Where does this leave the PL in European football?

By Walter Broeckx

I find it in a way intriguing when I read quotes from pundits who look down at the French league.

Before the double encounter between two PL teams (Arsenal and Chelsea) and two French teams (Monaco and PSG) they just thought that the PL teams were stronger and would beat them French froggies. Now I can’t look in to the head of pundits and maybe a lot of English football supporters who just believe that the PL is the best and will always be the best.  And certainly those French teams can’t even come near the level our PL teams have.

But in the cold light of day we could say: French League 2 – Premier League 0. That is the final outcome of the double encounter between both leagues in the champions league. Looking at that one can only say that French football and their league is superior to the PL. Of course things might have been different if Arsenal had been a bit luckier and cooler in their first leg at home to Monaco. Chelsea was no match for PSG who played them off the pitch for most of the matches even with 10 men.

And then if we take in account that Chelsea is leading the PL with a big advantage so should be considered the strongest team in this season but yet they didn’t have a chance against 10 man PSG, things don’t look so good. And if we look at the table in the French Ligue 1 we see that if Monaco wins their game in hand we have four teams with only a margin of 5 points at the top. Lyon 58pts, PSG 56 pts, Marseille 54pts and Monaco 53 pts (if they win their game in hand). So the French title fight looks more entertaining and more difficult than the current one horse race in the PL.

Now I have seen some people suggesting that Monaco would be a mediocre PL team. Why? Well I guess because those people like to look down on other leagues. How on earth can these pesky foreigners play football that can come even close to the PL and English football? They can’t do because we say so. That is what they say.

Maybe it is time to wake up to the horrible truth out there… they do play football in other countries and hell…they are rather successful in doing it.

And what about Manchester City? Well I have seen a bit of both matches as I had nothing else to do and I wanted to see how Barcelona are playing as I haven’t seen them play for a few years. What I saw was that this current team is nowhere the level it was when we played them and when they won the CL and the Spanish league a few times in a row. Despite the MSN frontline (Messi-Suarez-Neymar) they do look more vulnerable in midfield.

But in both matches as long as I was watching there was only one team playing and the other just running behind the ball and attempting to stop Barcelona from scoring. Of course it is no shame to be beaten by Barcelona in itself. But it was painful to see how the money team Manchester City was huffing and puffing and kicking (what a nasty kick from Nasri by the way, very ugly).  This is one of the current flagships of the Pl remember.  If only Barcelona had been a bit better in finishing their numerous changes it would have been a complete embarrassment for Man City.

Just as Chelsea, the current leader with a rather big advantage in the PL, were beaten by the second team from the French league with ease in fact. Playing 90 minutes against 10 man should be a rather easy job for the top team in the PL I would say. Certainly against a team from the frog league, sorry French league.

Yes the PL is the league that draws most money. But if this trend of English teams going out so soon in the CL continues…the trend might change in a few years. Why would companies pay top money to see the PL as those teams are clearly inferior when they have to compete against teams from Germany and Spain and heaven forbid….even inferior compared to Italian teams … and worse of them all…compared to French teams?

I have been pointing at this worrying trend for a few years now on this website. But the truth is staring us in the eyes. And still most just prefer to close their eyes. If I don’t see it, it isn’t there. That is usually the best way to from being in some mud ending up in deep sh*t.

A winter break? When English teams dominated Europe there was no winter break. More money? The contrary could be the case because the more money pours in to the PL the worse their results against foreign teams.

I might point at the fact that the decline started since 2009 when Mike Riley stopped as a ref and took up another job. I wonder if the fact that the low level of referees has contributed to the downfall. Because lets face it players being kicked to shit with the refs accepting it can cause little injuries and knocks, and as a result those players are not as fit and fresh as players who play in leagues where they stop such rubbish immediately.

Maybe PL teams are like the big fat bear that has been fed so much that he forgets that it is to need to hunt because he feels hungry? I mean if the media always tells you that you are far better than all the rest it becomes a fact in your head and in the head of the players and supporters. And then when they face those foreign teams who are fresher (winter break) have fewer muscle injuries (better ref protection) and who want to prove the media wrong (PL is superior claim), then things go wrong.

