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English clubs: European contenders or overrated laughing stocks?

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith the Champions League moving on to the Quarter Final stages and not a single English team left standing, is it time to stop looking at the talent of other top European clubs and start bettering our own?

As most English football fans will know, the four teams representing England in the 14-15 season were Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City. As the end of the competition itself draws near and not one of those four are left, some fans have been asking questions as to what has become of the once feared British sides.

One of the major shocks was to see Chelsea miss out on a last eight spot. As a new José Mourinho inspired side was tipped to complete the treble by a number of hopeful English football fans, it came as a massive shock to most viewers when Thiago Silva’s header looped over Thibaut Courtois in the 114th minute to help see the 10 men French side through to the quarter finals. Despite what was recognised by most as a poor refereeing performance, Chelsea couldn’t edge it, losing out 3-3 on away goals.

Another familiar story was the one of Arsène Wenger’s side. Arsenal aren’t normally a side to go far in Europe however they never fail to progress through the group stage having reached the last 16 an impressive 17 years running, yet reaching the final only once. This year was a shocking disappointment for the Gunners as they were knocked out to a lesser favoured Monaco side, after an embarrassing 3-1 loss at the hands of Leonardo Jardim’s side that couldn’t be revived by a 2-0 win in France. This just proves Arsenal’s consistency over the Wenger era and the inability to successfully complete a European campaign.

The more experienced and five time European champions, Liverpool, faced a difficult return after their three year absence playing alongside Europe’s greatest. Liverpool were a feared side by many last season and although they were defensively poor, the attacking duo of Sturridge and Suárez was too hot to handle for most Premier League sides. With a powerful midfield of Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho, Sterling and more supporting the firing front men, they were a side to be feared. Then with the long-awaited sale of Luis Suárez and injury hit Daniel Sturridge leaving a new Liverpool with over £100 million invested into nine new signings, it just didn’t gel as well as expected as they bailed out of the Champions League, with a home draw to Basel being the killer blow dropping them into the Europa Leauge knockout stage.

Finally, the Premier League champions Manchester City were kept alive in their mostly one sided tie against Barcelona by England No.1 goalkeeper Joe Hart. Despite doing a double last season, picking up the Premier League and League Cup, Manuel Pellegrini’s side has not lived up to expectations in Europe. Crashing out the of the League Cup at the hands of Newcastle, the FA Cup at home to Middlesborough, and dropping points in the league to the likes of Stoke and Burnley, even domestically the champions haven’t been up to their highly set standards. The loss to Barcelona wasn’t a surprise as much as the fact that the sky blues even made the knockout stages, having achieved only two points from their first four group stage matches.

In the less contested Europa League, we watched Spurs bow out to Fiorentina, Everton getting smashed 5-1 away to Dynamo Kiev to see them out of Europe, and Liverpool’s crushing penalty defeat to Besiktas knocking them out of their last hope of European glory this season.

Does this show a preview of what’s to come with the English game as a whole?

Many believe the English game to be on the decline, with the likes of Manchester United missing their first Champions League season since the induction of the Premier League in 1994. Other European teams have taken the steps needed to compete at the highest club level of football, leaving the old English 4-4-2 behind them.

The question is, will this continue into future years, or will the English game step up to the plate in terms of attacking flair to match the European big guns of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid?

Whilst we all watch the English game attract top talents on the highest wages, is it really what we need as a footballing nation? This was equally reflected in the 2014 World Cup as England were disappointingly knocked out in the group stages in Brazil. With England having the lowest number of home grown players across the top six European leagues (England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands) is this proof enough to show that we need to push through youth, as the vicious cycle of buying expensive foreigners to fail in Europe in following seasons draws on?

It seems mostly like the top European competitors have taken the best from our high pressure game and mixed it with different foreign styles to create success, which leads most to ask why English teams can’t do this themselves.

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