it's 6 of 1 and half a dozen of the other. The fact we are poor now is not a basis to judge the league now or back thenTo me it's pretty obvious the PL is much more competitive than it was 10 years ago or so. Long gone are the days where we could have a relatively poor season by our standards and just have to duke it out with Aston Villa for 4th.
It's largely down to the TV rights deals I think. You've got mid table English clubs these days that can compete financially for players that only a handful of bigger European clubs can match up to.
I think football fans wrongly conflate how entertaining the game is nowadays with the quality of football being played. They're separate.
By virtually every metric the standard is higher now, it's just more boring to watch. Everything's micro managed to the nth degree, you lack individuality and flair etc.
Hate to say it but Wenger generally stuck to his guns in terms of open, expansive, free flowing football where the players were given much more independence and free reign and we'd frequently get turned over by good teams who were more micromanaged, towards the last portion of his spell here.
It's crap as football purists, as a lot of us are but that's just the way it is unfortunately.
For your 1st paragraph, you could say the exact same thing last season, Liverpool were poor (and not just by their own standards) and duked it over Leicester for 4th. Only difference is the teams involved - Liverpool for Arsenal; Leicester for Aston Villa.
For the number of teams in latter stages of European competition, I'm not sure this holds either as there are many variables + the big one that cup competitions are just cup competitions relying heavily on the form on matchday, not necessarily overall quality season-wide. Even with these, there were 3 English teams in the UCL semis in the late 00s. Leeds got to the semi in the early 00s.
Some posters are looking at club teams then and comparing again current club teams - that's just apples and oranges. At the end of the day, the gradient remains the same and you compete against what's presented against you - warts and all.