Arsenal are out of the Champions League, as are Manchester City, and Manchester United could easily follow suit, although even if they did, progression to say the semi-finals would shock the footballing world purely because of the fact that United are in transition and, bluntly put, look incredibly average. Chelsea are slightly more comfortable but hardly shone in their first leg against Galatasaray and have work to do. But once again, for another season, English sides have failed to impress in Europe, despite being part of the supposedly ‘best league in the world’.
There’s no doubting the improvement from the ‘top four’ domestically, apart from Manchester United, but they’re still some way behind the main contenders in the Champions League, with Barcelona and Bayern Munich making relatively light work of both Arsenal and Manchester City.
Possession wise, it’s there for all to see. The foreign sides retain possession far more consistently and, unlike many English sides, will rarely throw an aimless ball into the box if nothing else is on. The Premier League’s best on the other hand have struggled to contain the attacking threat of their foreign counterparts and, over the two legs, were chasing shadows for large parts of the game.
Of course possession is viewed by some as not an important factor with regards to winning a football match, but that theory, in my opinion, is a load of rubbish when you consider the style of team that have been successful in recent years. Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Spain, Germany, Dortmund and a few more all keep the ball exceptionally well and are considered by most as the teams to beat in their respective competitions. In short, technical ability isn’t just lacking from the England national side, but from the Premier League’s finest also.
Of course there is rebuilding underway at practically all four of the competing sides in Europe, but despite all the hype the media constantly throw around about Manchester City being the best team in the world (it was being heavily suggested before the Barcelona tie) and the fact English football is still the best, a disappointing European showing would suggest otherwise.
I’m not just referring to Barcelona or Bayern Munich either, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain look incredibly dangerous and more than capable of going far in this years Champions League. Special mention for Atletico Madrid too, who have transferred their excellent domestic form over to Europe by thumping Italian giants AC Milan to progress into the quarter-finals.
In a league full of money, incredible coverage and unrivalled excitement, there’s still room for improvement in England’s top flight. There’s definite signs of improvement and with the money flying around, teams are almost certain to grow, but so will the rest of Europe.
The Premier League is exciting, intense and full of passion but in terms of quality and how the top sides fair against the best Europe has to offer, they’re falling short once again. So please, ignore the hype surrounding the Premier League and enjoy it for what it is – a highly competitive and interesting league, but it certainly isn’t the strongest, and those sides at the top certainly aren’t the best.
By John Finn – Newcastle fan