The Champions League Headaches Continue

Posted: September 16, 2015 in Champions League, European Football, Football, Opinion
Tags: , , ,


So Chelsea were the only English team to manage a win in the Champions League.

They currently sit 17th in the Premier League. Three of the teams above them, namely Manchester City, (1st), Manchester United, (3rd) and Arsenal, (4th) contrived to lose their opening games.

In fairness Chelsea, on paper anyway, had the easiest task. Even with their dodgy form of late it would still have been a major surprise had they not overcome Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Manchester City are always an unknown quantity in this competition. Regular losers at home, they have beaten teams like Roma away to progress in the past. Their game against Juventus, last year’s beaten finalists, was never going to be easy, but a defeat was still a disappointment even if not greatly surprising.

Manchester United were playing PSV Eindhoven who, having won the Eredivisie by 17 points from Ajax last season, were going to be no pushovers. Having played reasonably well in the main, United seemed visibly deflated after Luke Shaw was carried off with a broken leg. They conceded two goals and went down 2-1.

Arsenal are quite well known for starting the Champions League the way they usually start the Premier League. They win games they should lose, and lose games they should win. Dinamo Zagreb probably didn’t fit into either of these categories and Arsenal would have hoped, realistically, for a draw. Unfortunately, they were always fighting an uphill battle when Giroud was sent off for seeing the yellow card on two occasions, which meant that he got to see the red one.

The upshot of the midweek European fixtures is that 75% of our teams managed to lose. Considering the Premier League is rated by some as by far the best league in Europe and by others as the best league in the world, what happens to our teams when they play in the Champions League?

Surprisingly enough, I have a theory as to why this is the case.

English teams play high tempo, intense games every week while the majority of top clubs in the other leagues have a stroll in the park with the occasional tough game. How often do the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have to change up from third gear to win games in their domestic leagues? Not very often. That isn’t to say they don’t have a fourth, fifth and maybe even a sixth gear to go to, they just don’t need them consistently.

The problem arises when the top European teams play the English clubs and DO use their other gears. You may think that our sides wouldn’t have a problem because they play at this intensity all the time. Yes they do, but not against such good teams. When the top European teams change into fifth or sixth gear they are better than virtually anything our teams have faced in the domestic league. Just because the leagues they play in are weaker, doesn’t mean that the very top teams in those leagues are not very good. In fact, just the opposite, they ARE very good and, by not having to play at 100% every week, they still have something in reserve when needed for the really big games.

This is the only reason I can think of for our poor showing in the Champions League of late. It is not an excuse, it shouldn’t happen but, the more I watch European football the more convinced I am that our teams are not quite good enough at the moment, despite the money and so-called superstars in our game. By the way, the four “best players in the world” don’t play in England and, from what I have heard, don’t want to play in England. Why that should be the case is something I considered in detail in a previous blog, which you can find here:

On their return to domestic football, United play Southampton away, a game they should win, City play West Ham at home, a game they should win, and Chelsea play Arsenal in a second-city derby which will kickstart their season when they win 2-0.

  1. Brian Jacob says:

    Shouldn’t the opposite also be true: The Euro teams are facing better than usual competition when they face BPL sides?

    I think it’s also debatable whether the BPL is necessarily stronger top to bottom. Every year, 75 percent of the teams have zero chance of winning the league before the season even starts. While that may leave 2-3 more competitive teams in the BPL than Real, Barca and Athletico, or Munich and Dortmund may have to face, does that really make that much of a difference? I don’t think so.

    I think the simplest answer is the Euro teams are simply better. ManU found that out the last two times they made it to the UCL finals vs Barca. They weren’t good enough and I don’t think that fact has changed.

    Occam’s Razor 101.


  2. Thanks for the comment Brian. Yes, I agree, the Euro teams are facing better opposition when they play the English teams, than they normally face in their own league. This is why I say they still have a couple of gears to use which they don’t need in their own leagues. I also agree that, when Real Madrid or Barcelona or Bayern Munich go up a gear, they are better than any English team. My article, in the main, agrees with everything you say which is something I always appreciate. Thanks again.


  3. Gan says:

    Hi Iain,

    Point taken.
    What i can say, the most reliable problem in EPL that affects their performance in European Competition is plenty unimportant matches that they play, like Carling Cup. What’s the purpose having another Cup tournament beside FA Cup? For the sake of tradition? FA should aware about this if they want the teams to have more productivity in Europe.

    Or for the sake of the supporters? More matches = More happiness? Yeah, if they are okay with losing in UCL and winning the Carling Cup.

    If there are a big differences in a quality of the teams in other Leagues beside EPL, i put aside the Elite teams like Juventus, Barcelona, Madrid, Bayern, Dortmund, etc. The clear situation can be seen from the Europa League, which the Non- Elite teams (Wolfsburg, Sevilla, Villareal, Malaga, Schalke, Lazio, Fiorentina, Napoli, etc) from other League vs Competitive Teams from EPL (Everton, Liverpool, Hostpurs, etc). There are the rests more than 15-16 teams if we deduct the Elite teams in each League, it means these Non Elite teams play against  another 16 Non-Elite teams with the same intensity and competitiveness in each League. So they are using their all “gears” to compete in Domestic and Europe. With the same analogy to the “Most Competitive League” in the World, why still The Competitive Teams beaten by Non Elite Teams from other leagues?

    From what i see in regards to EPL poor performance in Europe, the external factors are about quality, team managements, tactics, strategy flexibility, and League management by each countries own FA.

    Internal factors are too many matches played by EPL Teams, no Winter and Break and of course, the poor quality.

    I take out what you called “non-competitive teams atmosphere” and “Top Elite Teams in each League. Sevilla, Malaga, Villareal can beat Hostpurs, Everton, and even current Man Utd anytime.

    From your article what i can summarize is the EPL is a league of mediocres that compete hard with high pay cap, marketing budget, and wrapped with great advertising. So everything looks great and competitive. Once they go out from their “Home” competition for “Away” matches, they are struggled.
    And with delusional and self affirmation of the EPL fans, they still feels their competition is the toughest. Same analogy can be used when the Grade B and C students compete in one school, it’s tough for them. And they feel their school is the toughest. While other schools has a compound of Grade A, A-, B, C teams, but looks like not competitive because the A beaten the C easily.

    Because why? Simple as the internal and external factors above.


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