Premier League teams participating in the Champions League in the last few years appear to struggle during the knockout phase of the competition highlighted last year with no PL team surviving the Round of 16 (Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal).
This year, Manchester United was knocked out in the groups, Chelsea have been knocked out in Round of 16, Arsenal are currently down 2-0 to Barcelona going into the 2nd leg, while Manchester City is likely to progress based on their 3-1 away first leg win over Dynamo Kiev. As an Arsenal fan, as much as I believe in the ability of Arsenal to overcome a 2 goal deficit away, based on the odds only one English team is likely to progress to the Quarters (City, but I hope I am wrong with Arsenal progressing also).
One team progressing, I guess, can be considered progress from an FA/PL view. Tony and the Untold team have already discussed various failures of the FA particularly funding for grass roots football, but has the FA/PL also failed to support the teams participating in Europe’s biggest club competition?
Manchester City vs Dynamo Kiev
This came to my mind after seeing Pete’s comment that England did enough to maintain 4 CL spots based on country coefficients and after looking at the schedule of Arsenal and Manchester City in the Round of 16. City is likely to progress, but the FA/PL definitely did not make it easy on them.
City had to play Chelsea away in the FA Cup 3 days before the 1st leg and then Liverpool 4 days after in the League Cup final. For the 2nd leg, City plays Norwich away in the league 3 days before, and then has the Manchester derby 5 days later. Why wasn’t the Chelsea match prior to the first leg on the 20th considering City’s last game before was on the 14th and Chelsea’s on the 16th (CL) giving the team an extra day to prepare for the CL?
Dynamo Kiev, on the other hand, was returning from their winter break for the 1st leg with a friendly 7 days earlier and then a cup match 6 days later. For the 2nd leg, Dynamo has 4 days before to prepare and 5 days after facing City.
Dynamo had extra days before and after the 1st, and also has an extra day before to prepare for the 2nd leg compared to City.
Chelsea vs PSG
Prior to the 1st leg away, Chelsea played Newcastle at home 3 days earlier (in PL) and then 5 days after at home against Manchester City (in FA Cup). For the 2nd leg, Chelsea played Stoke at home 4 days before (in PL) and then will play Everton away (in the FA Cup) 3 days later.
PSG on the other hand, played at home (league) against Lille 3 days before and then Reims at home (league) 4 days after the 1st leg. For the 2nd leg, PSG played at home 4 days before against Montpellier (league) and then away 4 days after to Troyes (league).
Chelsea had an extra day to recover from the first league compared to PSG, but their reward was to play Manchester City. PSG has an extra day to recover for the 2nd leg; with their reward is an away match against Troyes (20th in Ligue 1) where PSG can possibly clinch the league title this weekend! Not much difference between Chelsea and PSG in regards to days off, but big difference in level of competition before and after each leg.
Arsenal vs Barcelona
Arsenal played Hull at home in the FA Cup 3 days before the Barcelona 1st leg and then United away 5 days later in the PL. For the 2nd leg, Arsenal will play Watford at home in the FA Cup 3 days before and then Everton away in the PL early kickoff 3 days later. That is 3 matches in the matter of 6 days.
Barcelona had a similar schedule for the first leg playing Las Palmas away (in La Liga) 3 days before and then playing Sevilla at home (La Liga) 5 days after the 1st leg. For the 2nd leg, however, Barcelona plays Getafe (La Liga) at home 4 days before and Villarreal away 4 days later (La Liga).
The Spanish FA/La Liga provided Barcelona an extra day to prepare as well as an extra day to recover compared to Arsenal for the 2nd leg.
In my opinion, this curiously looks like the PL/FA self-inflicting damage to English football throughout Europe. All 3 English teams (Chelsea, City, and Arsenal) had scheduling disadvantages compared to their opponents for the 2nd leg of the Round of 16. City also had less time before and after the 1st leg as well.
Then, just look again at some of the English fixtures surrounding the Round of 16 legs, most of these fixtures would be category A matches (Everton-category B):
- Chelsea vs Manchester City
- Manchester City vs Liverpool
- Manchester City vs Manchester United
- Chelsea vs Everton
- Arsenal vs. Manchester United
- Arsenal vs Everton
If I was working for the FA/PL, I would have a few questions:
1) Why did the FA/PL not protect the brand by making sure that the teams participating in these category A matches can put out the best teams possible?
City literally threw away the FA Cup against Chelsea by fielding their B team/younger players. Arsenal has been fielding their B team, but they are competitive enough to advance and it is more club policy I think (pending opponent such as the fielding of a stronger team versus Tottenham).
2) Why are we sabotaging the chances of PL teams to advance in the CL by giving their opponents a scheduling advantage?
In particular, a scheduling disadvantage for all teams in the 2nd leg?
3) How did I get involved in this hot mess?
I mean, it should be considered common sense to protect the brand of the organization I am employed at and to ensure that I am not sabotaging the teams that I am responsible for? Right?
- FA Cup Quarter Final 2015-16 Arsenal v Watford – The Match Officials. He’s ok-ish.
- Nonsense, imagination, form, Theo, fragility and hope
- The Arsenal Ladies Season Preview
The Untold Books
The latest Untold book is Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970 with a Foreword by Bob Wilson, available both as a paperback and as a Kindle book from Amazon. Details of this and our previous and forthcoming titles can be found at Arsenal Books on this site.
More cup games on this day
- 12 March 1988: Arsenal 1 Nottm Forest 2. FA Cup round 6. For the second round in succession over 50,000 turned up at Highbury. David Rocastle scored..
- 12 March 2005: Bolton 0 Arsenal 1 FA Cup round 6. A goal by Ljunberg in the second minute took Arsenal through.