Football: Wenger says too early to say English clubs in European decline

LONDON (REUTERS) - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes it is too early to judge whether English sides are in decline in football's Champions League despite three of the four Premier League sides losing the first leg of their last-16 ties.

Arsenal lost 0-2 at home to European champions Bayern Munich, after being reduced to 10 men in the first half, and their French coach said no conclusions can be drawn until after the second legs.

"I think you have first to realise that all four (English) teams came out of the group stage. That means the level is there," he said on Thursday. "After only one game, you cannot judge a general trend."

Ten-man Manchester City lost 0-2 at home to Barcelona, English champions Manchester United went down by the same score at Olympiakos and Chelsea drew 1-1 at Galatasaray in the last 16.

England are rated second to Spain in Uefa's rankings but are in danger of having no team in the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the second consecutive season.

Last season, only Arsenal and Manchester United, who hold the record for the most Champions League quarter-finals with Bayern and Barcelona, reached the knockout rounds.

"Man City played with 10 men, Arsenal played with 10 men, Man City played against Barcelona, Arsenal played against Bayern Munich, who are world champions," Wenger told reporters.

"Of course you know that with 10 men it will be a difficult game. After that the other two teams are still in positions, Man United and Chelsea, where they can turn the results around.

"Let's wait until the end of the second game before talking about a trend of strength or weakness."

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