What Has Happened to the Premier League in Europe?

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2015

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Whether or not your particular club is viewed in commensurate esteem, the Premier League's massive reputation has ballooned to indecent levels in recent seasons—all of which flatter to deceive, none of which close to accurate.

Entertainment and proficiency are not necessarily relatives. One can exist without the mastery of the other, and English football's popularity—despite the influx of foreign players—is not predicated on technique, rather fury.

The EPL is box office, but it has certainly become an overrated footballing league.
The EPL is box office, but it has certainly become an overrated footballing league.Ian Walton/Getty Images

The hustle and bustle of Premier League football is reminiscent of the Wild West. England's top flight has a lawless, gun-slinging, cowboy element. It makes for an entertaining product and the most popular domestic sporting competition on Earth.

Gunslingers, however, tend to get shot.

Since 2010, the Premier League's European stock has taken a massive hit.

The 2007/08 Champions League final was an all-English affair between Manchester United and Chelsea, with the Red Devils beating Avram Grant's men on penalties.

One season later, a rematch was on the cards until Barcelona's stoppage-time goal at Stamford Bridge (courtesy of Andres Iniesta) knocked the west Londoners out in controversial fashion. United met the Catalan giants in the 2008/09 Champions League final, but Sir Alex Ferguson was denied back-to-back titles, losing 2-0.

England last dominated European football in the late 2000s. Since, everything earned has been exceptionally difficult.
England last dominated European football in the late 2000s. Since, everything earned has been exceptionally difficult.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Since the 2010s, only one club has come close to upholding the reputation from which the entire Premier League benefits. Chelsea have played in three semi-finals and won the Champions League in 2011/12, followed by the 2012/13 Europa League. Only once has another English club reached a semi-final (in either competition) past 2009/10.

It has all gotten a bit ridiculous. Chelsea and Manchester United have become English football's version of Atlas, holding the league's heavy reputation on their backs.

What happens, though, when Atlas sneezes?

When previous pillars of European success find themselves struggling, the entire league takes a hit. Pitch in serial underachievers Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and/or Tottenham Hotspur, and the table for mediocrity is set.

Barca, Bayern, Real: Minimal domestic competition plus the world's best talent equals European success.
Barca, Bayern, Real: Minimal domestic competition plus the world's best talent equals European success.JOHN MACDOUGALL/Getty Images

An argument suggests having several excellent clubs in one's league helps improve the overall product, which should translate to European success. This assumption ignores reality: Parity is an overrated trait in establishing world-beating squads.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are Europe's top three clubs; the La Liga duo primarily battle themselves and Bayern normally enjoy a Bundesliga all their own. Their respective squads are built to crush domestic competition—thereby maximising confidence and rest, which translates to European success.

England suffers from the opposite effect. The top teams are generally evenly matched; hence they proceed to beat each other into submission for nine months—leaving little in the tank for continental duty.

Potentially more damning than competition has been tactical naivety.

Arsenal, Manchester City and others find altering their methods off winning a challenge when thrust into Europe.
Arsenal, Manchester City and others find altering their methods off winning a challenge when thrust into Europe.PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

Whether Arsenal, Manchester City or [insert whichever club], they have suffered from an inability to read situations, change styles to suit their opposition and have met the consequences.

Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, for example, have played the same way for the past decade. Whether vs. Reading, Monaco, Chelsea or Bayern Munich, the north Londoners have employed a free-flowing style, mixed with the occasional counter-attack.

The notion is absurd. You cannot play the same way against Swindon Town and Bayern Munich, then expect positive results against the latter—variance must apply.

Gun-slinging football pays dividends in England. The pace and power of the EPL lends itself to earning points, as one's opposition normally has the same theory. When displayed in Europe, however, over-aggression can be considered a weakness. Continental clubs often possess the technical precision to open up Premier League sides, exposing the rough-and-tumble nature of their football.

The European game slows down and becomes more a thinking man's game; England must change accordingly.
The European game slows down and becomes more a thinking man's game; England must change accordingly.Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Looking past cycles and tactics, European competitions are invariably luck-driven.

When Liverpool won the Champions League in 2004/05, they finished fifth in the Premier League; when Chelsea won the competition in 2011/12, they finished sixth.

A team starting Jose Bosingwa, Ryan Bertrand, John Obi Mikel, an injured David Luiz and an injured Gary Cahill beat Bayern on their own pitch for a European cup, and a Reds' outfit losing 3-0 to then-vaunted AC Milan at half-time came back and won a final—these happenings are rooted in chance.

The puzzle's final piece is managers having more incentive to prioritise Premier League play—as it bleeds further into job security.

Liverpool sat their best XI vs. Real Madrid to face Chelsea last season. This shows the priority for most managers.
Liverpool sat their best XI vs. Real Madrid to face Chelsea last season. This shows the priority for most managers.Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Getting ousted prematurely from one's Champions or Europa League campaign is infinitely better than woeful domestic performances over the course of 38 fixtures. In other words: The competition with the most money at stake takes precedence.

Reasons for the Premier League's European slump are varied and differ from club to club. The combination of factors, though, remain consistent: Complacency, competition, arrogance, tactical naivety and/or the pursuit of money.

When these items receive direct, en masse attention from clubs, their managers and the English Football Association/Premier League (whose scheduling does little favours when compared elsewhere), tides should change—but never beforehand.

*Stats via WhoScored.com; transfer fees via Soccerbase where not noted.

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