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English Clubs In Europe
What is our secrect????
After two amazing results in the Champions League for English clubs already in the last 16 stage of this years competition I am going to take a closer look at English teams and why we are one of Europe's top nations in European competitions....
Spurs and Arsenal have both pulled of fantastic results against two of the giants of European football, AC Milan and Barcelona respectively, so why are English teams so successful against such opposition??
English teams in Europe over the years have always taken teams by surprise and gotten their best performances when they have played the European games at the same blistering pace that the Premier League offers on a weekly basis. This was also the case before the Premier League was born, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Manchester United all benefited from this throughout the 70's, and 80's.
The big names on the continent all have their strengths and weaknesses but the injection of pace has always been an achilles heel for the majority of them when it comes to facing an English side. Obviously in more recent times this is even more evident and English teams have benefited greatly from this.
Just last season was a prime example as mid-table London outfit Fulham reached the final of Europe's second competition, only to be beaten in the final by Spanish side Athletico Madrid who boasted such talents as Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero, Forlan scoring twice, one in normal time and the second in extra time as Fulham unexpectedly pushed them all the way.
Although they were beaten, Fulham managed an amazing feat in just reaching the final under their then boss Roy Hodgson. They demonstrated the perfect approach of pace, power and pressure throughout their campaign and reaped the benefits from it.
In the premier competition the form of English sides over the last ten years is quite staggering, since 2001 five Champions League finals have had a representative for England's shores, one final boasting both sides from the U.K. Six of the last seven seasons have seen an English club grace the final and reinforce the power held by English teams in the competition, and backs up the foreign teams' fear of facing one of our clubs at any stage. Three of these finals did have the outcome of the English side losing to their foreign counterparts but just the fact of having a team represent the country shows the English stature here. Liverpool and Manchester United were both the victors within their own finals, the red's beating AC Milan on penalties after a thrilling second half comeback against the Italian big boy's from 3-0 down after the first 45minutes. Manchester United eventually defeated their English opponents in the first ever all-English final, this again was decided from the 12-yard line after a 1-1 result at 120 minutes.
The history speaks for itself here and it is undoubtedly stacked in the English teams favour when it comes to this competition, especially of late, and Tottenham's away win in the San Siro shows that not having any previous Champions League experience doesn't stop the English teams from upsetting the rest of Europe. Add to that Arsenal's sensational comeback against Barcelona, regarded as the best team in the world by many, just shows that all Premier League teams should be taken very seriously indeed.
So how do we do it??
Obviously the top sides rely heavily on their managers, and in the Premier League our top sides representing the country have four of the best in the business in Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Carlo Ancelotti and the rising stature of Harry Rednapp. These men are top of their tree at getting the most out of the players they have, tactical decisions, and all have the ability to take their side all the way, and once again get an English club to the showpiece final, this year to be held at Wembley Stadium.
Top sides from England use pressing techniques to smother teams like Barcelona in area's they posses the most threat, i.e Lionel Messi, Xavi, Iniesta. Last night the Gunners got hold of the key area's by pressing the ball and sending the attacking players who could hurt them out wide making the attacks more predictable and therefor easier to deal with.
Tottenham employed a similar tactic against AC Milan, pressing their midfield high up the pitch, and in turn starving their strikers of service. Spurs coped quite comfortably with everything Milan had to offer by employing this tactic, and it is one the previous winners like Liverpool, Manchester United and over to Italy as Inter Milan under Jose Mourinho used this tactic to its devastating best.
Aerial threat is also a big winner in Europe, as players like Peter Crouch benefit from teams abroad never having to deal with such an awkward prospect to mark. Tottenham used him as a target man as Liverpool did in a final they did eventually lose against AC Milan 2-1 in 2006/2007. Even in that final the Italians didn't know how to handle the big front-man, a tactic only really employed in England and Germany on the continent.
So overall, in European competition English sides have all the answers, history and present statistics speak for themselves, so while the final is being held at the home of English football this year, Wembley Stadium, will the world witness another English winner???