012 in Munich, the Premier League has only had two representatives in the semi-finals. Chelsea themselves reached the last four in 2014, while Manchester City achieved their best performance in Europe’s premier competition in 2016.
In addition, during the same period, we have only had another two sides that have reached the quarter final stages. With Manchester United (2014) and Leicester City (2017) doing this.
But why has it been this way? We provided three of the four semi-finalists for 3 consecutive seasons from 2007 to 2009. With two clubs reaching the quarter finals the following season, and three achieving the same feat in 2011. We had a real presence in Europe (although not nearly winning it enough times!).
There’s no question that Bayern Munich and Juventus have dominated their respective leagues for the last few years now. Juve having won Serie A for a record sixth consecutive year, and Bayern winning the Bundesliga for a fifth year on the spin. The Premier League fanatics would have you believe that their title races maybe aren’t as competitive as our own. But yet both Chelsea this year, and Leicester last, won the title at a relative canter.
There’s also no doubt that some of the genuine super powers in Europe right now have very talented squads. With the Spanish trio of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid joined by the likes of Juventus and Bayern Munich all either winners or runners up in the five barren years for English sides.
But where does the priority lie for Premier League sides? Financially, the owners are left in no doubt as to which is more profitable. Chelsea pocketed around £150 million from the TV companies for last season, while Real Madrid got around £83 million for their victorious European campaign in 2016.
It can’t be overlooked, either, that the English clubs have overspent, and wasted in most parts, on inflated transfer fees and wages thanks to the astronomical TV deals currently in place. They must learn to spend their ‘war chests’ more efficiently and maybe even promote more youth players through the ranks. Whether the owners, and the fans, impatience would allow for this is another question indeed.
The number of excuses must also be curbed to an extent. Tottenham have to accept that they will be playing their home games at Wembley and just get on with it. Antonio Conte, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have all had a season under their belts at their current clubs, with varying success so far. They have had a chance to analyse their respective squads.
Time for Change?
But there are suggestions that next season may see a change in how English clubs perform in the Champions League. Although not necessarily through their own efforts.
Barcelona have gone out at the last eight stage in three of the last four years. While Messi continues to perform at extraordinary levels, the rest of the side is not at the level of the team that was considered the best ever back in 2009-11 and losing Neymar is obviously a massive blow.
Atletico Madrid are currently under a transfer ban, meaning they cannot strengthen. While there are also suggestions that Simeone has dragged every last inch of that squad, and maybe a squad overhaul is exactly what they need.
Juventus have compiled an awesome squad, thanks in part to the Pogba money. But some of their stars are in the twilight of their careers. Dani Alves has departed, along with Bonucci. Couple this with Buffon, Chiellini and Barzagli all being the wrong side of 30. This is a similar problem that Bayern Munich face. Lahm and Xabi Alonso have already retired, with players like Robben and Ribery nearing the ends of their career also.
Real Madrid look the best placed to remain a major obstacle, but again, how much longer has Cristiano Ronaldo got left in him at the elite level? Although from the evidence on show so far, he looks like he could keep scoring freely for another five years or so.
Premier League clubs will hope that all of this comes to fruition, while also getting their own affairs in order regarding signings, and tactics when coming up against Europe’s elite. They are all big ifs, but it’s time the Premier League fought back. And with 5 representatives in the Champions League next year, the 2017-18 season would be a good place to start.