Whatever the reasons may be, the first thing to get it cured is to accept the fact that we (=the PL) are falling back in the European order.

By the way there are no PL teams in all the European competitions. No PL in the best 8 in the CL and none in the Europa League last 16.

Most money poured in a league is still a title that goes to the PL, but let us be humble and accept that we are completely falling behind in the European football order these days.  Time to wake up.


Anniversary of the Day (when times really were tough)

20 March 1976: Arsenal 6 West Ham 1; the best win in the worst season since 1924/25.  Kidd (3) Ball (2) and Armstrong got the goals, but there was only one more victory in the remaining seven league games.


32 Replies to “Where does this leave the PL in European football?”

  1. Walter – The EPL draws the highest audiences worldwide. It is that that makes the media think it is the best. The two French teams are sadly oil money teams as are Chelsea & Man City. Arsenal are competing against oil money teams on all fronts & despite that Arsenal also have to contend with dumb ass officiating. There is no agenda that can be pointed at but surely there must be business for specsavers!!!

  2. A good summation of the difference between continental Europe and the UK, football-wise.
    We fail miserably over the failure to have winter break.
    It won’t happen but I would like to see a season when UK and continental referees swapped places.

  3. @Walter

    It’s the normal cycle of football. To be expected. The two French teams have backing similar to that of Manchester City and Chelsea but to be fair to Monaco they went through because they prepared properly and executed their game plan properly in the first leg. Arsenal did not execute their game plan as they should have on the pitch after the first 20 minutes. Arsenal will do better next season, of that I am convinced.

  4. I think it’s a fair assessment of the French league to say that it is weaker than the PL. Only PSG with their vast quantities of money could compete with our top tier.
    But more pertinately who now refers to the French as “froggies”?This is old school social stereotyping of the type that all British pundits would be likely to avoid.

  5. The problem is, England has been completely taken over the short sighted short termists, football is no different. A poor national team, doing badly in Europe and Mike Riley in charge of refs. Other countries would consider that a wake up call

  6. On the subject of Riley, Just read yesterday’s football is fixed, mentions about Keren Barratt leaving, and does not seem to have a lot of faith in his replacement, Howard Webb.

  7. If there was a true Champion’s League consisting of the Champions of each nation playing in a mid week two teir (promotion & relegation) system with just the normal two & three points awarded as in domestic leagues then PL teams would regularly be in the top three.
    I think the current system of qualification followed by group stage and then knock out rounds is completly outdated and does not reflect the true quality of European football at the highest level.

  8. Froggies, I don’t think that’s how anyone I know thinks of the French. Perhaps “your comment is awaiting moderation” should apply to you instead of me as it always comes up when I post.

    These things go in waves. I recall how the two Spanish giants were written off for eternity when the two big German clubs destroyed them in the CL two seasons ago and then what happened? Last year we had an all Spanish final.

    If Liverpool could win the CL with that 2006 team I can’t see why any other English club can’t though you could argue that Bayern, Real Madrid and Barca are better than any of the teams in the CL ten years ago.

  9. Unfortunately so Walter, and a guy who is head of the EPL who is not a Utd fan but not shy of labouring the importance of their brand.
    Quite amazing if Utd were to miss out on the top four again in such circumstances

  10. Walter
    I think you are being too harsh on the PL football. I’m glad to see you are not making any excuses for the English sides in Europe , but there are mitigating circumstances that might explain their poor showing against the continental rivals.

    Let’s start with Arsenal , who by the way was the only better side over two legs that didn’t progress through. Opinion, yes , but not many wouldn’t agree with the fact that Arsenal , had they taken their chances ( at least some of them ) ,should’ve gone through instead of Monaco.

    Mertesacker thought Monaco deserved to go through and were the better side, but if he had shown more courage as any team captain should , and faced the shot for an opening Monaco goal instead of trying to half – block , half – avoid it , we would have been waiting for the CL quarters draw now.

    Also, there is something to be said about the away goals rule you so succinctly alluded to in your previous article. The Emirates crowed was chanting “Attack, attack attack” in the closing minutes of the game , when Arsenal scoring the second goal wouldn’t have made such a significant difference , when instead Arsenal should’ve shut up shop and take our one goal deficit to Monaco. Instead , we conceded the third goal and killed our chances.

