Few football fans around the globe would argue about the special bond between England and the sport of football. The English own intangible records that no other nation will ever be able to claim. For instance, England is responsible for creating the rules of the modern game, is home to the oldest club, and was the first nation to field a national team.
A lot of this heritage continues to breed success on the pitch in the 21st century for English football clubs, but are the members of the Barclay’s Premier League losing their bravado and invincibility in the UEFA Champions League?
The Barclay’s Premier League is hands down the most popular domestic league in the footballing universe. The Premier League, as it is known, is the most lucrative league in the world in terms of revenue and is ranked number one in the UEFA coefficients table based upon the performance of its clubs in Europe during the last five years.
England’s so called “Big Four” of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal are ranked among the top 15 most valuable clubs in the world, and the accolades continue for the Premier League. There is evidence however that the aura surrounding English clubs in the Champions League may be disappearing.
If there is one thing more lucrative in the world of club football than the Premier League, it is the UEFA Champions League. The Champions League is a veritable ATM for clubs and leagues that can consistently succeed in Europe’s toughest club competition.
Those who reach the group stage of the tournament earn a prize of €3.9 million plus an additional €550,000 per match played in the group stage. The payouts continue as clubs advance, with bonuses culminating in a €5.6 million prize for the runner up and €9 million prize for the winner of the tournament.
The rise of English clubs in the competition began in 2005. Liverpool FC defeated AC Milan in the 2005 edition of the Champions League and returned to the final in 2007, losing in a rematch to that same Milan squad. The 2007-08 campaign saw English clubs leave a tremendous footprint on the Champions League. Of the four clubs to reach the semifinals that year, three were English clubs. Liverpool fell to Chelsea FC while Manchester United defeated Barcelona. This set up a first ever all English final in which a 1-1 draw led to penalties where United eventually emerged victorious.
The 2008 season would be the high for English clubs however. Although Manchester United would return to the final again in 2009 and 2011, they would lose to Barcelona in both contests. So what led to this swift downfall? In short, the answer is age and lack of experience.
Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool have seen little turnover in the squads that made them powerhouses early in the 21st century. While United have managed to win title after title in the Premier League with little infusion of young blood, the extreme stresses on fitness that the Champions League places on any team is even tougher on older teams.
Chelsea has also seen little turnover in its roster over the years as well, while Liverpool’s roster has been stripped of the talent that lead it to victory in 2005. Arsenal have suffered a combination of problems from an aging squad to too much turnover, leaving a highly inexperienced squad behind.
Another reason English clubs have failed to succeed at times has been due to a lack of experience or ability to handle the schedule. Tottenham (2010) and Manchester City (2011) recently broke up the dominance of the “Big Four” in England to nab spots in the Champions League, but their lack of experience and ability to handle the extra duties were visible from the get go.
While Tottenham survived the group stage, their domestic form suffered and they would not return in 2011 due to a poor finish in England. Despite a dream roster, Manchester City couldn’t survive the group stage, showing an inability to perform against some of the best in Europe.
The current campaign appears to have been the culmination of this downfall with Manchester United and Manchester City exiting during the group stage. Arsenal and Chelsea won their groups to advance, but the Gunners were knocked out in the round of 16.
Chelsea now stand as the lone English representative and have done well considering their managerial problems, to negotiate a path that has been less challenging than it could have been to the semifinals and a mouth watering confrontation with the current champions Barcelona.
If English clubs wish to recapture their dominance of a few years back, the clubs will need to retool their squads and infuse young talent that can grow in experience and help lead these clubs back to the level of success they enjoyed early in the 21st century.
Guest post written by Samantha Harvey and brought to you by WinkBingo.
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