Are Arsenal and Manchester City just unlucky in Champions League?

With the UEFA Champions League final set to take piece this weekend, there are no English sides involved for the third year in a row.

Indeed, the Premier League has supplied just two finalists in the last six years (0.33 finalists per year), compared to five finalists in the four years prior to that (1.25 finalists per year).

The question is: is this a result of the declining standards of the Premier League, particularly in knock out competitions, or has there been an element of bad luck around the draws that have been handed to the English teams?

Both Arsenal and Manchester City seem to have something of a penchant for drawing Bayern Munich or Barcelona (the pair have gone out to Barcelona five times and Bayern twice between them) but what about if we look at the question more generally?

In the six years between 2005/06 and 2010/11, at least two of the four English clubs in the UEFA Champions League have been eliminated in the knock out stages by eventual finalists.

In the four years between 2011/12 and this year, a maximum of one English club has been dispatched by a team destined to contest the biggest game of the competition.

There have also been significantly more group stage exits than previously, with five in the last four years, whereas there were just two group stage exits in the six years up to and including the 2010/11 season.

It would seem then, that the English sides are becoming more vulnerable to weaker teams in Europe, both the lower seeds in the knockout rounds and the so-called lesser sides in the group stages.

In fact, in the last ten years, the Premier League clubs have been knocked out by thirteen different clubs, yet only four of those clubs have gone on to be the eventual winners.

This year, only Manchester City have a chance to claim they were knocked out by the best team in the tournament, as victims of a Barcelona side chasing their fifth Champions League/European Cup crown.

It seems that England’s finest need a change – and soon – if they are to reverse the trend and get back to the top table of European football. Otherwise, we may find that eventually the best players will no longer desire a move to “the best league in the world”.

There are already six teams in the Premier League fighting over just four places in UEFA’s showpiece competition, with Arsenal the only club able to secure a place each and every year for the last 17 years.

With the number of places awarded to each league determined by the performance of the clubs representing it each year, the powerhouses of English football simply must up their game or there may be even fewer spoils to go around.

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