Thoughts on English Clubs’ Disastrous Campaign in Europe
At the end of the 2013/14 Premier League campaign, the teams that were going to Europe braced themselves for what was going to be another intense European campaign, with the only surprise being Manchester United that ended up in seventh place. Hull City, despite their 16th place finish, had a shot at Europe at the expense of the Red Devils and we were ready to see how thing panned out.
In the Champions League, Liverpool was the first club to fall at the first hurdle as Brendan Rodgers men crashed out of a group that had Real Madrid, FC Basel and Ludogorets Razgrad. The club was offered some solace in the Europa League with a double legged affair against Besiktas but the Reds crashed out on penalties when the contest couldn’t be settled after 120 minutes of football. Arsenal and Manchester City failed to tops their respective groups while Chelsea finished in pole position. Sadly, the Blues lost to Paris St. Germain and along with Arsenal’s defeat to Monaco, the London clubs suffered the ignominy of bowing out of the competition courtesy of the away goals rule. Manchester City on the other hand, were ousted by a rampant FC Barcelona side and the aggregate score line would flatter the Citizens.
In the Europa League, Hull City didn’t even qualify for the tournament following their loss to Belgian outfit, Lokeren. Tottenham and Everton advanced to the Group Stages but Tottenham’s second placed finish behind Besiktas saw them lock horns with Fiorentina in the Round of 32. After a disappointing 1-1 first leg outing, the second leg was a disaster for Arsenal’s fierce rivals as they crashed out in Florence thanks to goals from Mario Gomez and Mohamed Salah. Everton received a thumping last night in the hands of Dynamo Kiev and that ended England’s participation in this season’s European tournaments.
The draws for the Champions League quarterfinals are already out with Chelsea’s conquerors, PSG, locking horns again with FC Barcelona (they played together in the group phase), Juventus playing against Arsenal’s victors, Monaco, a local Madrid derby and FC Porto battling with Bayern Munich.
How did things go so bad for the English teams? I remember some seasons ago when Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool were always candidates to go to the latter stages of the competition and in my lifetime, I’ve seen Man Utd win it twice, Chelsea once in 2012 and who would ever forget that final between Liverpool and AC Milan in Istanbul. The closest the Gunners have ever come to winning a European crown was in 2000 UEFA Cup final (lost to Galatasaray on penalties) and the painful 2006 final defeat to Barcelona.
For Arsenal, the defeat to Monaco was entirely the team’s fault. The spirited show against the same side in Stade Louis II was commendable but the damage done in the first leg was more than enough to send the home team packing. Yes, the manager has shared his thoughts about the away goals rule but the only thing that can happen now between now and May is for his lads to get their act right and qualify for the competition again. Maybe they’d know better to try and win their group because I don’t think Lady Luck is going to smile on the Gunners again if they finish in second place in the 2015/16 Champions League.
Chelsea’s exit was rather hilarious bearing in mind what happened on the night. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s red card was meant to give the team the edge but PSG played with determination and got the results for their hard work. It was refreshing seeing David Luiz scoring and celebrating against his former employers and Thiago Silva’s looping header was the sucker punch of all sucker punches because of it’s timing. The Blues are on course to win the title this season, so I’d expect them to mount a better Champions League challenge next term.
For all the petrol pounds Manchester City has spent, seeing them struggle the way they have recently has been downright shocking. With four defeats in their last five games, the club is currently in a downward spiral and there are whispers of Pellegrini losing his job this summer. I’d expect them to spend more money this summer as they always do, but one wonders if it’s always the solution.
All in all, it was a truly disastrous campaign from English teams and they’d be hoping to do better next season.
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