    Arsene Wenger should’ve been screaming at his players to be more conservative as well, but when you are strongly against something ,like Arsen Wenger is against the away goal rule , you are more likely to not use it to your advantage . That’s just how things usually work in life.

    Chelsea lost because of Mourinho. Plain and simple.
    His arrogance in thinking that he can hold a talented side like PSG and keep them from scoring at the Bridge was more of a case of wishful thinking than reality.

    Once you set up your team to defend what you have , it’s very difficult to change players’ approach when all of a sudden you need to play football and score goals, against ten men or not.

    Man City was the only English side who never had a chance against Barca.
    A team of mercenaries, not really playing for the shirt or the manager who’s on his way out , never had a chance against Messi on form.

    So why the decline then?
    Tougher league with more matches against harder oponents.
    No winter break and more fixtures than what other continental based players are forced and used to playing.

    It’s no surprise that the form of our own Alexis Sanchez has dipped probably for the same reason.

    As for PL losing its appeal to foreign audiences , I don’t think there’s the danger of that happening any time soon.

    There’s about ten fixtures I will be willing to watch in the course of La Liga season, eight in the Bundesliga season, six in the Italian league, and maybe four in the French league. The rest of the fixture in those league to an outsider ,are boring as hell.

    For now , the premier league still is the most entertaining league in the world.

  11. It all depends on what your definition of ‘best’ or ‘entertainment’ is. I remember reading somewhere that the Bundesliga has more shots per game than any other league in the world, to some this would be the most entertaining. To others; how close the league table is would mean they consider it the best league. Its all subjective really and saying one league is definitively the best/most entertaining over other leagues is a bit silly.

  12. People should have the courage to admit what it is that they like best. After all it’s just football.

    For example: Mike Riley could admit I public that he prefers Rugby to Football 🙂 I think that would be helpful. Because until people like him are removed England’s record as a Football team and nation relative to France Germany Spain Holland etc. will not improve – that is not an opinion on what is best but simply an easy to make observation of an unavoidable (& unflattering) record.

  13. The thing about the premiership is that it is exciting. Here are a few of the reasons why I believe it’s not about to be knocked off of it’s perch anytime soon.

    a) The amount of goals scored.

    It’s not just the big boys bashing the little boys, look at the amount of high scoring duals between Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Everton. Not always to do with quality it must be said, but there’s no denying that for the neutral these duels have thrown up some amazing games and score lines.

    b) Unpredictability.

    Ok quality will out over a season but on a one to one basis there are very few ‘Gimmes’. Arsenal visit Newcastle this Weekend. Are we favourites? Of course. Will we win? Possibly. Is it a given? No way. I certainly wouldn’t want my life relying on an Arsenal win. The premiership throws up ‘shock’ results on a regular basis. If one of the top sides is ‘off’ there game they can be turned over by relegation fodder in a heart beat.

    c) Hype.

    The premier league is hyped to the extreme throughout the World, and we all know how easily people are influenced by hype.

    d) Brand loyalty.

    Every Country is full of United, Liverpool, Arsenal, etc. fans. Arsenal famously hadn’t won a trophy for ages but I never saw any sign of a deterioration in the fan base. If anything it still grew. Even in this time of ‘plastics’ by and large it is still a case of once a fan, always a fan.

    e) Monopoly.

    Wherever I’ve been on holiday in the World the Premier league is ALWAYS easily available. It fills Hotel lounges, Clubs and bars the World over.

    f) Forget the quality, just feel the emotion.

    Ok we’ve had our arse kicked in Europe. Does it hurt? Well yes, a bit. Will it make a jot of difference to how I feel on Saturday? Not a jot. Will I still feel sick with worry on the run up to the game? Yep. Will I bite my nails to the quick? Tick. Will I be pacing the room watching every agonising second crawl by? Of course. Will I sulk, bury my head in the sand, feel gutted and have my weekend ruined if we lose? You bet. Conversely, if we win I’ll be punching the air, screaming at the moon and ‘buzzing’ like a wasp on steroids.

