Anorak News | The Stuff Of Champions

The Stuff Of Champions

by | 14th, September 2004

‘WHEN the last remaining English club is knocked out of the European Cup, normally at the quarter- or semi-final stage, the papers start the post-mortems.

‘And Joe…don’t forget the oranges!’

Why do English clubs do so badly in Europe? Do we play too many games? Is there something wrong with our style of play?

This year, the papers are indulging in a few pre-mortems, asking the very same questions that they will no doubt be asking again in March.

The Independent produces a table to show how English clubs have underperformed since 1992 in a competition that they dominated for the decade prior to their post-Heysel expulsion.

In that time, Spanish clubs have lifted the trophy on four occasions, Italian clubs on three occasions and German clubs twice.

Even French clubs (with one win, one beaten finalist and four semi-finals) and Dutch clubs (one win, one beaten finalist and one semi-finalist) have fared better than their English counterparts.

So what is the problem?

Joe Cole thinks the tactics used by English teams have been part of the problem.

“I think we don’t do well in Europe, and on the world stage, because when you play against good teams you have to be able to keep the ball,” he says.

“A lot of English teams play 4-4-2 and it is both difficult to keep the ball and difficult to get it back because you have no-one breaking between the lines, playing in front of the back four and in the hole behind the strikers.”

Coincidentally, that happens to be Cole’s preferred role – a point that won’t be lost on Sven Goran Eriksson if he happens to choose the Indy for his post-coital read.

Tonight, perennial underachievers Arsenal set out on their seventh successive Champions’ League campaign with a home tie against PSV Eindhoven and the weight of expectation on their shoulders.

Arsene Wenger is quick to deny in the Times that the world’s premier club competition is the Holy Grail – but he knows the importance of success in Istanbul in eight months’ time.

The Telegraph hears from Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who took Porto to European Cup success last season.

“Football people in England should stop and ask themselves for what reason English football has not been successful abroad,” he said.

And the implication from the comment is that Premiership football is simply too attack-minded, too gung-ho to succeed in a game where patience and caution are called for.

Expect Chelsea, therefore, to start off in cautious fashion in Paris tonight.’

Posted: 14th, September 2004 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink