I’m in London right now, meeting my new Dare colleagues and celebrating the company’s 10th anniversary. As you can imagine, much of the talk revolves around the English National Team and their rather tepid performance in the FIFA World Cup. The pundits, journalists and former players, along with the everyday fans, all have opinions about the current squad.
A lot of the conversation centers on how great the English Premiership is, and why English players who star in that competition, along with the Champions League, don’t carry that quality over to the World Cup. I’m of the opinion that England doesn’t underachieve at the World Cup, rather the England squad just doesn’t have that may good players.
Over the last six years, English teams have made six appearances in the Champions League final, featuring more teams, more times, than any other country. Arsenal, ManU, Chelsea and Liverpool all making at least one appearance. Only Italy has put more than one team in the final over this time. Sounds good, right? But something is amiss when you look deeper into the stats.
Six English teams in six years has produced 20 English players. More than any other nation, but just over three per English side.
That’s right, English teams average about three English players. By comparison, 14 Spanish players have featured in the last six Finals and two Spanish sides (Barcelona two times) have played in the game, so seven Spanish players per side. A significant difference. Italy has seen three sides and 11 players over the same time period – about the same as England. Aha you say, England poor in the World Cup, Italy won in 2006 so, Rick, your theory is disproven already. Well, when you look carefully you’ll see that in 2006-07, AC Milan made it the Finals with seven Italian starters, just 10 months after Italy won the World Cup. In 2010 Inter Milan won the Champions League without one Italian starter! Italy crashed out of the World Cup one month later.
Let’s look at some other countries. Holland, still alive in this World Cup, and though they haven’t had a club side in the Champions League final they are the only country to have at least one player (12 total) in each of the last six Champions League Finals. You know what other countries have put a lot of players in the Champions League Final? Brasil (13) and Argentina (9). Germany, who are doing quite well in this World Cup, thank you very much, haven’t had a great run in the Champions League recently. Until of course, this year when Bayern Munich, and five German players, featured in the final.
Here’s something else to consider: Twelve teams – six of them English! – and how many English coaches? Yep, zero. Spanish (3), Dutch (2), Italian (2) and French (1) coaches? Plenty of those. Those teams have won a World Cup and European title, and been a World Cup runner up. Coaches from Scotland, Portugal and even Israel have been featured in the Champions League final.
So here’s what I’m seeing: English players are under represented based on their clubs appearances in the Champions League final. Clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and ManU are English in name only. English coaching is way below par.
English fans and media should recalibrate their expectations. Success should be advancing beyond the group stage, and that with a little luck. Anything beyond that is gravy.