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Where Has It All Gone Wrong In Europe?

The Boot Room

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The Premier League is hotly touted as the best league in the world by most people. Action, drama, the best players and the best games all rolled into one multi-billion TV extravaganza meaning that you can watch LiverpoolChelsea in Paris just as easily as you can watch BurnleyLeicester in Nairobi. However, under all the excitement and money, there is a worrying trend developing – English clubs are being consistently embarrassed in Europe after a few years of dominance. So why is this? What has caused the top Premier League sides to consistently struggle in Europe?

Perhaps the most telling reason is the reemergence of some of the continent’s big clubs as real forces on the European scene. Barcelona floundered for much of the 2000s until Pep Guardiola arrived in 2008 and built one of the greatest sides to ever grace a football pitch. Built around the incredible talents of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, Barcelona passed sides off the pitch and were near unbeatable. Real Madrid’s spending power has always been immense but they have in the past not spent their vast wealth in such a way to build incredible sides. When money is spent on the likes of Julien Faubert then there is a real issue but in recent years, Real have begun to spend in ways that indicate they are interested in building formidable sides. Bale, Ronaldo, James, Isco, Modric, Varane and others have all came in and with Carlo Ancelotti at the helm, Madrid are a real danger once more. Bayern were inconsistent in the mid-2000s with managers changing and the tag of “FC Hollywood” apt for the time. But very gradually, a crop of young talent from the youth set-up began to break through including Thomas Muller and David Alaba which, aided by shrewd signings and stalwalrts like Phillip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, has turned Bayern into a dominating machine.

Yet, while these big sides have emerged, the Premier League has also had sides littered with quality players as well. Alexis Sanchez, Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Carlos Tevez, Vincent Kompany, Luis Suarez and many more all plyed/ply their trade in the Premier League so there is certainly no shortage of quality within the clubs. However, none of last season’s top four won their game in mid-week and of the six English sides in Europe only Everton won with Liverpool and Tottenham both eliminated.

The most interesting argument to be made is that English sides lack a clear identity. Many fans of the Premier League will look at that statement with outrage and prepare some kind of scathing comment to show me how wrong I was but when you take a step back and look at it there is a real case to be made here. The only English side that perhaps can make a case is Arsenal who have been known as the fluid passing team that develops young players. But recently, the fluidity has been lacking and the faith once shown in youngsters is starting to grate on fans who long for spending to fix their immediate problems. And spending is the big issue in this identity crisis the Premier League clubs are having. When a team has a problem, they fix it not by looking internally at a young player like a Barcelona might do but instead they go out and blow millions on a player that may not be quite good enough. Average players command huge fees for Premier League clubs all too willing to spend the money at the expense of an identity.

Take some examples from the continent – Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. Atletico have had an incredible amount of success under Diego Simeone and that has all been built around the Argentine giving the club and team an identity. Simeone has taken a club that just willingly bought players that looked half decent but would often not perform consistently and made it into a club that bought players who could contribute always. Atletico are now renowned for their work rate and organisation, it is their identity and a far cry from the pre-Simeone years. Jurgen Klopp has done similar in Dortmund where he took a club that was struggling after over-reaching themselves in the pursuit of glory and gave them a high intenstiy, pressing identity. Gone are the overpaid, underperformers and in came players who were hungry to succeed and willing to follow Klopp’s ethos for the club. Identity has been at the heart of the success of both sides and they’ve been on the losing side of the last two finals which says a lot about how good they are.

Most importantly, and sadly for all Premier League fans, is the fact that English sides are quite frankly not as good. That’s both technically and tactically. Sure there are world class players littered across the league but the technical quality of a regular Premier League game is not exceptional and nowhere near the likes of the Bundesliga or even La Liga. For a league that wants to trumpet that it’s the best, the technical quality is not great despite the excitement (which is near unparalleled on a positive note). Tellingly, Liverpool struggled against Swiss champions FC Basel in this season’s Champions League because Basel were technically wonderful and tactically astute. Liverpool, the second best team in England last season, were embarrassed in Switzerland and at Anfield by a side that is a near lock to win their domestic title every season. Manchester City, the champions, struggle every season against Russians CSKA Moscow because they’re better tactically and are technically very good. Premier League sides seem to have forgotten how to play in Europe – gone are the days Liverpool could rock up and win at the Nou Camp or Arsenal can be comfortable in the San Siro. Premier League sides best hope now is to park the bus and pray their luck holds – just like Chelsea did in 2012 – which is a crying shame for the best league in the world.

