Saturday 24 February 2018 / 01:17 PM

English teams still have some work to do

After a busy first two nights of Champions League action, one thing has become inescapably obvious: should any English team have genuine aspirations of winning the trophy, things will need to improve.

Let’s first consider Arsenal.

Now, after the purchases of Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez, there were many people (myself included) tipping Arsenal for big things this season. While it is far too early to see whether Arsenal can improve upon their Premier League position, Arsenal’s 2-0 loss at the hands of Borussia Dortmund has made one thing extremely apparent – Arsenal cannot compete with the finest teams in Europe.

At times it is difficult to put a finger on the problems that Arsenal have in the Champions League, and at other times it is blatantly clear.

Arsenal simply weren’t good enough against Dortmund, and the cruel reality is that with the money spent in the last two seasons, they should at least be the equal of Jurgen Klopp’s side. It’s hard to escape the nagging conclusion that the old master Arsene Wenger just doesn’t have what it takes to deliver on this most hallowed of stages anymore.

If Arsenal could be branded as perennial failures in the Champions League, then Liverpool are the young bucks returning to the show; and although the Reds won their home game against Ludo Razgd, the reality is that they were unimpressive at Anfield. And given that their group also features Real Madrid and FC Basel (who were taken apart by Madrid but are actually a very good side), it stands to reason that Brendan Rodgers’ side will need to improve if they want to progress from the group stages.

The issue for Liverpool is that they don’t have a whole lot of Champions League experience, with a number of their players playing their first game in the competition on Tuesday. Whilst they do have the experience of Steven Gerrard and Mario Balotelli to call upon, this season may well be a year too soon for Liverpool to truly progress in Europe’s Premier cup competition.

And so we come to Man City. The team from the blue half of Manchester has now been in the Champions League for a number of seasons, but quite simply, their performances have not been good enough in recent years. Wednesday night’s loss to Bayern Munich was just another case in point.

In truth, Manuel Pellegrini’s side was a couple of minutes from getting a point at the Allianz, but had they scraped a draw that wouldn’t really have told the story. Bayern were a lot better than Manchester City, not merely recording a superior possession percentage (as you might expect), but also registering three times as many shots as their opponents.

The stark facts are that when you’ve spent as much money as City clearly have, you need to be doing better against the big teams. Pellegrini might have won the league last season, but if the Champions League continues to elude the Citizens, I can’t see him sticking around for too long.

And finally we reach Chelsea – most pundits’ tip for the English team most likely to win the competition.

Jose Mourinho’s side were – if we’re honest – disappointing against FC Schalke. Whilst Cesc Fabregas registered his first goal for his new club and Didier Drogba made his first competitive start since rejoining Chelsea, one would expect that with all of this new investment, Mourinho’s team would have fared better against a team like Schalke, who – whilst no pushover – are a distinct second-best on paper.

The first round of the competition hasn’t created much cause for optimism among English supporters, but with five more games of the group stages to play, let’s hope we can see some improvement. If we don’t, the wait for another English team to lift the Champions League trophy will only lengthen.

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About the author

Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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