Thursday, April 30, 2015

No UEFA Champions League (UCL) please, We are English Club!

Again, this season is another awful season for English Club in UCL. This is the second time for them to be absent from the UCL quarter final party in the last three years. Starting this UCL season with 4 (Four) representatives, but then when the stage comes to the Big 8, the English scent is faded away from UCL atmosphere. Three English teams have been knocked out in the round of 16. Man City was totally outclassed by Barcelona, Arsenal was struck by hard-working AS Monaco, and Chelsea was so passionless to face 10 brave men of PSG. Yet, Liverpool was the worst. They even failed to avoid the group elimination despite only sorted in the “easy” group. They failed to accompany Real Madrid from that “easy” group.


Surely, this accomplishment is too far from the expectation to the English Teams. Labelled as the most watched, most profitable, and most competitive Football League in the world, they were expected to show something more than just finished in the Round of 16. In contrast with that facts, in the period of 2005-2012, English Teams had been so dominant in UCL. In that period, they nearly showed up in every UCL Semifinal (Big 4) and they were also the UCL winner in 2005, 2008, and 2012, as shown in the table below.

Table 1 English teams in UCL Semifinal
UCL season
English Teams
2004-2005
Chelsea and Liverpool
2005-2006
Arsenal
2006-2007
Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man United
2007-2008
Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man United
2008-2009
Arsenal, Chelsea, and Man United
2009-2010
(n/a)
2010-2011
Man United
2011-2012
Chelsea

Reflecting the facts that English teams were so strong in UCL 8 years ago, there are 4 big reasons why English Teams are undergoing an awful period in UCL right now.


1) The dominance of Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich in UCL

Barcelona has been so consistent in UCL since Ronaldinho era. Excellent regeneration and the consistency in beautiful possession game are the keys to keep them stay strong in European competition. Fyi, this Mighty Barcelona has played 8 Semifinal in the last 10 years!!! This team was the real constant threat to English Teams in UCL when they were dominating UCL in 2005-2012.

Unlike Barcelona who has been so consistent in the last 10 years of competition, both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, had ever “disappeared” in this competition in the period of 2004-2009. After winning the competition in 2001 and 2002 alternately, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid were not “so scary” afterwards. Poor regeneration in Bayern and the failure of the first “Los Galacticos” project in Real Madrid were the reason why these two magnificent teams were “disappeared” from European competition radar in that period. During that gloomy period, either Bayern or Real Madrid were just able to finish in Quarterfinal, or sometimes stuck in Round of 16.

But then, in late of 2009, the young Bayern generation, led by Bastian Schweinsteiger and Phillip Lahm, started to shine back in European competition under Louis van Gaal command. Real Madrid then followed Bayern regeneration by starting the successful second “Los Galacticos” project which brought world class players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Kaka, Mesut Ozil, Angel di Maria, and Xabi Alonso. It then became perfect when they were blended with Jose Mourinho. And the result was so great. Bayern reaches UCL Final in 2010, 2012, and 2013, and appeared in Semifinal for 4 times in the last 5 years. Meanwhile, Real Madrid always took part in the UCL Semifinal party since 2011 and crowned “the holy grail” in the last occasion under supervision the Italian Genius, Carlo Ancelotti. It seems, in this season, alongside with Barcelona, they are ready to book another Semifinal place before involved in the immense clash for the Final 2015 in Berlin.

1st galacticos, falied to bring any European thropies

2)  The Big Four of English Club is still on their way to get back into top form

This second point is another main reason why the English team is “missing” in the late of UCL. Currently, The Big Four is undergoing their transition period. The players, the icon, the coach, of The Big Four is altering. If we look back the glorious era of English teams in UCL around 8 years ago, they were:
·        Arsenal,
filled by a bunch of talented young player like Emanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Theo Walcott, Bacary Sagna, Jens Lehmann, and led by the living legend, Thierry Henry.

·        Chelsea,
packed by quality players like Didier Drogba, Joe Cole, Arjen Robben, Michael Ballack, Michael Essien, Claude Makelele, Ashley Cole, Petr Cech and of course Frank Lampard and John Terry in their top form.

·        Liverpool,
stuffed by player like Fernando Torres, Peter Crouch, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Luis Garcia, Harry Kewell, Dirk Kuyt, John Arne Riise, Jamie Carragher, and led by their heart, Steven Gerrard.

·        Man United,
reinforced by their biggest star ever, Cristiano Ronaldo, with companions from Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick, Gary Neville, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, and Edwin Van der Sar. And of course, these great players were supervised by their greatest manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.

The times goes on and the era has changed for English teams. Those magnificent teams has replaced. However, the regeneration is yet to meet the expectations. Man United still could not find the new replacement of their last number 7, Cristiano Ronaldo. They are also still building the new core of their team. And the most challenge of all is, they still have to find the right successor of their greatest manager, leader, and living legend, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Liverpool is even worse. They could not make it into big four for the last five years. And this season, despite they were able to qualify to UCL, they still could not make it to the knocked out phase. With the advancing years of Steven Gerrard, and the young squad they have right now, more years learning in gaining winning mentality is still needed by the Anfield Gang.

Practically only Arsenal and Chelsea, with their current squad, are the most stable English Clubs in Europe. The way they regenerate their team is quite good. They lost their star players, but they created/made the new one. Right now, both of them are filled by a lot of quality players in every line, and supervised by the great manager as well. If they keep playing consistently with this current squad, within 1 or 2 years more, they will bring back English teams honor in the UCL stages by appearing in Semifinal or even Final.