The Premier League’s obsession with money and excitement for TV is now beginning to hinder it’s clubs in Europe as they all turn into samey brands who struggle when faced with a side that has a clear identity and is technically proficient. The worrying signs of decline have been showing for a couple of years and only now are they beginning to really hit hard. The “best league in the world” is struggling to keep up on its own continent – and looks to be losing ground quicker than ever before.

The Boot Room is a football analysis website, bringing original and creative content to the fans of the English Football League.

Arsenal

It is too soon for Mikel Arteta to be considered for Arsenal job

The 36-year-old has been linked with the Emirates hot seat.

Jake Jackman

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Mikel Arteta
Photo: Getty Images

Arsenal have a huge summer awaiting them as they will need to appoint a successor to Arsene Wenger and rebuild a squad that has missed out on Champions League football for the second season in a row.

It won’t be an easy task and the board must act swiftly to make sure the club are prepared for the 2018/19 campaign.

Considering Wenger’s departure was announced weeks ago, Arsenal should have made progress in their search for a replacement.

There will be a number of names under consideration and it is important that they do their due diligence to ensure they can start to move in the right direction again.

BBC Sport report that Manchester City coach Mikel Arteta is one of the options being considered by the hierarchy at the Emirates Stadium.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

As a former player, he would be well received by the fanbase, but it would represent a huge gamble by the club.

The 36-year-old was part of the playing staff under Arsene Wenger as recently as 2016.

Although he will know the problems that exist at the club, he may struggle to exert the authority to correct them considering many of the current squad were his peers.

It has only been two years since the Spaniard retired from playing and he wouldn’t have expected to be in the running for a job of this size this soon.

Upon retiring, he took up a coaching role at Manchester City and the experience will stand him in good stead to move into management one day.

After all, he is working with one of the best managers of all-time in Pep Guardiola and Arteta will have played a role in the team’s record-breaking Premier League season.

That coupled with his history with Arsenal makes him an attractive left-field option for the Gunners.

However, the size of the risk attached to an appointment means that the club should look elsewhere this summer.

The club will want stability, but first and foremost, they will want success.

The fact that Arteta has no managerial experience means that he would be learning on the job and the North London side can’t afford to allow that.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Arsenal are a huge club and as the man following Arsene Wenger, the next manager will be scrutinised closely.

It would be a job better suited to a manager with experience and know-how at the top level.

The article goes on to mention both Luis Enrique and Massimiliano Allegri. Either of them would be a better appointment for Arsenal at this time, as they have both managed big clubs previously.

For Arteta, the fact that he is being linked to a job like Arsenal shows how highly he is thought of within the game.

If he wants to go into management, he needs to leave Manchester City and gain experience as a number one.

If he does that, whether it be in England or abroad, he could be ready to take the hot-seat at the Emirates Stadium at a later date.

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Exclusive: Havard Nordtveit – Hoffenheim move, Julian Nagelsmann and facing Liverpool

The Norwegian international discussed his time at Hoffenheim and his experience of English clubs.

Mathew Coull

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Havard Nordtveit
Photo: Getty Images

This summer West Ham United utility man Havard Nordtveit called time on his career with the Hammers, after just one season.

Signed from Borussia Monchengladbach on a free transfer he suffered from the London outfits’ own struggles, the change of stadium and being asked to play out of position at right-back.

After just 21 games for the Hammers, he headed back to Germany, where he had such success previously.

Now, speaking exclusively to The Boot Room, the Norwegian international has discussed working under an exciting new manager, facing Liverpool in the Champions League and coming through the ranks at Arsenal.

Plenty of teams in Germany would have wanted Nordtveit this summer.

He built a fine reputation in the Bundesliga during his time with Gladbach.

In fact, just hours before his July transfer was announced, he was being linked with Bundesliga rivals Hamburg.

In the end, it was Hoffenheim who snapped up the Norwegian. They had just finished fourth in the Bundesliga and it was a brilliant move for the 27-year-old.

(Photo by Patrik Stollarz/Getty Images)

But, as the former Hammer explained from Germany, it has been a topsy-turvy season:

“It went well in the first couple of months. But then my games weren’t as good as I was hoping for,” he admitted. “Then obviously I was not good enough for the team. I have been training hard and lately, it has been back to normal again.

“It’s good to be back in Germany and also I needed half a season to get to know the new coach and the new system. I am looking forward to the rest of the campaign.”

Nordtveit started the season playing in the Hoffenheim back three, but found himself out of the squad entirely from mid-December until last month.

Despite his problems, he did not sulk and simply worked hard to get back into the first-team:

“I am not that person,” proclaimed the Norwegian international. “I have been in that situation before with West Ham and Gladbach. It’s all about giving everything you can instead of moaning.

