The English Premier League is often touted as the best league in the world by many, but this year, English clubs have failed spectacularly in European competitions. Each and every English team has been knocked out of both the Champions League and the Europa League, before even reaching the quarter final stage, despite no league having more clubs in the Champions League than the Premier League. So why do English teams perform so badly?
One reason that is often given is that English teams fail to develop “home-grown players” through club youth systems and that those players who do come out of youth academies aren’t given enough time in the first team, but sent on endless loan spells elsewhere. People often point to Barcelona and their famed youth system that has churned out players like Xavi, Iniesta, and of course, Lionel Messi, as a key example of this. These players have been hugely influential in Barcelona reaching a record 8th consecutive quarter final in the Champions League this season, after seeing off Manchester City, a club criticised for spending money on foreign talent rather than developing English players, over two legs that made for reasonably comfortable watching for the fans of the Catalan club.
But this seems pretty illogical really; after all teams like Manchester City and Chelsea have been characterised for spending large sums on bringing in players from abroad who are supposedly better than the talent already at the clubs. This should mean that these clubs are actually better equipped to compete in Europe, rather than suffering from lack of “home-grown players” – the origin of player shouldn’t make them play any less well in a certain game. In fact, buying players from European rivals should make those clubs less able to compete, but this does not appear to be the case. A great example that flies in the face of the home grown player argument is Real Madrid; a club who spend immense sums of money buying whoever they want in the transfer market, won a record 10th Champions League last season and knocked Liverpool, a team with several English players, out at the group stage.
Festive Fixture Congestion
One feature of the Premier League is a compact fixture schedule during the Christmas period, in which big teams can expect to face one another at least once over just a few weeks. In Spain and Germany, there is a huge contrast to this, in that teams are given a winter break, which allows players to restore their fitness levels halfway through the season. After Christmas, Premier League clubs are introduced into the FA cup, which means that there is no let up at all for players and they can expect their energy levels to suffer. This leaves clubs abroad with a distinct advantage when it is time for European competitions to start up again, their players are much more refreshed and ready, rather than tired and worn after a fixture pile up over Christmas.
Maybe the real root problem is that English teams at the top of the league are simply not as good as those who dominate the domestic league in other countries. English teams rarely spend huge amounts on bringing individual players in and when they do, the players often underperform, such as Torres at Chelsea or Di Maria at Manchester United (there are obvious exceptions to this, Sanchez has been the saviour for Arsenal many times this season). Generally speaking, English clubs are unable to keep hold of their very best players, as foreign clubs come sniffing around in the summer. Suarez and Bale are just two examples of world class players that English clubs haven’t managed to hang on to after an exceptional season in the Premier League.
In short, English teams simply aren’t as good as their European rivals anymore, and this problem is made worse by the demanding schedule that Premier League clubs suffer from over the Christmas period.