What Happened to English Football?

After England were knocked out of the 2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, one has to ask the question: what happened to English football? Not just internationally but the English Premier League itself. It’s just not the same league we’ve grown to know and love.

Just a few years ago the Barclays Premier League was seen as the most superior league in the world, with teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool dominating both domestically and in Europe.

The Premier League had the title of the ‘best league in the world’, and rightly so. But lately, questions have been asked as to whether it still can carry the name. People have been looking to La Liga as the title’s successor because of their top clubs’ strong performances in Europe.

The only team who can hold their heads up high in England are Chelsea, but even they were knocked out of the Champions League Round of 16 by a 10-man PSG. The teams that finished below Chelsea could all agree that last season was one to forget. Second-placed Manchester City finished eight points below Chelsea. Compare that to last season, when City won the league; the top four clubs were only separated by seven points.

History shows that whenever English clubs base their team around a star player, then that player is most likely going to be lured away by one of the top three (FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich), and now teams like PSG and Juventus will be attractive to top players. Players like Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo are perfect examples. They were all seen as one of the best in the world at some point in time. They were seen as the players who either took their team to glory or were on the verge of it. So, in the cases of these three, Barcelona and Real Madrid swooped in and ‘stole’ Tottenham’s, Liverpool’s and Manchester United’s respective prized possessions.

It’s what happens after the big-money sales that weakens the Premier League further. They don’t even consider looking at players from their youth ranks and when they do, they just don’t have enough ‘talent’ and experience. Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur both received hefty amounts for Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale but they splashed all their money on foreign players who are yet to prove themselves in a tough league such as the Premier League.

Roberto Soldado, for example, is a player who excelled in La Liga, moved to Tottenham and failed to live up to expectations. The problem here is that players from La Liga tend to fail in the Premier League but players from the Premier league tend to excel in La Liga. Luis Suarez worded it perfectly: “In England, the defenders are all tall and powerful, strong and physical players.” In other words, the defenders in La Liga are easier to play against seeing as the league leans more towards the protection of highly targeted players.

Clubs forget about their youth and look for talent elsewhere. This also has a huge effect on the English National team. English teams have fewer English players, making the National team weaker. Teams like Germany, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia have managed to stay “in fashion”. They have players who are intelligent enough to adapt their style of play to any challenge which is placed before them.

Playing for the England National team will always come at a price. The fans are very demanding when it comes to winning competitions. Whether it is the manager’s fault or the players’ fault, England haven’t been able to tick and be the team everyone expects them to be. Their team consists of players who perform wonderfully in the Premier League week in, week out, but always seem to have a gigantic drop in form as soon as the international break arrives.

For England to evolve and grow as a team they will need to take better care of their youth teams, stop talented players from dropping to the lower leagues and promote them to allow their talents to flourish. Success stories like Harry Kane would be more common. But, they will also need to sack Roy Hodgson because he does not have the same tactical intelligence as his fellow competitors. They will need time so don’t expect too much too soon from the Three Lions.