Premier League left to sift through Euro wreck

The self-proclaimed "best league in the world" was having a long look at itself in the mirror on Thursday after Arsenal's exit left the Premier League with no quarter-finalists in Europe's blue riband club competition for the first time in 17 years.

Arsenal's impressive 2-0 victory in Munich came too late to rescue the Gunners who went out on away goals after a 3-1 defeat in the home leg, leaving them on this season's Champions League scrapheap along with Manchester United, last year's winners Chelsea and Manchester City.

The Premier League hierachy will no doubt insist it is a blip and not a clear sign of a decline in quality in the richest league in the world, but Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted it was a wake-up call.

"It's a massive disappointment for English football," the Frenchman said in the aftermath of Arsenal's brave, but ultimately doomed, fightback in Bavaria.

"We accept the rest of European football has caught us."

"We had Manchester City and United, Chelsea and Arsenal all out by the quarter-final.

"It's a long time since that happened. We have to take that into consideration in the way we think about the future of the Premier League."

Arsenal fell at the last 16 hurdle for the third consecutive season, while United were unlucky to go out against Real Madrid last week at the same stage.

Chelsea became the first holders of the Champions League to fail to survive the group stage while English champions Manchester City finished bottom of their group, an even worse showing than last season when they also failed to reach the knockout rounds.

FAR CRY

It is a far cry from the days when English clubs dominated the latter stages and despite the prospect of a fresh influx of money from improved broadcasting deals next season, the Premier League clearly does not possess any truly outstanding teams.

Between 2007 and 2009 England boasted nine semi-finalists. In 2007/08 Chelsea played Manchester United in the final and the following season three of the four semi-finalists were English even if Barcelona won the title.

Since then, however, only three English clubs have reached the last four, although Chelsea did fly the flag last season with their unlikely run to glory in Munich.

England have had four teams eligible for the Champions League since the 2002/03 season and in 2005/06, the season after Liverpool beat AC Milan in Istanbul, they had five teams involved but Everton were eliminated in the qualifying round.

England currently top UEFA's club coefficient ranking which determine the number of entries each country has in the competition and a UEFA spokesman told Reuters on Thursday it would be "many years" before there was any chance of England's entries being reduced from the current allocation.

"There would have to be a sustained lack of success and even then it would take many years before England's number was reduced," UEFA said.

FOOTBALL CYCLES

Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes played down the significance of this season's Premier League failure.

"I think comparisons like this don't bring much," he said Heynckes. "We have had German teams knocked out early in previous years.

"Arsenal sh