For the first time since 1996, there are no English clubs in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. You might think that's nothing more than the answer to a trivia question, but some people are trying to extrapolate a foreboding tale from it. And after Arsenal's comeback against Bayern Munich proved to be not quite enough as they won the second leg 2-0 but lost on away goals with a 3-3 aggregate score, Arsene Wenger added his voice to the silly fears for the future of Premier League (aka "the world's most watched league") clubs in Europe.
From the BBC:
"It's a massive disappointment for English football," said Wenger.
"We accept the rest of European football has caught back on us." [...]
"If you think we had Manchester City and United, Chelsea and Arsenal all out by the quarter-final - it's a long time since that happened," added Wenger.
"We have to take that into consideration in the way we think about the future of the Premier League."
Just last season, Chelsea became the first London club to win the Champions League and in six of the last seven years, there has been at least one English club in the final (in 2008, Man United and Chelsea played an all-English final). This season, European champions Chelsea and Premier League champions Man City both failed to make it out of the group stage as a result of their own bungling. Man United, meanwhile, arguably came within a Nani red card of advancing and Arsenal were only done in by the away goals rule.
It's hard to read too much into a single knockout tournament since the format is so welcoming of anomalous results. That's not to make excuses for English clubs, though -- they simply failed this year. And that failure coincides with the success of strengthened sides that haven't been regulars in the later rounds of the competition in recent years like PSG and Galatasaray. Plus Malaga, who have now reached the quarterfinals for the first time ever thanks to brilliant management in face of financial uncertainties.
Of course if sides like those prove their consistency over the next couple of years while English clubs continue to go out early, then it might be time to eulogize England's continental success. Until then, it's all just a bit of Premier League navel gazing and Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes isn't too worried for them.
"I think comparisons like this don't bring much, we have had German teams knocked out early in previous years," said Heynckes.
"I think Manchester United were unlucky to get knocked out and Arsenal showed what a quality team they are.
"You get cycles like that in football, I think the English teams will be back next year."
All is not lost for England in the Champions League this season, though. All its clubs are gone, but, like the Highlander, one man remains to defend the country's honor (albiet while playing for a French club) and his own immortal commercial brand.