“You have to be positive,” he continued. “This is a team sport. You have to give your best for the team. If that means you are playing or not you know that you will get the chance in the end.”

This season Hoffenheim and Nordtveit were challenging for the Europa League.

However, at the start of the campaign, the Bundesliga outfit were in Champions League action for the first time in their history.

They took on Premier League side Liverpool in the qualifying rounds, with Nordtveit playing in both games.

Liverpool were not yet working under Mohamed Salah power but still proved far too strong for their German opponents over two legs:

“We knew they were strong. With their attacking forwards they are brutal. We had a very good home game. But in the end, it is a little better a feeling to know we went out of the play-offs against a team that reached the finals,” Nordtveit explained, with a sense of vindication for his club’s exit.

“What Klopp has done with the club is massive and also Salah, at this time, maybe is Europe’s best player.”

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Hoffenheim’s entrance to the Champions League was masterminded by their brilliant young coach Julian Nagelsmann. The 30-year-old is just a few years older than the Norwegian but has proven himself a top manager:

“He is fantastic,” said an excited Nordtveit. “He has great experience and his own style of play. It is a lot of tactics for every new player. Also when I came in then there was a lot of new things I had to learn quite quick.

“I am now starting to see that I learn something in myself to get into the rhythm that he wants. He is like a young, bright, football professor.”

He then gave him high praise, by comparing him to his former Gladbach boss Lucien Favre:

“He reminds me a little bit of Lucien Favre. He thinks about football 24/7. Small details, always, which can mean we take the three points.

“If I could compare him with someone it would be Lucien Favre, which is not a bad comparison.”

Nagelsmann’s clear ability has seen him linked with taking over from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

The Norwegian came through the ranks at Arsenal, but made it clear that he spent most of his time working with the current Arsenal assistant Steve Bould:

“I spoke with him of course but he was more observing the training. I was more with the reserve team.

“I was more with Steve Bould, the legend. He was quite important for me, a really good guy. I think he was one of the more important guys in Arsenal when I was there.”

Working under the Arsenal legend as a young defender must have been a big learning experience for the Hoffenheim player, who speaks highly of his time at Arsenal:

“I went quite early, about 16,17,” remembered the talented utility man. “It was perhaps the most important choice I did in my career because there I learnt how to do the basics in football.

“I did not play much with the first-team but the experience of training with the first-team and getting to know English football and a really high standard was really important to me.

(Photo by Nikolay Doychinov/Getty Images)

“From there, when I moved to Germany, I had the perfect base to have an OK career.

“Jack Wilshere was there before he finally broke through to the first-team. We had Wojciech Szczesny now second goalkeeper for Juventus. Many of the players are having big careers.  

“For me and a lot of the players we were quite lucky to have this opportunity.”

But Nordtveit still remembers his time fondly. He still follows the club, where good friend Granit Xhaka is also playing.

The Gunners have been unable to put a smile on the face of Nordtveit by picking up the Europa League trophy in Arsene Wenger’s final year.

However, with London outfit set to compete in the competition again next season, under a new manager, the two could well come face-to-face. 

That would be an opportunity Hoffenheim’s intrepid Norwegian would relish.

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Arsenal hero Patrick Viera would be an underwhelming appointment for Everton

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Photo: Getty Images.

The managerial merry-go-round is warming up ready for another summer of action and it looks increasingly likely that Everton could be involved as fans grow more and more unhappy with the management of Sam Allardyce. What may come as a greater surprise is that the club could turn to Arsenal hero Patrick Viera to replace him.

According to Metro, Viera is admired by Everton owner Farhad Moshiri and fits the profile that the Toffees are looking for of a young and dynamic coach to take over at Goodison Park.

Viera has also been linked with the opportunity to replace his former coach Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, where he remains a legend, but is currently under contact with New York City, part of the Manchester City group.

(during the UEFA Youth League Quarter Final match between AS Roma and Manchester City on March 17, 2015 in Latina, Italy.

The Citizens would reportedly not stand in his way of a Premier League move and Everton would be happy to offer more than the £2 million that he currently earns per year, but it would be a hugely underwhelming appointment for the blue half of Merseyside.

Whilst Viera has done well in Major League Soccer in New York, he has not achieved enough to have caught the eye of such a high profile club were it not for his playing career.

Given the finances reportedly available to the next Everton manager and the huge pressure to get an underperforming squad up to scratch and matching expectations, it would be a big gamble if the club were to put their faith in Viera.

He may well have potential, but it would be a surprise to see a club of the size and resources of Everton being the ones to give Viera his first opportunity as a Premier League coach.

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