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Why Are Premier League Clubs Failing in Europe?

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Considering the buildup and general comment that Premier League clubs had a favourable draw in the Champions League, the treble whammy of defeat gave a rude awakening. All three of Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United were going into their games as favourites, even with City facing tougher opposition in Juventus than Dinamo Zagreb and PSV Eindhoven.

But, Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv aside, English clubs were left embarrassed. The Manchester clubs felt even worse, as despite taking the lead, they left the pitch empty-handed.

Juventus are of course a huge name on the European stage, but this was not the Bianconeri at their very strongest; they had lost to Udinese and Roma, only claiming a point against Chievo too in their Serie A campaign heading to Manchester.

The Italians had managed to make the Champions Final last year, but their influential trio of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez had all left for pastures new; this was a team still finding their feet, and their leaders.

But they clearly still knew how to get a result, even after falling behind. Taking advantage of City’s errors, they struck with the ruthlessness that their hosts just do not seem to possess on the continental stage.

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City themselves are an interesting case of English football in the European arena right now. The almost bottomless funds and resources available to them have brought them managers and players their fans would have dreamed of, but this hasn’t made a difference.

They finally cracked their group stage problem last year, only to lose to eventual winners Barcelona. Exiting to Barca isn’t shameful, but the way City set up in both legs with two strikers was borderline crazy.

Perhaps that is the greatest difference between English teams and their foreign opposition: tactics. The Premier League is billed as the most exciting, with end-to-end football, but often the games are like that because of a lack of organisation.

The influx of not just foreign players, but managers and backroom staff, helped the English newly-branded top flight in its embryonic life back in the nineties drag itself out of the dark 1980s off the pitch, but why is the Premier League being left behind by Spain and Germany, despite their relative smaller finances?

For me, the Premier League needs to recognise where they are outside of their comfortable domestic bubble. The wealth has grown the league, but it has led to complacency.

Barring the dominant duo of Barcelona and Real Madrid, La Liga clubs do not possess the deep pockets that many of their Premier League equivalents have, but that hasn’t shown on their travels.

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Take Sevilla for example. A financial problem in summer 2013 forced them to sell stars like Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas, ironically to Manchester City, but managed to finish four places higher than 2012/13 in fifth and won the 2014 Europa League final, recording a £40m transfer profit to boot.

After that 2014 triumph, the vultures circled again: Young left back Alberto Moreno left for Liverpool and Ivan Rakitic, the undoubted star of the team, left for Barcelona.

But clever rebuilding, such as Grzegorz Krychowiak for £3.85m who could easily fetch that fee six times over now, meant the Andalusians could repeat the trick again: a fifth placed finish and triumph in the Europa League final.

Yet Europe’s second competition is not embraced by the English clubs; instead of being another route into the much-vaunted Champions League, it is seen as a distraction.

The likes of Liverpool and Tottenham may think it is easier to qualify through the league, but surely fighting with similar sized teams over less games is easier than taking on the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City over 38 games?

The money has also washed away most of the identity of those clubs, too. The clubs at the very top of the English pyramid should be bringing through top quality young players, but often that simply isn’t the case.

Rather than taking the time and having the patience to develop a player who represents their own values, English clubs would often rather buy a ready made player, or even worse buy a youngster from abroad!

It could be argued that the three other English clubs could look at how Chelsea operate in Europe. The fact that Jose Mourinho will often forego attacking football in the Champions League is criticised, yet his record arguably makes it worthwhile, and the Blues are the only English club to have won Ol’ Big Ears in the past decade.

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Even Barcelona and Bayern Munich when they have triumphed on the European stage have looked to play more of a counter-attacking way, but made sure they kept their shape as strong as possible in doing so.

English clubs need to be far smarter in Europe, and treat their opponent with the respect they deserve. Do that, and the amount of money spent by them won’t look so foolish.

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Criticism of Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson unfair? stats suggest he’s England’s best option

The midfielder came under scrutiny for his latest performance.

Jamie Watts

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England put an end to the World Cup opener curse after Harry Kane’s stoppage time header ensured England started the tournament with maximum points, with Tunisia looking more than likely to take their share of points in Volograd.

