In the wake of the first ever all-English Champions League final and three English semi finalists for the past two years, the question must be asked.
Why have the English slowly started to dominate Europe's premier competition?
In the past two years Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool have all made the CL semi-finals. An English team has contested in the showpiece event for the past four years—Liverpool in '05, Arsenal in '06, Liverpool again in '07 and now Man Utd and Chelsea in '08.
But why in the Champions League are the third placed teams such as Liverpool and Barcelona reaching the latter stages? Where are the champions of Italy, Spain, France and Germany?
Firstly Italy, Inter Milan have walked Serie A for the past two years yet consistently fail to perform in Europe. Losses to Valencia and Liverpool have condemned Inter to successive last 16 exits.
Spain's champions (Barcelona in '06 and Real Madrid in '07) have both, like Inter, exited in the last 16 when champions. A defeat to Liverpool at home cost holders Barca, while Real Madrid departed after a 4-2 defeat to Roma on aggregate.
Germany's champions in '06 were Bayern Munich, they were beaten off by Milan despite bolstering one of their strongest ever squads. Then the biggest joke of all, German champions of '08 Stuttgart finished last in their group!
France's champions for the past seven years, Lyon, have failed to reach the quater finals in five years. The only thing that tells you is the quality of the Ligue 1. The very fact Essien, Malouda, Drogba and Evra have all traded themselves in for a place in the Premier League proves this.
Am I being too harsh on the Champions of the supposedly "big" leagues or are the English simply too good? The answer would appear to be in the mentality of the sides.
EPL teams play each match with their objective clear and know how to beat continental sides. The trick is getting in among the fancy passing teams, as Real, Barca, Bayern and Inter have discovered.
Arsenal have been shown up in that aspect this season domestically but, unlike Arsenal, the continental champions don't have the players to adapt to certain game plans. Players are bought, particularly in Spain, for entertainment factor.
The English dominance is here to stay as long as sides who face them refuse to adapt and play outside their comfort zone. Risks and gambles that pay off usually means success and the more methods teams have to gamble with, the more success is possible.
Real and Inter can be confirmed champions and have their open top bus parades. But until owners back off and let their managers take risks with transfers and selections, they'll have to be content to losing to England's also-rans each year.
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