It feels like it’s been a lot longer than 4 years since Chelsea lifted the Europa League, an English sides’ last triumph in any European competition. Whilst Man Utd have a reasonable opportunity to win the same competition this season, not many could have predicted such a sharp decline in the performance of the teams from the richest league in the world under the floodlights across the continent.
Allow me to explain…
Since the 1999-2000 season there have been 64 finalists spread over The Champions League & Europa League, the top representatives by country of origin: –
- Spain – 23
- Portugal – 7
- England – 14
- Italy – 6
- Germany – 8
Are we accepting that a little over 20% of finalists being from the “money machine” that is the Barclays Premier league is acceptable?
Of the 14 English clubs who have made it to the various finals, only 4 have prevailed, Sevilla alone have won on 5 occasions and they would not usually be mentioned in the same breath.
It is also worth remembering that even the much maligned Scottish Premiership has provided 2 finalists within the same period (Celtic 2003 & Rangers 2008).
The afore mentioned Man Utd could break the recent trend this season and lift the Europa League, however loses to Feyenoord and Fenerbache accompanied by drab draws against FC Rostov and Anderlecht would hardly see them as worthy winners.
In fact, this season has seen English Premier League sides (Spurs & Man Utd) face opposition from Belgian First Division A (KAA Gent & Anderlecht) over four legs and only produce a solitary England win…A 2-1 extra time win.
Other such failings in recent seasons have included:-
- FA Cup winners Wigan prop up their Europa League group
- Hull City defeated by Lokeren in the qualifying rounds
- Everton take 5 from Dynamo Kiev
- Southampton 1-2 Midtylland
- Liverpool losing out to Basel in 2014-15
- Man Utd slipping to 3rd in a group of Wolfburg, PSV & CSKA
- And who can ignore Arsenal’s recent meetings with Bayern…
Football is football and that’s why we love the game and yes the odd surprise defeat can occur, however these are over 2 legs, or in group stages containing multiple games, EPL sides should NOT be crashing out under these circumstances.
Are Stoke better than Schalke, could Bournemouth batter Bordeaux or would we see Everton ease past Espanyol?
I think the honest answer has to be a resounding no to all of the above.
The self-proclaimed “best league in the world” is being outshone by sides from divisions on which they look down on as being not worthy of sharing their pitches.
The EPL and its member clubs need to raise the bar to a whole new level to re-assert itself as a provider of dominant club sides when competing in European competitions or risk falling further behind.