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British in Europe where did it go wrong?


By AJ The Gunner
March 15 2006

Most media headlines the day after the Gunners knocked Real Madrid read “Arsenal save England” Shocking and surprising considering the English Premier League had five slots in this seasons UEFA Champions League by virtue of Liverpool being the defending champions.

 Yet four teams out of five have failed to reach the quarter finals. Everton failed to make it to the group stages, Man Utd finished bottom of their group, while Chelsea and Liverpool failed to make it past the first knockout stage. Against predictions of the football pundits Arsenal, the underdogs, whose supposed poor form this season has been a major focus in football discussion, became England's sole representatives in the draw for the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League last Friday. Thanks to Henry’s wonder strike in Spain, and the tenacious display at Highbury. The draw has paired us with Vieira’s Juventus.

As if the burden placed on the shoulders of our young squad by the frenzy of the media as being the sole representatives of Britain is not enough, Celtic failed to make it past the group stage, and Rangers failed to reach the quarter finals. So it has been a very poor showing indeed.

Whether we will make it this year in the Champions league is not the issue I wish to discuss here, after all using the pungent words of the media “Arsenal has been perennial under achievers in Europe”. What really bothers me is where did the English teams get it all wrong? Teams from the English league were supposed to have improved from their good outing last season where two English teams; Chelsea and Liverpool made it to the semi finals. Liverpool going on to win the trophy after a remarkable comeback from being three goals down to beat the almighty AC Milan in the penalty shootout.

Instead of the FA, League coaches, football pundits/the ever critical English media trying to unravel the reason for the poor show by the English teams they are busy focusing on Wenger’s selection policy. We have all read the suspicion of Gordon Taylor, chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association, and the concern of Alan Pardew, manager of a West Ham, that Arsenal are too foreign. Taylor said of Arsenal's win over Real Madrid in the Champions League: "It hardly speaks volumes for English football when none of the players are home-grown."

Wenger has reiterated that he has no inclination to judge players by their nationality and that his only responsibility lies with The Gunners. "Well I represent Arsenal FC and Arsenal FC is about values not about passports. I feel responsible for my team to present the values of the club that is built with tradition.”

Trying to focus on irrelevant issues won’t erase the fact that the English team failed to live up to the standards they set in last years Champions league. They under achieved this year and I for one would love to find out from fans their views on what really went wrong.

Let’s all forget about the unwarranted swipes of Wenger’s United Colors of Benetton Squad for a moment, and try to constructively figure out why the English teams performed badly this year. (If you wish to include Celtic and Rangers from the Scottish league, then all good and well). I am not picking on this issue because Arsenal made it to the quarter finals, after all getting past Juventus won’t be an easy task, although in football you never know, considering that on paper they are the firm favorites to go through to the semis. I just feel this issue is worth discussing. Anyone got any answers?

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