With last year’s European competitions turning out to be disaster for the English team it makes fans wonder what we have in store this year as a nation.
First as a recap, here’s a quick reminder on how the English teams fared last year :
Chelsea lost out 3-3 in the round of 16 to Paris Saint-Germain on aggregate only by the away goals rule, Manchester City also saw an early exit in the same round to the winners of the tournament Barcelona, losing 3-1 on aggregate. Arsenal saw unlikely underdogs Monaco pip them to the quarter finals, losing 3-3 on away goals, while Liverpool didn’t qualify for the knockout stage of the competition after finishing 3rd in their group behind Basel and Real Madrid. Following that, Besiktas knocked them out of the Europa League with a 5-4 penalty win after drawing 1-1 on aggregate.
Tottenham saw themselves fall short at the round of 32 of the Europa league, succumbing to a strong Fiorentina side – losing 3-1 on aggregate, and finally Everton went the furthest in the Europa League – reaching the round of 16 before being beaten by a respectable Dynamo Kiev side 6-4 on aggregate.
So after taking a quick look back we realise that not including group stage matches, English clubs only appeared in 12 knockout games out of the 90 that were played last season. A pretty abysmal statistic if you ask me.
A big step up seems to be needed if any English team is to go the distance in Europe this year, but it’s not impossible. With the four English clubs in the Champions league being: Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United (assuming they proceed through the final qualifying match) and three sides (Spurs, Liverpool and Southampton) all ready and qualified for the Europa League, this season could be looking bright for optimistic English football fans.
When you look at the calibre of the last three Champions League winners and see Bayern Munich (2013), Real Madrid (2014) and Barcelona (2015), the standard looks higher than what the English clubs can match, but a look a little beyond that and the last 10 years on the whole haven’t been bad for England as a country, winning the tournament three times and having English finalists eight times. It’s not all doom and gloom right? However since Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in their own back yard back in 2012, England have had only one semi finalist, Chelsea losing out to Atlético de Madrid back in 2014.
The only real fault you can blame the English clubs on really is not keeping up with the demand to strengthen. With this season just gone giving birth to the BBC (Bale, Benzema, Cristiano) and MSN (Messi, Suárez, Neymar) the Spanish giants looked from a different planet when compared to us in Merseyside, Manchester and London.
While the Premier League have been spending record amounts on players, and picking up expensive players in the middle tier, over the last few years we haven’t seen any of the very biggest names come for big money to the Premier League and continue to perform to their best level, although some have tried – PSG’s Di Maria for example, after spending only one year in Manchester since arriving for a fee of just under £60 million pounds before switching to the French capital. Whilst this lack of investment has gone on, other clubs have shaped up with the likes of Real Madrid paying out a believed fee of around €80 million euros for World Cup superstar James Rodríguez and Barcelona forking out £75 million pounds for half of Liverpool’s deadly SAS, Luis Suárez.
Instead of big spending, some clubs have looked from within to strengthen, which could mean a transition stage for England as a footballing nation. With Harry Kane scoring 31 goals in all competitions in his breakthrough season for Tottenham, and Raheem Sterling travelling from Merseyside to Manchester City for £50 million pounds, this could be the start of bright era for England on a national level even if it does mean a slight dip in European club cup competitions.
English clubs on the whole however do not need to worry too much, still being the most watched league in the world and maintaining the right to their four Champions League places, we’ll just have to wait and see what the English clubs are capable of this upcoming season, in what is sure to be full of exciting football.