Toppling the European Giants: The blueprint to return English clubs to the pinnacle of European football
It’s become commonplace for commentators and analysts to criticise the lack of quality in the Premier League. The giants of Europe are blessed with an array of high-quality players; a characteristic which allows them to dominate their domestic leagues while challenging on the European stage.
Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Bayern Munich are names synonymous with the best players on the planet and have dominated the European stage recently. The English teams have not been nearly as prolific.
Stop the raid of world-class players from England
If you are to analyse the giants of Spain however, you’ll find that two of their best players were grown on English turf. Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale are currently two of the best in the game and learned their trade at Liverpool and Tottenham respectively.
Their moves ultimately pushed these two Spanish clubs to the next level, Bale winning the Champions League twice and Suarez picking up trophies at a whim with the mighty Catalonians. Cristiano Ronaldo, Javier Mascherano, Gerard Pique, Arjen Robben; the list goes on and on. The lure of playing among the best in the world is difficult to turn down, the likelihood of winning titles an even greater pull.
If top English clubs are to improve, they must not only become the team of choice for the world’s best talent but must hold on to the talent they’ve developed. Selling must only become an option when players of similar calibre are flooding the lines.
Discovering young stars
Although it is arguable that these acquisitions improve the overall ability of these teams, their academies are easily their strong point. The Bayern Munich academy has produced the likes of world champions Phillip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Muller.
La Masia achieved fame when Andres Iniesta, Xavi and eventual winner Lionel Messi were nominated for the Ballon D’or in 2010. These clubs create and develop. Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Deli Alli are a testament to what English clubs can produce.
The major issue is that many young players lose the opportunity to play for their clubs when superstars are purchased. They are loaned out, only to be sold in due time without once representing their clubs.
Football is a sport of chance, one that many clubs have to take. If English clubs improve their facilities and scouting networks, making them the clubs of choice for young talent to develop, the overall quality of their squads will improve in the future. Southampton are on the right track. If only they could stop selling.
Devising a football philosophy
Philosophy has become an essential part of football. Teams have become synonymous with their style of play. Barcelona’s possession-based play, Bayern’s modified total football and Juve’s structure and all round contribution (these are simplified) are well known.
Atletico Madrid and Juventus are recognised for combining their scouting systems and academies with an established system, therefore not losing dominance even when losing players.
English clubs must maintain their managers for longer periods, giving these men time to implement their ideology. The academies may be world class and the players may be superior but without direction, the club and player will suffer. The club should be driven by a flexible ideal but an ethic nonetheless.
With the calibre of managers present in the league, it’s up to the other two factors to determine whether or not they go forward.
Sweat and tears
Finally, there is the concept of improvement. The established players must not settle on their laurels, looking for consistent performances to stake their claim and a first team position.
The work ethic of some of the players is questionable, with many unable to raise their games to the next level. Players must train with a purpose and look to establish themselves on the world stage.
Better players provide competition for places which in turn forces players to maintain a high standard.
Raise your individual game, raise the stature of your team.
World class players + world class set-up = World class teams
The reality is, however, that if English clubs are to compete with world class teams, they must not only develop world class talent but hold on to the gems they’ve brought through the academy.
The top clubs are saturated with talent; a luxury English teams don’t have. If they are to compete, they must attract the best talents in Europe and compete at levels to prevent their best players from leaving.
With the money from the highly lucrative TV deal running rampant throughout the league, bringing quality young players and keeping them is not an issue. It’s showing these world class talents that they have the structure and squad to topple the giants of the game that will make them stay and dream of representing the club for years to come.
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