A promising opening 20 minutes was encored by ponderous and slow football in the second half, after the team began looking seemingly affected by Tunisia’s equaliser.

The additions of Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added impetus and purpose to the attack late on.

But prior to that, England struggled in pursuit of a second, and Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson came under fire for what was deemed to be a lack of creativity.

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Many fans were questioning the omission of Jack Wilshere from England duties, as Gareth Southgate opted for the Liverpool man as the regular in central midfield. But last season’s statistics show some maybe being preemptive in wanting to replace the 28-year-old this World Cup.

Squawka stats (below) show that the Liverpool man was superior to both Eric Dier and Jack Wilshere in all aspects of midfield play in the Premier League last term, suggesting he could very well be the right man to continue starting for the Three Lions.

The former Sunderland man bested his two counterparts for number of forward passes, average pass length, key passes, tackles won, aerial duels won and chances created (all per 90 minutes), which sheds some light on why he’s a regular in Southgate’s team.

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Fans criticise Jack Wilshere omission after Jordan Henderson’s ‘toothless’ England performance

Gareth Southgate’s bold decision is already being questioned.

Jamie Watts

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England put an end to the World Cup opener curse after Harry Kane’s stoppage time winner ensured England started the tournament with a victory, with Tunisia looking more than likely to take their share of the points in Volgograd.

After a promising opening 20 minutes, England’s shortcomings in front of goal were punished as Tunisia were awarded a penalty – using VAR – and Ferjani Sassi equalised from the spot, heaping pressure on Gareth Southgate’s outfit to score a second.

But creativity was scarce from the Three Lions, in what was a stressful and frustrating half to watch for the nation.

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And Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson has come under fire for his performance in the heart of the midfield, with many believing that Arsenal‘s Jack Wilshere would have been more creative and imaginative in central midfield, if he wasn’t omitted from international duties this earlier this summer.

Henderson frequently opted for possession over creativity and was guilty of taking too many touches in the midfield yesterday, particularly in the second half and the speed of play was directly affected as a result.

Here’s the Twitter reaction:

By no means did the 28-year-old have an awful game, but his choice of pass was often safe and as a result England lacked impetus and drive in the second-half, until the additions of Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added a spark in the final third.

Gareth Southgate will often opt for control in central midfield against tougher opposition – with Belgium on the horizon – but against the likes of Tunisia and Panama, the side can afford to take more risks and be more inventive, and the decision to leave Wilshere at home is already being questioned after just one game.

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Crystal Palace fans thrilled with reports of Jack Wilshere interest

Crystal Palace fans are keen on the reported deal.

Jamie Watts

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Crystal Palace are keen on landing long-serving Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, if the 26-year-old leaves the Emirates this summer, according to reports from Evening Standard.

A move to Selhurst Park would reunite Wilshere with Roy Hodgson, his former England manager and a coach, whose belief in the Gunner is undeniable.

Hodgson displayed his admiration for the midfielder, after taking him the 2016 Euros despite him barely playing all season and he believes he could add the perfect balance to the Eagles’ midfield alongside enforcer Luka Milivojevic.

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Wilshere was left out of the England squad for the World Cup this summer due to his diminished role with Arsenal, and revealed his “disappointment” on the day through his official Twitter account.

It now appears he will prioritise making himself essential at both club and international level next season, and that is unlikely with Arsenal.

Having improved his fitness, which has widely been considered his primary weakness, making 38 appearances in all competitions last season, Wilshere could become a serious asset at Selhurst Park, and fans have taken to Twitter to discuss the reports.

Here’s the reaction:

Yohan Cabaye’s situation is currently unresolved at Selhurst Park, with reports suggesting that the 32-year-old could potentially move to Ligue 1 giants Marseille this summer, and the Frenchman would need replacing.

Having joined in 2015 for £10 million from French champions Paris Saint Germain, the veteran midfielder played a key role in the Eagles relegation survival, acting as the catalyst for control and mobility in the centre of the park.

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And Wilshere would play a similar role. His agility and vision are reminiscent of Cabaye, but he has far more left in the tank.

It is safe to say the Englishman would be a real coup for Hodgson at Palace this summer and the fans agree its a deal the club should make happen.

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