Can the EPL still claim to be the strongest league?

Everton's exit from the Europa League on Thursday meant that there would be no English clubs involved in the business end of European competition this season. And we've only reached the quarter-final stage.

Chelsea and Arsenal would have entered the Champions League round of 16 feeling confident of their chances of progressing to the last eight. As one of the tournament favourites the Blues should have had enough to get past PSG, while a match-up with Monaco was thought to be a 'best case scenario' for the Gunners. 

Both clubs lost their respective ties on home soil. Arsenal were their own worst enemies at the Emirates; it's mind boggling to think how through poor defending and a failure to control the game they managed to construct a situation where they needed to win and score three goals or more at the principality. Chelsea meanwhile would have thought that playing the second leg of their tie at Stamford Bridge after winning the first leg 1-1 put them in the driver's seat. 

The chances were there for the taking for the Blues and the Gunners, but they fluffed their lines when it mattered most. As heroic as Arsenal's performance on Tuesday was, it shouldn't for a moment hide the fact that they were beaten by a supposedly inferior side. Chelsea's rather undignified exit is one they will be eager to forget.

Manchester City were woefully outshone by Barcelona, in the second leg in particular, and while the Citizens showed that they're not able to match Europe's best, they can at least point to having had a tough draw.

Over in the Europa League, Liverpool couldn't make anything of the second chance handed to them after their Champions League exit, while Spurs will feel they too should have done better. As for Everton, well, considering their dismal showings this season the only surprise is that they lasted so long.

So where does this leave us? It certainly can't be said that the level of football in the Premier League is the highest in Europe. The competitiveness within the Premier League is a strength, but that strength is not transferable outside of the confines of England.

In the 2007/08 season there were four English teams in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but such glory days seem some way off now. It's too early to decry the fall of the English game, but it's not a stretch to say that the Premier League's best need to up their game soon if this is to remain a point of discussion. A few more seasons or dreary performances in Europe and it will be Spain and Germany that share the limelight completely.

James Ho

Comments