Paul Merson says Premier League is still best in world – so why the big flop from English clubs in Europe?? | Football News

Arsenal and Manchester City crashed out of the Champions League on Wednesday, with Liverpool and West Ham on the brink of elimination in the Europa League – so why have English sides struggled in Europe this season?

The Gunners failed to fire in a 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, losing 3-2 on aggregate, while Real Madrid endured a Manchester City onslaught to hold onto a 1-1 draw (4-4 on aggregate) and win 4-3 on penalties.

As a result, there will be no English teams in the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2019/20.

Things also look gloomy for English sides in the Europa League with Liverpool looking to overturn a 3-0 deficit at Atalanta and West Ham trailing 2-0 against newly-crowned Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen.

However, Aston Villa remain England’s top hope for progression to the semi-finals in Europe, going into their second leg against Lille with a 2-1 lead in the Europa Conference League.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Paul Merson insists it is not time for the Premier League clubs to panic, but he believes the intensity of England’s top flight is having an impact on the success of English clubs in Europe this season.

“The problem the English teams have is the Premier League,” he told Sky Sports. “The intensity of our league is off the scale.

“Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool are involved in one of the best title races in the history of the Premier League. It’s a huge battle for the title with two points separating the top three and that takes a lot out of you physically and mentally.

“I don’t want to make excuses for the teams. Arsenal didn’t turn up. They weren’t great. Man City destroyed Real but the luck wasn’t on their side.

“However, please don’t let anyone tell you the Premier League is not the greatest league in the world.”

English teams have reached the competition’s penultimate stage of the Champions League in 20 of the previous 28 campaigns. Additionally, English sides have also been winning the competition at a greater rate than ever, lifting the trophy in three of the previous five seasons.

The graphic below shows English dominance ramping up over the past six years – with the exception of 2019/20 – appearing to follow a similar trajectory enjoyed between 2003/04 and 2008/09.

But England’s worst performance on the European stage in four years has come at an unfortunate time, with the Champions League format set to change next term, with coefficient rankings providing a bonus spot in the competition for next season.

Data provider Opta predicted the Premier League had a 57 per cent chance of claiming that spot ahead of the German Bundesliga going into this round of fixtures, but that probability has plummeted to just 6.2 per cent after Wednesday evening.

The wild swing comes after German sides Borussia Dortmund and Bayern progressed in the Champions League, with Leverkusen favourites to take full advantage of their lead against the Hammers and qualify for the Europa League semis.

What’s caused England’s poor showing?

There is certainly an argument for fatigue. Two of England’s title-tussling titans have been eliminated, while Liverpool face an uphill struggle to progress. Just two points divide table-topping Manchester City and third-placed Liverpool – a battle that has demanded almost perfect levels from the sides this term.

Another aspect to consider is the intensity of the Premier League itself. England’s top flight ranks as the fastest league on the planet, according to a study published by the Football Observatory.

Meanwhile, the average number of sprints has also been increasing incrementally season on season since records began.

In addition to potential fatigue, rising physical exertions could correlate with the number of injuries.

Indeed, according to Premier Injuries, Premier League clubs have collectively lost 21,555 days due to injuries this term – equating to more than 59 years. That number has already surpassed last season’s tally (21,163 days).

Lastly, the Premier League has certainly felt slightly more chaotic this season, with teams playing higher lines, pressing more from the front and scoring a record-breaking ratio of goals.

Domestically, Arsenal have impressed defensively this term, but City and Liverpool have been more porous than in previous campaigns.

Has that growing trend to place greater risk for greater reward contributed to English sides losing the required level of solidity on the European stage?

‘Chaotic Premier League not best prep for Champions League’

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson:

“I think when you get to the knockout stages of the Champions League, you do need something different.

“Premier League football is chaotic, it’s high intensity and fast-paced. It’s open, end-to-end football which brings a lot of goals.

“You do need some sort of solidity, but Arsenal didn’t change too much from what they do in the league against Bayern, and as for City, they were just unlucky on the night.”

Merson says: Premier League intensity a problem for English clubs in Europe

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Rodri believes Manchester City did enough in their quarter final tie against Real Madrid to progress to the semis, with the Spaniard left unhappy with the tactics of Carlo Ancelotti’s side

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson:

The problem the English teams have is the Premier League. The intensity of our league is off the scale.

Let’s start at the top with Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool. They are involved in one of the best title races in the history of the Premier League. It’s a huge battle for the title with two points separating the top three and that takes a lot out of you physically and mentally.

They are pushing each other right to the limit week in, week out, but compare that to some of the other teams around Europe and the positions they are in their leagues. The numbers blow your mind away.

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Eric Dier was delighted to knock Arsenal out of the Champions League, after Bayern secured their place in the final four

In the Champions League quarter-finals, Atletico Madrid are 17 points behind leaders Real Madrid, who are eight points clear of Barcelona at the top of the table. Borussia Dortmund are fifth, seven points behind second-placed Bayern Munich, who are 16 points behind leaders Bayer Leverkusen.

PSG are 10 points clear of the rest in Ligue 1 and they didn’t even play a league game at the weekend to help them get ready for their game against Barcelona on Tuesday.

The other leagues around Europe, look at the fixtures. Real Madrid play Barcelona this weekend but they would never have played them last weekend.

Clubs around Europe have nothing to play for in their leagues and can fully focus on their European assignments. No one is in a title race like City, Arsenal and Liverpool. The Premier League clubs don’t have that luxury. They are playing in the hardest league in the world, and it has caught up with them.


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‘It’s the same story for English clubs in the EL and ECL’

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David Ornstein from The Athletic explains why Arsenal and Manchester City’s Champions League exit will have an impact on Premier League clubs aiming to play in Europe

It’s not just the Champions League. Take a look at the Europa League and you see the same thing.

Liverpool had a huge game against Crystal Palace to contend with on Sunday but Atalanta are 32 points adrift and nowhere near the title. Roma are there too and are 28 points behind the leaders. Second-placed AC Milan are 14 points behind the leaders Inter Milan in Serie A.

Marseille are ninth in Ligue 1 and Bayer Leverkusen we’ve already mentioned. They are Bundesliga champions already.

It’s full focus on Europe and that is almost impossible for the English clubs to do.

You can even see it in the Europa Conference League.

Aston Villa are locked in a battle for Champions League football with Spurs. It would be huge for them to achieve that.

However, the other teams in the competition don’t have that concern. Fiorentina are 10th and 39 points adrift. Viktoria Plzen are 14 points from the top, Fenerbahce are two points behind in a two-team league. Lille are also 14 points behind the leaders but do have Champions League football to fight for. Olympiakos are also six points behind.

For most of the teams across Europe, all they are concentrating on is European competition.

‘PL still the best league in the world’

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Sky Sports’ Paul Gilmour reacts to Arsenal’s 1-0 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich

As a player, being involved in a run-in always brings its challenges. It is hard to keep energy levels high. But the Premier League is relentless. It’s a different ball game.

I don’t want to make excuses for the teams. Arsenal didn’t turn up. They weren’t great. Man City destroyed Real but the luck wasn’t on their side.

However, please don’t let anyone tell you the Premier League is not the greatest league in the world.

Of the teams left in the last four of the Champions League, I’m honestly not sure any of them get in the Champions League from the Premier League over a 38-game season. I’m not 100 per cent sure of that.

Look at Bayer Leverkusen, who are 16 points clear and unbeaten all season. They needed two set-piece goals to get past West Ham. You could also see it from Man City vs Real Madrid. City were on a different planet to Real.

‘Man City made Real Madrid look like Luton’

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Ben Ransom and Adam Bate assess where Manchester City went wrong after crashing out of the Champions League on penalties to Real Madrid

Last night’s game was embarrassing.

Man City did to Real Madrid what they did to Luton.

For anybody watching that game, it was mind blowing. It was pure luck that Real got past City. They absolutely destroyed them. They embarrassed them.

It was one of the most one-sided games I’ve ever seen, and City were just bang out of luck losing on penalties.

Real Madrid cannot come away from that game and think they are a better team than Man City. They are a million miles behind them.

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