Is the Premier League’s intensity at blame for European exits?

March 21, 2015

Is it fair to say that the reason Premier League sides aren’t faring well in the Champion’s League comes down to the fact we have the most competitive domestic league in Europe?

Manchester City have yet to make their mark in Europe, despite recent domestic success

Certainly for Manchester City, their failure to compete successfully in Europe is down to their lack of experience. This isn’t to be compared with another English ‘money side’ like Chelsea, because when Roman Abramovich bought them they were already competing in the Champion’s League. Sure, it took them until 2012 (Eight years after Abramovich’s arrival) to lift the trophy, but their previous shortcomings helped build up the experience that brought them there. Chelsea dramatically lost the 2008 Champions League trophy to Manchester United on penalties, whereas City have failed to go much further than the group stages.

John Terry laments his missed penalty

I think a season in the Europa League would fare Manchester City exceptionally well. Realistically, a side who have been domestic champions in consecutive years have the means to win the Europa League. The disappointing thing is that most view the Europa League as the less impressive sibling of the Champion’s League – which is true to a point, but it is still a prestigious competition and a European trophy is nothing to be sniffed at. This seemed to be the case with Liverpool, who were relegated to the Europa League after failing to emerge from the CL group stages. They could certainly be accused of not taking the competition seriously enough. Surely the best thing to do when you are thrust into the Europa League is to go on and take home the trophy?

Another argument is that the Premier League is so intensively competitive that by the time it comes to really knuckle down for a European competition the players are both mentally and physically exhausted.

Individual players such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s achievements have often been criticised by fans of the English game. They argue that although they are reaching exceptional levels and breaking new records on an almost weekly basis, it is less impressive because they class La Liga as an easy league for big teams.

This is true up to a certain point. Recently when Real Madrid beat Granada 9-1 it emerged that the losing side had rested eight players for the tie. They are currently in the midst of a relegation dog-fight and felt they shouldn’t waste their key player’s energy on what they saw as an unwinnable fixture. This would never happen in the Premier League.

In the Premier League there are no easy fixtures. Playing a team like Burnley – who find themselves threatened with relegation – can pose just as much of a tough game for the top sides as playing the league leaders. If Leicester had rested eight of their players whilst taking on a top side like Manchester United they would be heavily criticised by the press and fans alike.

In the Premier League you are rewarded for hard work and this makes every game a battle. I think that’s why the Premier League is so popular around the world. You don’t tend to see these crazily large score lines, because each side has respect for one and other. They know that a single mistake could result in a ‘giant killing’. Sure, you do see the occasional high score but it is classed as a novelty.

You don’t get Cristiano Ronaldo pouting because he failed to net another hat-trick, or the Real Madrid fans booing Gareth Bale for missing a shot or failing to pass the ball. Real Madrid fans are a strange bunch of people, their expectation is so high. It’s like they have paid their entry fee to see a spectacle, and feel ripped off if there’s not a flurry of goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo annoyed about something or other


A good Premier League comparison – though slightly more extreme than Ronaldo’s three-game-goal-drought – is when Fernando Torres started regularly misfiring for Chelsea. The Chelsea fans never booed or hissed, but shared their disappointment with each other over a pint after the game. They recognised that to publicly humiliate their own player would not help anything at all. Scoring goals is as much about confidence as technical ability.

Bayern Munich are another side who dominate their domestic league. Whilst competitively they do fare better than their Premier League counterparts in the Champion’s League, for their total Bundesliga domination to properly translate into European success they would have to at least reach the Champions League final each year.

Bayern’s Thomas Müller once said that it was harder to win a training game than most of the games in the Bundesliga. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer even revealed that sometimes he doesn’t need to shower after a game as his side have been so dominant meaning he hasn’t had to do any work. Neuer is an unusual goalkeeper, often found standing outside of his box. A tired joke is that he has the best seat in the house to watch Bayern Munich play. His thrilling sweeper-keeper performances could arguably be put down to boredom – the player feeling left out of proceedings thus necessitating a show-boating display.

Bayern Munich's fans express their distaste for the Premier League TV deal

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy watching the Bundesliga and Bayern Munich are one of my favourite teams, but I think to be a fan of any other team in the league must be very frustrating. I bet it can feel like the league has one less space, if you discount Bayern entirely. Gary Lineker famously said something like: “You play 11 vs 11 and then the Germans win.” I think this quote could be updated to exclusively mean Bayern Munich win – as it seems to be the Bavarians claiming all the domestic trophies has become an inevitability, particularly with the recent downfall of their biggest rivals Borussia Dortmund.

The curious case of Borussia Dortmund has provided us Bundesliga neutrals with a heavy dose of schadenfreude. Everybody seems to want them to do well, but it has been difficult to look away as you wonder where the German institution went wrong? Although it is no longer a possibility after losing to Juventus – the most extraordinary piece of footballing history could have taken place – with Borussia Dortmund having the potential to be the first team to win the Champion’s League and be relegated in the same season. Thankfully, since the winter break their appalling league form has improved and they find themselves sitting in a humble tenth position. Their speedy recovery saw them in a mathematically possible situation where they could still qualify for Europe. I think that it is too late now, but has there ever been a team sitting dead-bottom of their league and pull it back to qualify for Europe?

I guess a recent English comparison could be when Alan Pardew (jokingly named Pard-iola by the boys at The Football Ramble) took over Crystal Palace – a team threatened with relegation find their Premier League lives completely safe and are pulling off some spectacular performances and results to boot.

Perhaps it will be a different story next season, when Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United are back in the Champion’s League. For now all we can do is speculate. Terrible as it is without having any English teams remaining in the European Cup competitions, we can still be proud of our domestic league. Maybe all we are missing is English powerhouses Manchester United to take over the reigns and show us how it’s done.

David Moyes - What could have been?


Perhaps Manchester United will go on to win the Champion’s League next season and all will be forgotten – the plight of David Moyes erased and Ryan Giggs’ legacy left in-tact. Business resumed as usual.

This article was originally published on www.dailynewsservice.co.uk

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