The inquiry has already begun on the demise of the Premier League’s fortunes in Europe. Six games into this season’s Champions League, and already five defeats (before the two Manchester clubs take on Germany’s finest), the prognosis is not good.
Arsene Wenger has come in for stinging criticism after his side succumbed to a second defeat, leaving the Gunners bottom of their group, having so far played the relatively modest Olympiakos and Dynamo Zagreb. With their next two games against the Robert Lewandowski powered Bayern Munich. For the past few seasons Arsenal have been criticised for cruising through the group, finishing second, before their inevitable tame last-16 exit. Well at least it looks like that isn’t going to happen again.
Wenger famously said, that “fourth place in the Premier League is as good as trophy”. This comment was attacked, but from some of the team selections we have seen this season, it appears that it’s not just Arsene who feels this way, as the managers of all four Champions League teams apparently prioritising the League over the early stages of world football’s premier competition. But here is the irony, this constant prioritising of next season’s Champions League competition is going to end up in the loss of the fourth spot.
As we know, the number of qualification spots is based on the UEFA co-efficient, decided on a league’s sides performances in the previous five year’s European competitions.
And last night Arsenal all-but condemned themselves to a group stage exit. Hardly helpful for the co-efficient.
The Arsenal manager has been heavily criticised this year for his lack of signings, but defended this by stating the importance of the signing of Petr Cech.
Cech has not appeared in either of Arsenal’s European ties this season, and whilst I did mention that the fixtures were against modest opposition, Dynamo Zagreb are the Croatian champions, who went unbeaten last season, and Olympiakos beat last season’s runners up, Juventus, on their route to the final. So why was Cech not playing? This decision looks even stranger given David Ospina’s error for the second Olympiakos goal last night.
The Columbian cannot be held solely responsible for the result, but his selection is a representation of the way that managers feel about competitions other than the Premier League.
For years we have seen the League and FA Cup’s lost their prestige, as club’s chase the riches, let’s hope this isn’t also happening to the Champions League.
City and United, time to step up.