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Why are English clubs failing in Europe?

September 16, 2015

- Grant Whittington

If you think back to the halcyon days of the noughties, English football clubs were pre-eminent in European competition. Between 2005 and 2012, England contributed eight Champions League finalists and three winners, and this run included the all English final between Manchester United and Chelsea in 2008. Since Chelsea’s nerve-shredding win over Bayern Munich in 2012, however, England has yet to record another finalist and its clubs seem further away than ever from challenging Europe’s top teams.

Why are British Teams struggling in Europe?

In fact, Chelsea is the only team to have reached the semi-finals since 2012, and last season all British representatives were eliminated before the quarter final stage. This represents a considerable decline in the aura of English football, which contrasts sharply with the image of the EPL as being the most alluring and exciting league in the world. There are multiple reasons why English clubs are failing, however, and many of these have been exposed in the last five years.

Perhaps the biggest issue is the quality of players, which has declined considerably among England’s top six clubs in recent times. Just seven years ago, stellar names such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard all plied their trade in the EPL, and these players have since decided to continue their careers overseas. Similarly, leading lights such as Luis Suarez have also decided to leave the EPL, while top players throughout Europe and South America also favouring moves to La Liga and the Bundesliga ahead of British alternatives. With young talent such as Manchester United’s David De Gea also set to follow suit, there is a clear gap between the perception of the EPL and its ability to attract top talent.

The Path to Recovery for English clubs in Europe

There also appears to be an issue with the depth of clubs in the EPL, as even when the top four were competing for Champions League glory there was a lack of British representation during the latter stages of the Europa League. While this was partially down to attitude, the bigger issue is the lack of quality and technique that exists throughout the English top flight.

From this perspective, the path to recovery for British clubs seems far from straightforward. Without the ability to attract the best players in Europe, clubs in the EPL must instead focus on developing the technical ability of their squad members and developing a style of play that optimises their chances of success.

 

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