Everton went gently into that goodnight a few hours ago courtesy of some sublime strikes from Dynamo Kiev and some typically (at least this year) Everton defending. Add this to Arsenal, Manchester City, and Chelsea losing their ties in the last 16 of the Champions League and the Premier League is left unrepresented in Europe.
That is a bit of a blemish for what is supposed to be one of the top leagues in the world.
When asked, Mauricio Pochettino, weighed in on the subject. He told The Independent:
It's difficult for us to compete with the European teams because they have in a key moment the break at Christmas...[i]t is very important to arrive fresh in this key period.
While a bit of extra rest could not hurt, I do not completely agree with Poche on this point. England have been playing during the holidays for a long time and it did not stop English clubs from winning trophies in the past. So what has changed? I suggest that there is a more likely answer to why the Premier League flamed out of Europe more quickly this year than a Brendan Fraiser comedy at the box office.
Aside from Chelsea, who were knocked out in a strange tie with Paris Saint-Germain, none of the fallen English teams play it at a particularly high level. One could argue that Man City are capable, but this edition of City have that feel of the 2010 Italian national team. Perhaps not that level of bottoming out, but they do have a collection of once great players who are simply not as great, as consistently, as their reputation makes us believe. Also, the Citizens ran into a Barcelona team playing like vintage Barcelona.
As for Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Everton, and Arsenal: these clubs are all inconsistent at best, and laughable at worst, in defense. The correlation is too strong to be ignored, and surely explains more about the struggles than tired legs. An interesting aside, this year's defensively adept Southampton team would've been a difficult matchup for most teams left in Europe. Almost a shame they were not competing at that level this year.
In the end, I can see why Poche is making these comment regarding the lack of a break. Barcelona's Luis Enrique echoed these sentiments as recently as last week. However, the rational side of my brain tells me that if England were producing more balanced clubs, this would not be a talking point.
I'm a big fan of our manager, but he is addressing a minor aspect of this issue by focusing on the schedule.