    The long and the short of it is, come Saturday, Europe will be just a distant memory. It’s all about the next game. The next rush on the Premier League roller coaster and the World will be watching !!

  14. @ TailGunner

    Whilst I wouldn’t use the word myself I have several French friends who refer to themselves as “frogs”. Further, I suspect that Walter finds being referred to as a “Bristish pundit” even more offensive!!

  15. Walter waved his hands (well I thought) at how Chelsea and ManCity did in CL, I don’t think that argument holds water for Arsenal this year or last year. Possibly other times. When we are eliminated, it is full value to the league and the fans. Not parking the bus at home against 10 men.

    On the Arsenal.com website, they acknowledge it is Merson’s birthday. And someone (a fan) says he is a wonderful ambassador for the game. All I see, is a stream of endless shit come from him, that make it more difficult for many to support Arsene Wenger and Arsenal.

    Should we celebrate his birthday, or grumble about it?

    Also from Arsenal.com, the U21 have 2 games in April at the Emirates. Against Stoke and Reading.


  16. Gord

    Merson is a nasty piece of work. Alas there are so many ex Goons that are nasty pieces of work it all melts in to one.

    He’s not the worst, but that’s hardly a recommendation.

    As for an ‘Ambassador’ 😆

  17. I tend to agree with the points made by Walter and jambug. One point that hasn’t been made (or I missed it, so don’t everyone jump down my throat)is that the Continental teams and countries prioritise the UCL more than the EPL teams do. I’ve often been to these countries and the buzz is always about the UCL. I can’t say the same for Great Britain. Of course teams in the other countries want to win their league and cup competitions but the UCL is seen as the ultimate. If you don’t treat it as such you won’t win it but occasionally. I’d especially like to read Walter’s thoughts on this, from a Continental perspective.

  18. Thanks Jambug.

    I think it would be nice if we could get a grumble to offset the Merson twits on the main site, but I can also see that not happening.

    In the news of late, was a DNA study of the British. Ever version of the article I seen, had the same image, often not big enough to really study. In any event, Ars Technica is now running their version of the story, and they have the largest version of that map that I have seen. There are some interesting comments to the article.

    I would guess all the problems with football and refereeing are attributable to W Yorkshire.

  19. Excellent write up Walter! I completely agree that the PL first needs to accept they are falling down the European pecking order and find ways to correct it (better officiating, winter breaks, etc..).

    If the PL teams do not begin to perform in Europe next year, the PL is at a very high risk of losing their 4 team allocation for the 2017/2018 Champions League season and being replaced by Italy.

    Based on current coefficient calculations for the 2017/2018 CL season:

    Spain has 57.071, Germany has 47.642, England has 46.784 points, Italy has 44.748

    The further Juventus progresses will also reduce that coefficient slightly for this year.


    The PL can seriously end up with only have 3 spots for the 2017/2018 CL season.

  20. Our game was probably the exception of the three, individual errors were the main cause in that one, but the other two fit quite well with the idea that the nature of the prem- fast, furious, with little time on the ball and too little protection for those who are fool enough to want to hold onto it- leaves us with problems against top class opposition.

    Barca remain something of an anomaly- it shouldn’t be possible to have three players like that up top, not even one giant in midfield and, often, only one tall guy in the entire defence, and not be ridiculously exposed against fellow members of the elite; but it is possible, they’re that good. I can barely picture anything of the two games other than Barca’s incredible ability in the last third. Whether City can be blamed for not coping with it and not possessing anything equivalent to attack with, is something to be answered after looking at PSG.

    That game was won and lost in midfield. Verrati and, more surprisingly for me, Motta showed stunning composure bravery and ability on the ball from deep within their own half, again and again and again. It was profoundly unPremierleagian and it seemed to shock and deflate Chelsea who, a man up, thought they could play defensively and still be able to exert enough pressure with limited people up top to get it done.

    The defenders, who were also excellent,actually got PSG over the line with their goals, but it was Verrati and Motta’s play that shaped the match after the sending off, keeping their team in it and, to Chelsea’s horror, consistently working the ball through to give the defence respite and the attack opportunities.

