What can we read into the absence of Premier League teams from the Champions League?

Arsenal last night became the last English team to exit the competition

So Arsene Wenger thinks alarm bells are ringing for the Premier League. Gary Neville is more sanguine believing these things go in cycles. Both should take a step back, for neither point of view takes into account the nature of the competition.

The clue is not in the name. The Champions League is essentially a cup competition for Europe’s elite. The league stage in the main weeds out the lesser mortals, but this too is far from an accurate barometer because it is too short to reliably test the sample. You could, as Wenger does, read doom into the exit of Chelsea and Manchester City at the group stage, but it does not bear scrutiny. It is not a reflection of the strength, necessarily, of the Premier League, or the power of the individual clubs.

Chelsea and Manchester City are two of the most expensively-assembled teams in the world. They have a financial reach that is beyond even Real Madrid and Barcelona. Chelsea added Oscar and Eden Hazard in the summer, two players that topped global shopping lists. They went out as European Champions, however fortuitous that outcome might have been.

City didn’t spend lavishly but that was not because the owners were feeling the pinch in Abu Dhabi. City lost out narrowly in a group that included Real Madrid and Borussia  Dortmund, the Spanish and German champions respectively, who both progressed to the last eight. United won their group with games to spare and with 30 of the 180 minutes left to play of their last 16 encounter deservedly led Madrid before a controversial sending off skewed the tie.

These are matters of caprice not structural failings. Madrid could just as easily have left the scene as United. Barcelona lead La Liga by a million miles, yet might have gone out had M’Baye Niang’s shot not come back off the post shortly before Leo Messi netted a second, or Jordi Alba’s last-ditch tackle not blocked Robinho. Though it would have been a nonsense had Barcelona not profited from 67 per cent possession, they were only fractions the right side of fate.

Had they gone out, questions about the state of the Catalan nation would have continued. The doctor would have returned to Messi’s door to check for signs of decline. As it is they march on with reputations restored.

That is how it is in cup football. Outcomes rest on knife edges from which trends cannot always be drawn. The Champions League is a marvellous competition, is tough to win and pitches Europe’s best against each other, but like the FA Cup, is not the best way to judge the quality of a team. For that you have to look at league tables in May.   

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn