Europe

5 points behind

Having disappointingly lost to United are we down and out of those teams competing for the top four? Some people think that our chances have disappeared as quickly as Steven Gerrard did on Sunday. Others including myself see this as an opportunit to complete another miraculous comeback. More recently we have been under dogs when it comes to challenging for the title but, we sure gave everyone a scare last year only losing out by 2 points. Perhaps this is another chance to cause an upset and seriously mount a challenge on the top four.

It was inevitably that we would face defeat again by the end of the season, so you could say it is better to get it out of the way now and go on another push towards the summit. Yesterday told us a lot of things about the team. Firstly and most importantly we need to start games far better than we have in recent weeks. In these sort of games you expect the opening 30 minutes to be hotly contested conceding possession consistently but, we got dominated against United. What was even stranger about this is that we are known for our possession game, whereas you expect United to attack down the wings at pace. Another thing yesterday told us that we need to be more adaptable during the game, Emre Can was against Fellani all game and had a torrid time of it, struggling in the aerial battles. This could have been easily resolved by sticking Skrtel on him, who is far more competent in the air. It has been further cemented into my mind that Raheem Sterling has some attitude problems. He is the sort of player you hope to be watching in the future in a red shirt scoring 30 or 40 goals a season which, is realistic having watched his development in to a senior key player. When played out of position you do not see the same desire to play for the team whereas, when he is playing further forward. This lack of effort suggests to me he is definitely not worth more than £100,000 a week on performances like that against United.

For me and many of us optimistic fans this will be an uphill struggle to overturn the 5 point deficit; that is the gap between us and the prize of Champions League football. Knowing what we are capable as a side I know we can grow stronger with the remaining 8 games. Most importantly though, we will be looking for other teams to do us a favour and get victories against United who still have to play; Arsenal, Chelsea and City.

What has happened to English teams in Europe?

Since Chelsea won the champions league which was only recently English teams have been seen to be struggling against the larger sides in Europe but why? For a large period of time English teams dominated the European stage on occasion hosting the four teams in the semi finals. The sudden deterioration of the top quality European sides has come as a shock to a large number of people yet the expectation to succeed has continued and is this perhaps an outdated opinion.

Having watched English teams truly struggle for the past few years I have wondered why have we taken steps back when we were once so dominant and struck fear into the hearts of the opposing teams. Some people may question the quality of teams as a whole having gone down. For me this point can not be argued because as a nation we are one of the biggest traders being involved in high valued transfers every market, so the quality does exist. This then makes us question the maturity and experience of English clubs. Manchester City have one of the oldest starting line ups on average in the competition at around 27 years of age so that shows significant playing experience. Despite the premier league being arguably the most exciting league to watch because of all the goals, we must ask why there is such a large amount of goals being scored every game.

As a nation we have lost appreciation and respect for the art of defending. Having grown up watching the likes of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in their prime, I have become accustomed to that solid centre back who is dependable and will make game saving tackles or clearances. Looking at the sides in the champions league this year across Europe the defensive qualities of the top teams is exceedingly better than ours. Lets take each of our four teams as an example of defensive immaturity. Arsenal have a world cup winner in Mertesacker who is lacking pace and any form of coordination when running back to his own goal. We then look at Chelsea who undoubtedly have the best defence in the Barclays Premier League yet have had to play a youngster called Zouma in place of an experience centre back like Cahill who was superb last year but, has struggled this year. Liverpool this year have finally managed to resolve the defensive frailties from last year now that they no longer have a Champions league campaign that saw no real leadership or desire to defend. As for Manchester City supposedly there best player and captain Vincent Kompany has been a mere shadow of himself.

While the defensive frailties still exist English teams will not progress far into the tournaments being heavily dependent on the attacking prowess they possess because simply other teams beat them on that basis as well.