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Why is it going wrong in Europe for Premier League teams?

Updated on November 23, 2015

By SoccerjuryAdmin, Contributor for Soccerjury

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Will this season be different to recent campaigns where English clubs have struggled in Europe?

In 15/16 Premier League clubs have managed just three wins in the opening eight fixtures. And in the 14/15 edition this was the second time in the past three seasons, that England could not muster a single representative in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Premier League teams have also failed to make the quarter-finals of the Europa League over the course of the last two seasons. This is despite England starting with more teams in both competitions than all other European leagues.

The downturn started in 2013, which was the first time in 17 years that a Premier League team failed to make the quarter-finals of the Champions League. In 2008, four of the eight teams competing in the Champions League last-eight hailed from England. So why do Premier League clubs now fail in Europe?

 Sergio Aguero cannot hide his disappointment as Manchester City lose to Barcelona (Manchester City FC)

No Easy Premier League Games

A likely factor is the increasing competitiveness of the Premier League, with five clubs: Chelsea, Arsenal, both Manchester teams, and Liverpool all challenging for the title. And even these five superclubs are often challenged for the four Champions League spots by Tottenham and Everton.

There are few easy games in the Premiership, with teams even in the bottom half of the league competitive. In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona only face a sporadic challenge from another Spanish team in La Liga (such as Atletico Madrid in the 2013/14 season). And in Germany, Bayern are completely dominant having won their third title in a row. And similarly in other major European footballing leagues including Italy, Portugal and France - the tops teams do not have the same level of competition as in England. It could be argued that the intensity of the Premier League is hurting English clubs in Europe, who are forced to peak twice in a single week.

Talent Unnurtured

Another reason can be found by analysing further some of the recent great teams of Europe, such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich. These teams have been allowed to mature over time. Players such as Pique, Xavi, Iniesta, Dani Alves, Messi and Sergio Busquets, have all been at Barcelona for a number of years. The same can be said for Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Muller, Robben, Alaba and Ribery for Bayern Munich. And, prior to his retirement Alex Ferguson would always nurture a core group of players in different generations of Manchester United teams - and he reaped the rewards both in the domestic and European leagues. Are Premier League teams allowing their players enough time to develop in their quest for instant success?

The nucleus of Bayern Munich's team have played together for a number of years (UEFA)

Greater Competition

Despite being the richest league in the world, recent Premier League failings in Europe could also be due to the increasing might of other clubs around the continent. Bayern Munich had a spell when they didn't challenge but were recently victorious in Europe in 2012/13, while Paris Saint-Germain are now a real force to be reckoned with, as are Atletico Madrid and Juventus. Conversely, several of England's superclubs are now weaker, including a Manchester United team so often perennial contenders still in transition. 

Player Talent Drain

In addition to the above reasons, the very best players in the world seem to be playing outside the Premier League at this moment in time. The Premier League's best performers, such as Suarez, Ronaldo and Bale have all been sold to Spain, while Neymar and Messi also play in La Liga. And great Premier League talents such as David De Gea, Eden Hazard, and Aaron Ramsey have all been linked with moves to Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Better players will often win matches. And unfortunately for the Premier League only one player (Wayne Rooney) is in the current Soccerjury Top 10 player list.

The world's most expensive player chose to leave the Premier League (Real Madrid)

Failing Forward?

Also, the tactics being used by some Premier League teams in Europe are no longer working. Premier League clubs tend to play a 4-5-1 formation, rarely deviating from this. Their European competitors have now found out how to play against English teams, frustrating them by holding on to posession for long periods, or soaking-up pressure before releasing a swift counter-attack. 

And frustratingly Premier League teams seem seldom to learn from their mistakes. Arsenal were a prime example last year despite a favourable draw against Monaco. Premier League players may be guilty of becoming complacent, and their current coaches unable to "fail forward".

Arsenal crash out in the last 16 again, this time losing to Monaco (UEFA)

Player Burn-out

Another potential reason for the Premier League's failure in Europe is burn-out. Premier League teams do not get a winter break, unlike Spain, France and Portugal. However, this has been the case for some time and it did not prevent English club's from performing well in the past.

Summary

The recent failure of Premier League teams is likely to be a combination of the above rather than a solitary factor. However, Premier League team's must improve soon in Europe's blue riband club competition, or risk losing their coveted fourth place to another nation. Currently, Spain, England and Germany are given four Champions League places, while their nearest challengers Italy, Portugal and France are given just three. But the UEFA coefficient table below shows that the Premier League has now dropped below the Bundesliga, and is now being challenged by Serie A for the fourth Champions League place.

UEFA Coefficients as of July 1st, 2015 (Wikipedia)

Perhaps the threat of losing their lucrative fourth spot in the Champions League is the sole impetus that Premier League teams need to be a force again in Europe, when England was represented in the final eight times in just eight seasons from 2004-12.

But if they cannot find their spark this season, then the lustre of the Premier League may just fade and the mega-sponsors may choose to go elsewhere.

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All Comments (2)

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Robbie Ackerman

English clubs with just 3 wins in 8 games. Fourth spot under threat. shock

October 2 at 10:39pm Reply | Flag

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Kal Kilby

I think the Premier League intensity is the biggest reason. There seems to be a big game almost every weekend now, unlike Spain and Germany where the big teams can afford to relax in some of their games.

September 15 at 9:28pm Reply | Flag

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Kal Kilby

I think the Premier League intensity is the biggest reason. There seems to be a big game almost every weekend now, unlike Spain and Germany where the big teams can afford to relax in some of their games.

September 15 at 9:28pm Reply | Flag

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