How about Man City?

Since the absence of Liverpool in UCL, Man City has replaced them to represent English football in European stage. Yeah, this team has potential to be decent representative of English football. However, since their first appearance in the most prestigious European stage in 2011, they were eliminated in group stage for their first and second year campaign. After being eliminated two times in rows, Man City then could make into knocked out phase in their third and fourth (this season) year campaign. However, they were eliminated by the mighty Barcelona in Round of 16 in both occasions. Yes it sounds miserable indeed. Nevertheless, those miserable stories were the fourth failure for Man City in UCL, it became natural then. As we all know, to be the winner of the most prestigious competition in Europe, you have to feel the bitterest experience before tasting the sweetness of the Holy Grail. In a simpler way, Man City just need to be patient, keep trying, and work hard, before stepping further in UCL theatre.


3) Lately, in that country, no club is considered “small”

I think, this point is another important reason why English Teams always struggling in UCL. Why?

Labelled as the most watched football league in the world, English Clubs are supported by very healthy financial. It then makes them very active in transfer market window. They are signing a lot of talented and excellent players from all over the world. It happens not only for the Big teams, “mid-table” clubs such, Everton, Southampton, Stoke City, Totenham, etc. are also very active in signing “mid-class” players to reinforce their team. These are the list of “mid-class” players playing in EPL 2014 2015 season. From the table, you can see that, most of these guys play important roles in their own national teams. However, most of players above are mostly coming from outside England which then affect the chance of English young-players to perform in the field. So that, it is merely natural when we see England National Team, now, is lack of quality players with winning mentality.

Table 2 "Mid-class" english teams and their "mid-class" stars
Teams
Stars players
Totenham
(FRA) Hugo Lloris, (ENG) Kyle Walker, Harry Kane, (BRA) Paulinho, (SPA) Roberto Soldado, (ARG) Federico Fazio, Erik Lamela, (DEN) Christian Eriksen, (BEL) Moussa Dembele, Nacer Chadli, Jan Vertonghen
Everton
(ENG) Leighton Baines, Gareth Barry, Ross Barkley, (USA) Tim Howard, (BEL) Romelu Lukaku
Newcastle United
(NED) Tim Krul, Siem De Jong, (FRA) Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran, (SEN) Papiss Cisse, (CIV) Cheick Tiote,
Stoke City
(BIH) Asmir Begovic, (SCO) Charlie Adams, (SPA) Bojan, (HRS) Wilson Palacios
Southampton
(SER) Dusan Tadic, (BEL) Toby Alderweireld, (FRA) Morgan Schneiderlin, (JPN) Maya Yoshida, (NED) Eljero Elia
Hull City
(URU) Gaston Ramirez, Abel Hernandez, (CRO) Nikica Jelavic, (SCO) Alan Mc Gregor
Aston Villa
(ENG) Fabian Delph, Nathan Baker, (NED) Ron Vlaar, (BEL) Christian Benteke, (SWI) Philippe Senderos, (COL) Carlos Sanchez, (AUT) Andreas Weimann
West Ham
(FRA) Morgan Amalfitano, (CAM) Alex Song,
QPR
(CHI) Mauricio Isla, Eduardo Vargas, (ARG) Mauro Zarate, (NED) Leroy Fer, (MCO) Adel Taraabt,


In other league, mostly, the big teams always find no difficulties to face any smaller opponents. In many occasions, the big team is able to win the matches more than 3 goal differences, like what happen frequently to Real Madrid and Barcelona in BBVA or Bayern Munich in Bundesliga. Meanwhile in EPL, with quality players coming to every team, no more team in EPL is considered small. Any teams could beat any teams. The team who will win the game is the team who work harder and more discipline. Furthermore, with “Kick n Rush” English football culture that love to play with high pace, high tempo, and full of physical battle, every matches in EPL is extremely exhausted. 


4) Their match fixtures is busy!

English football has the busiest schedule in Europe, arguably in the world. While most country in the world has only 2 prestigious domestic competition, 1 League and 1 Cup competition, England has 3!!! In a season, England manage to run English Premier League, Capitol One Cup, and FA Cup. EPL is the premier division competition, Capitol One is the domestic cup competition, and FA Cup is the special cup competition to be held in England, since it is the oldest football competition in the world. Normally, as the EPL goes on, Capitol One is played in the first-half season and for premier division team, FA Cup is played after winter break. Therefore in a season, for domestic competition, English team played more matches than other team in Europe. Furthermore, the culture of “Boxing Day” during Christmas holiday, is another culture that force English team to play scarce matches than other team in Europe.

After winter break, English team still need to play 3 big domestic competition, Premier League, late stage of Capitol One, and the beginning of FA Cup. If we compare to other countries in Europe, after winter break, the competition is only left the league and the late stage of domestic cup. Even in Germany, there is holiday during Christmas and New Year holiday.




With these 4 reason, it is reasonable if English team is struggling when they compete in UCL recently. They need to have very deep squad with the winning mentality to undergo UCL like what they got 6-8 years ago. Until then, as English football fans, we have to be patient seeing our favorite team playing in the late stage of UCL. And I am sure, that time is coming, soon.



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