So we discussed this on the pod briefly- but why are English clubs struggling in the Champions league?
Many point to the physical intensity and competitiveness of the Premier League, but surely if the standard is competitive then the teams should be better? Economic theory suggests competition increases quality right? I’ve always been in favour of a winter break. In terms of helping English teams – a winter break is a must while, if they are complaining about fixture scheduling and tiredness, they need to tell the Premier League to make its planning more helpful to them.
When an English side does have a player of Ronaldo’s class, you can be sure they’ll end up in La Liga soon enough. Take the couple of phenomenal seasons Ronaldo had at Man united, when was the last time the top tier of English football league boasted the world’s best player? Some argue Gazza…..I’m not so sure. Maradona and Van Basten just a couple of other names floating around at that time. Any before Gazza………do we need to go as far back as George Best? The greatest players who come here are just passing through.
The English aversion to defensive football is at the root of the current failings of Premier League clubs in the Champions League. The supporters are also culpable in this, with Manchester United fans, for instance, chanting ‘attack, attack, attack’ at times when Louis van Gaal’s players are attempting to overcome teams with their possession-based tactics. Manchester United’s attacking philosophy is not always productive. For English clubs to be successful once again in Europe, it requires an acceptance from all parties that defending is just as important as attacking. Examples? Bentiez at Liverpool, Mourinho at Inter. Even Fergie would change his team selection to bring in Fletcher and Carrick in Europe.
We are delighted when 5-4 Premier league games provide us entertainment on a Sunday afternoon, but do they not highlight defensive frailties as opposed to the tight 1-0 victories elsewhere around Europe? I’m reliably told Liverpool won the European Cup four times and Nottingham Forest twice in the seventies and eighties by shutting up shop away from home and scaring the living daylights out of the opposition once on their own turf.
The group stages have been an interesting watch this season. In summary, English clubs have taken European opposition too lightly because we had become too used to winning easily in the group stages. We are too prone to believing the horrendous hype of the Premier League. Every game offers a different style, a different challenge. You need players who can adapt, who can think their way through a game. You need leaders on the pitch, midfielders who can solve problems in real-time, defenders who can read play rather than simply react to it.
Agents are dominating the game- and not for the good of football. Constantly in the club’s ear telling them to pay excessive fees for players that simply aren’t worth the money. The complicity as players, agents and managers makes themselves richer – ultimately with the assistance of subscription fees (which lead to further TV rights deal increases) – is scandalous and sickening. Nobody at any level of our game is demanding accountability. We are consistently denied genuine access regarding where all the money goes, while hypocritically turning our gaze to the finances of FIFA and UEFA. How about we start at home?