What Happened to English Soccer?

Featured image: International Business Times

The Barclay Premier League (also called the British Premier League) once dominated the world of European soccer. Teams like Chelsea, Manchester United, and even Liverpool dominated the UEFA (Union of European Football Association) Champions League. There was even a time when the Tottenham Hotspurs could beat Atletico Madrid by a whopping 5-1 to bring another European trophy back to England. Or when present day second tier teams like Leeds United could face the likes of AC Milan in a European Cup Final. Over the recent years there seems to have been a cloud of darkness looming over England, and its most successful clubs during cross European games.

Barcelona’s convincing victory over Manchester City has officially knocked every English team out of the UEFA Champions Cup, and to rub salt in the wound — it was only the first round of the tournament. This meant that England’s only hope of a European championship was in the hands of struggling Everton. Everton was having a very convincing campaign in the Europa Cup. The Europa Cup is a second tier tournament behind the UEFA Champions Cup. England’s dream of victory did not last long when Everton lost 5-2 to the Ukrainian side, Dynamo Kyiv. This not only means all English teams have been effectively knocked out of every European tournament, it also means that the only Englishman left in a European tournament is Manchester City reject, Micah Richards. So, the real question is; Why are all these teams from such a successful league struggling?

ITV

ITV

The Barclay Premier League has certainly not struggled in popularity, nor has the league struggled financially. The Barclay Premier League remains one of the most popular soccer leagues in the world, if not the most popular. Because of the multi-million dollar coverage contracts set up with NBC, BBC and other networks, even generally low ranking teams like West Ham United and Hull City have transfer budgets ranging from 20-30 million Dollars. So finance has definitely not played a role in the league’s downfall in European competitions.

Some would argue that it really comes down to coaching, and that it has nothing to do with the talent of players at all. Which I would definitely agree with…. most of time. And I say most of the time because in some of these cases I am not so sure if that is true. For example, look at the Chelsea-PSG game, particularly the one that saw the Barclay Premier League leaders out of the tournament. Chelsea lost to a team they outnumbered for a majority of the game (due to an early red card on Zlatan Ibrahimovic). Not to mention Chelsea statiscally had the better team. Yet the infamous “Blues” still could not defeat an abysmal PSG. And this is where coaching comes back into play. Chelseas manager Jose Mourinho is considered one of the best managers in soccer history. Jose Mourinho has won countless championships with many of the top teams in Europe, And did I mention Mourinho has won the UEFA Champions Cup more than once? So how can people explain his failure to defeat a clearly flawed PSG?

ITV

ITV

Manchester United legend, Gary Neville, believes this decline is due to foreign “super-agents” poaching the league’s best players, which honestly is not an insane theory if you think about the fact that the three most expensive signings in soccer history were all players from the Premier League (Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale). Two of those signings moved to the reigning UEFA Champion League title holders Real Madrid. Gary Neville was also adamant about the lack of homegrown talent playing for these English teams. A thought many people (including myself) would agree with. If you need an example just take a look at last years Premier League champions Manchester City. A team with only one English born player in their starting lineup. By doing this, Manchester City (and many teams like theirs) have put their players in this uneasy situation where they must learn the team’s lingua franca. With players all from diverse origins that have never spoken this language before, this can prove problematic. For instance, this can severely damage a team’s chemistry.  And this is not just a problem with Manchester City. There are many other teams like this in the Premier League, and it has become such a major issue that the English FA (Football Association) is even thinking about limiting the amount of non-European Union players per team.

The further I look into this, the more I have come to realize that there are so many reasons behind the English struggle in European competitions. It is practically impossible to just pin one reason behind it. There are also far too many theories behind the issue… it seems unfair to just pick one as the correct idea. I, for one, believe that the decline is due to the teams underestimation of opponents from so called “weaker leagues,” in what should be taken as serious games. And I feel no one has really paid attention to the lack of physicality in their game. If the English FA really wants to change their recent abysmal results against foreign teams, they will probably have to start making drastic and possibly controversial decisions.  One such controversy might mean setting boundaries with all of the big money clubs that dominate the global fanbase. Starting with pushing these teams to start promoting more of their home grown players. These potentially risky decisions may cause outrage among the Premier League’s coaches and team owners, but could possibly save English soccer in the long run.

 

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