The UEFA Champions League (UCL) is the holy grail in European club football, at least according to Roman Abramovich. Fans and Pundits alike consider the UCL to be the standard for judging the strength of domestic leagues over the years. While that may be quite an incomplete assessment of a domestic league, it’s no lie that the performance of the clubs in the UCL reflect back on their domestic leagues; from the coefficients to the number of clubs that participate yearly.
Fans and Pundits of the *PL often claim that the PL is the best league by virtue of other aspects. The Financial strength of the clubs, The TV deals, Global reach and the fabled “competition”. While that might be true to a large extent, it’s difficult to really accept that view when you factor in the most important part of football, which is the football itself.
The unfortunate truth about the PL in comparison with other top leagues is that while the hype is unparalleled, the quality of football on display has been comparatively underwhelming. The fast paced football, passion and goals don’t really substitute for the poor tactical and technical quality on show in recent years.
The financial strength of the teams in the PL may have levelled out, making it more difficult for the top teams to stand out quality wise when compared with the *BuLi, *Serie A, *La Liga and *Ligue 1. This may have improved competition domestically, but it certainly hasn’t improved the quality of football on display comparatively.
The top clubs in the PL have been largely outdone by the Top teams in La Liga and the BuLi in the UCL in recent years. Not because of the strain of the PL’s fabled competition but because these teams play better football and have better players. The quality of the players and the football on display often shines through in the end. The PL can lay claim to having the upper hand in many aspects of domestic football but games in the UCL against the likes of Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, PSG often show how behind the PL’s top teams are.
As many pundits often point out, this is a cycle. Dominance in European cup competitions is cyclical. The key to that dominance isn’t largely based on the strength of a domestic league and the competition but in the quality of football and footballers the top teams have and based in recent displays, the PL teams are behind the top La Liga and BuLi teams.
Scheduling problems have also played a role as statistically, PL teams have lesser hours to prepare for UCL games in comparison to other clubs. The absence of a winter break and the FA Cup scheduling have also had an impact on the preparations for UCL games in the business end of the season. This often results in forced squad rotations and shortened recovery and preparatory times for clubs involved in the UCL.
The recent influx of top foreign managers into the PL and the revised scheduling of games are a welcome development, it’s only a matter of time for the quality of football and players on show to improve and get the PL back to its heydays in the UCL.
*PL: The English Premier League. BuLi: The German Bundesliga. La Liga: Spanish La Liga Santander. Ligue 1: The French Ligue 1. Serie A: The Italian Serie A.