    So, it was something Chelsea were not accustomed to, because of our league, and which they were plainly unable to reciprocate, having grown less fluid in building attacks, and more reliant on Hazard’s individual play, with each passing week. You can put a lot of this down to the league, and plenty down to their own manager, whose cautious instincts have been coming more to the fore as the season progresses.

    There’s plenty more to say but I’ll have to leave them and say a few last words about Neville.

    We need to talk about Gary

    The conjunction of Neville eulogising over Messi, and the large media attention for his game, and in particular his nutmeg on Milner, should have pissed off a lot of people, especially fans of our club. Neville loves Messi, and presumably laments the fact we can’t produce anything close as a nation, and yet the prime reason for this is…people like Gary Neville.

    Forget names for a minute, if Gary can be allowed to hack mercilessly away at Reyes, and not be punished, and gain a huge advantage, why could he not boot someone wearing our shirt over here looking to manipulate the ball Messi was in that situation? Well, because he’s gone, but the conditions which created him and allowed him to get away with that shite are alive and well.

    Look at the Milner incident, in real time or even in stills. Messi can do that because (a) it is not a premier league game, and (b) he was not raised in the english game and so did not have those instincts kicked out of him and instead could ,over thousands of hours of practice and game time, hone such skills.

    The ball is a few yards between the two, Messi is trapped by the touchline, Milner is closing in. He doesn’t charge because it’s not an English game and because there’s not a player alive now who would like to be the person who clatters Messi and does him a bad injury. Basically,though, it’s a situation in which an English youngster learns as he enters the professional game that he would be crazy to concentrate only on the ball in and in which he has to expect the defender to absolutely steam into him. Neville would not hesitate to do so. Nor would about 90% of English produced players. And if they didn’t get him first time, with the nutmeg…wouldn’t he deserve a two-footer afterwards for behaving like that?

    Messi’s style means he is more vulnerable to injury than any single player in world football- constantly dribbling, constantly concentrating on the ball and taking tiny deft touches, letting players close, swerving at the very last- there is no place for that in our game and it’s only possible because, though people are happy to barge, kick and foul him, nobody does so at anything like full force, nobody steams in and thinks ‘f**k it, waaaargh’ . He is vulnerable where people are reckless and/or idiotic; fine where they aren’t.

    And so, while around the world you will keep seeing players emerge like, though obviously not that much alike, Messi, and robben, Iniesta, Neymar, Verrati, Ozil, one is very unlikely to emerge in that mould in England because it isn’t safe for them to concentrate on the ball in the way those players do in the key formative years of 15-19.

    Ozil, meanwhile, is smart enough to know that the dribbling part of his game will mostly have to be kept on ice in prem fixtures (though he made an exception at Southampton away last year, probably after figuring out they were cleaner than most he will face). It’s too dangerous for him in an Arsenal shirt in this league to trust opposition players to behave reasonably and show a modicum of respect for opponents safety. Ben Arfa’s leg break is a stone cold classic example of that. Wilshere unfortunately refuses to make any allowances for this.

    We won’t stop producing people with Neville mentalities in a hurry, so the only hope is of referees finally deciding that, if we want to improve our ability on the ball, we have to protect players better and sacrifice a little of the speed and fury of our game. Not going to happen. We’d need Utd and England to stumble upon an absolute gem, and for that gem to have an accident, before serious, meaningful debate could get under way.

  21. Rich

    “We’d need Utd and England to stumble upon an absolute gem, and for that gem to have an accident, before serious, meaningful debate could get under way.”

    Rather stupidly I actually thought with the emergence of Theo, Wilshere and the Ox we might of seen a little protection come our way. Alas I couldn’t of more mistaken.

    You do wonder if they would of been protected a little better if they played for United.

  22. @Rich
    Excellent comments on the hypocrisy of Mr. Neville. We all remember the way we’re mugged in match 50 by the thugs in red and your comments were spot on. To be a true world class player in England requires protection whether it be provided by refs, a scary teammate (Vieira), or your own elbows (Bergkamp).

  23. Rich

    “And if they didn’t get him first time, with the nutmeg…wouldn’t he deserve a two-footer afterwards for behaving like that?”

    And that’s the pertinent point.

    You allude to what Phil Neville said on BBC.

    “If someone did that to me I would two foot them”

    Still as disgraceful today as it was when he said it. And still no action from the BBC.

  24. Jambug, GoingGoingGooner

    I’m just glad the response wasn’t…am I really meant to read all that?

    Once I start thinking about the fouling and those injuries,though, it’s pretty hard to stop. Can’t see myself letting it go for a good few decades yet.

    Just saw a few minutes ago that Neville’s latest article is about what needs to be done to arrest the decline of English football.

    He’s a clever man, but unless he discovers honesty he will literally never understand why what worked for him in the battle to subdue his biggest rivals isn’t an answer for premier league teams in Europe or for our national team.

    It’s always been one of the questions for me : do Neville, Scholes et al understand that the tactics they used against us only worked because something was seriously wrong with the referees?

  25. Walter….I have to respectfully disagree with your premise because it is based on a number of assumptions;

    1)That the average EPL team is no match for the average European team, over a long run in a fair competition. I think the opposite is true, that our best teams can and do match their best teams but that our players have somehow been convinced that we can take our supposed superiority for granted. Arsenal proved we are AS GOOD AS Monaco and they are as good as us. Chelsea on the other hand proved that Mourinho’s team preparation,tactics and philosophy are negative and destructive and that a better team like PSG, without Ibrahamovic, can dismantle Chelsea handily, in front of the Chelsea fans, as Monaco did to us at the emirates.
    2)Your point about different officiating standards and application of the Laws is very valid and i believe has a significant impact on how EPL teams can play in Europe. City are generally NOT a dirty,scrappy team but Chelsea and United both depend on referee favouritism and blind eyes turned away, to succeed.
    3) Arsenal would most certainly have advanced IF Giroud and company had not been so profligate in front of the Monaco goal in the first game and IF they had defended with panache the last 15 minutes in the same match.
    4) While the EPL is touted as being the toughest and most competitive league, the reality is that the Bundesliga, LaLiga and the Ligue 1 are also highly competitive and have excellent teams. If we brought the best 4 teams from each league into a European League, I would predict that United,Chelsea,City, Liverpool and the Spuds would NOt finish in the top 4 every year but that the Arsenal would. They would because they have the character and belief needed to match the best European teams. We are among the few teams to have beaten Barca and Real,Bayern and Dortmund, the latter 3 at their home stadiums.

  26. I couldn’t agree more having read the latest comments from Jambug, Rich, GoingGoingGooner, and Omgarsenal. The English mindset from the players, coaches, referees, and the officials who run the game is a motherfucking disgrace. Nowhere else in the world can you find media people talking about maiming someone. What is up with you British about putting fucking mediocre players on the airwaves whose claim to fame was they had no skill and their game based on thuggery. Just of the top of my head I came up with Barton, The Neville brothers, Scholes and I’m sure I missed a lot more, I once got in serious trouble when I threatened an total asshole with harm. And believe me, He deserved it. I learned the hard way you cant do that. Yet you guys have motherfuckers get away with acting like thugs and then put them on the air and give them space in the newspapers to do the very same thing. Here in the States in all our sports, There are ex-players who are pundits on the television, But they tend to be professionals who played the game in the proper manner, They were stars and even superstars. Over here any television pundit who encouraged GBH on the airwaves wouldn’t have a job and that’s a fact. It seems to me the attitude in British football is all fucked up. Get stuck in, They don’t like it up ’em, Kick the shit outta the skillful players and two foot someone who shows you up. And then all those asshole thug morons wonder why the English game is falling further behind the rest of the world. You motherfuckers might have invented the game, But you don’t play it the right way and the morons who run the game are stuck in the middle ages.

  27. Entertaining discussion. Good to see Rich steaming into Gary Neville. An intelligent man who refuses to use his intelligence. When he started as a pundit he was like a breath of fresh air, almost as if he’d been freed from his previous life as a die hard footballer. Sad that he got sucked in like all the rest.

    That performance in Monaco reminds me why we are lucky to be Arsenal fans and not fans of some other English football team.

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