Snap Judgments: Quick reactions to Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League results

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Three huge upsets on Champions League Wednesday fulfilled yesterday’s promises. In the process, English Premier League teams took a big hit. Arsenal and Manchester City’s losses combined with Chelsea’s defeat in Donetsk left Manchester United as England’s only mid-week winner.

Spanish and German teams combined for six wins in seven games, the only loss coming when the leagues’ champions faced off in Dortmund. English and Italian teams? One win in five games.

Group A

Porto 3-2 Dynamo Kyiv – Give credit to Dynamo, because this game wasn’t supposed to be this competitive. After Porto beat Paris Saint-Germain at home on matchday two, their visit from Ukraine’s runners up was expected to go smoothly. Oleh Blokhin’s team had different ideas, equalizing twice before Jackson Martínez’s second goal of the night gave Porto three points.

What a signing the Colombian’s turned out to be, scoring eight times in 10 appearances since moving from Mexico this summer.

Dinamo Zagreb 0-2 Paris Saint-Germain – On Monday, Carlo Ancellotti called for big games from Jeremy Menez and Javier Pastore. Menez responded with a goal and an assist. Pastore registered a helper of his own. Up two at intermission, the Parisians were never threatened, putting forth what’s become a typical, controlling PSG performance.

Impact – Porto stays perfect and on top of the group with only their 1-0 win on matchday two separating them from PSG. Dynamo Kyiv looks like the clear third-best team, but they’ve gotten their two hardest matches out of the way (at Porto, at PSG on matchday one). Playing better under Oleh Blokhin, they can still be a factor.

Group B

Arsenal 0-2 Schalke – An amazingly inept performance from Arsenal, who showed none of the qualities that fuel their reputation for playing one of the most attractive (and successful) styles in the world. They were bad, and Schalke took advantage. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar put them in front near the hour mark, with Ibrahim Afellay’s late goal ensuring Arsenal’s doom.

Montpellier 1-2 Olympiacos – A good performance by Montpellier was left unrewarded when substitute Konstantinos Mitroglou gave Olympiacos their first lead in second half stoppage time. The Greeks managed only two shots on frame, but both got past Laurent Pionnier. Montpellier held the lead and 63 percent of the possession but are left empty handed.

Impact – Arsenal could very well rebound in Gelsenkirchen, but Wednesday result puts Schalke in the driver’s seat. A draw in Germany and they likely win this group. The Gunners may have to be more worried about Olympiacos. With a loss in Germany, Arsenal bring the Greek champions into frame for second, with a trip to Pireaus still on the schedule.

Group C

Málaga 1-0 Milan – A dull game fell to the Andalusians when Joaquin made up for a missed penalty kick with a second half winner. Max Allegri’s shift to a 3-4-3 formation worked to limited degree, limiting Málaga to two shots, though his team is still unable to find ay consistency in attack. Except the rumors about Allegri’s job security to persist.

Zenit 1-0 Anderlecht – This was the absolute minimum Zenit should have expected against a team that still hasn’t scored in the competition. The Russians again failed to show their potential. If it weren’t for a Milan Jovanovic transgression, Aleksandr Kerzahkov wouldn’t have been able to win it from the spot in the second half.

Impact – We didn’t learn anything about Group C. We knew Málaga were the best team. We knew Milan was probably next in line. Though today’s results keep Zenit close enough to matter, it’s hard to get too excited about a team playing so poorly.

Group D

Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Real Madrid – Breakthrough. Huge breakthrough for Jurgen Klopp’s team. They got a thoroughly deserved three points from one of the world’s elite teams, in the process making their 2011 group stage results off limits. No more “can they step up” analyses. Borussia Dortmund not only beat Real Madrid, they outplayed them. Thoroughly.

More: Breaking down BVB’s big day against Real Madrid.

Ajax 3-1 Manchester City – Congratulations are due Ajax, who score the biggest win of the Frank de Boer era, but Roberto Mancini deserves all the criticism he’s destined to receive. Beyond having the vastly more talented team, he didn’t have his players ready to match Ajax’s intensity. They were second best all night, and for a team that aspires to be a major factor in Europe, the performance was not only unacceptable, it played into the perception Mancini is not a good coach for this competition.

Impact – With Dortmund stepping up and City faltering, BVB and Real Madrid are destined to advance. It’s just a matter of deciding who wins the group.

Bruce Arena opens up about USMNT World Cup failure

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Former US Men’s National Team manager Bruce Arena has opened up about the failure of the team to reach the 2018 World Cup, culminating in an embarrassing and humbling 2-1 defeat at Trinidad & Tobago that left the USA on the outside looking in.

During a Q&A session in Philadelphia, Arena takes some blame but also dishes out a lot more, throwing everything from team chemistry, a weak player pool, weak mentality on the field, and even the national team’s communications department for the nightmare scenario that came to fruition in Couva.

“There are a lot of excuses, but at the end of the day you find a way to get off that field with a point,” Arena said to Straus, before laying out all those excuses he referred to. First up? The team chemistry, which was laid bare after injuries to John Brooks, Jordan Morris, and Sebastian Lletget.

“It wasn’t the same team with the right chemistry. It just didn’t seem like everyone was on the same page with the right mentality and the same understanding of what everything was about,” Arena said Friday. “The chemistry of the group wasn’t right. It wasn’t the character you see out of a U.S. team. And the second part, realistically, was that we didn’t have the most talented players and when we had injuries, it hurt us.”

Arena said there were signs of life in June after a win over Trinidad followed by a quality point against Mexico. However, it all came crashing down during a brutal week in early September that ultimately doomed the United States. After a stunning 2-0 loss to Costa Rica, Arena made a whopping seven changes to the starting lineup, none of which worked as a listless USMNT had to scrap and claw for a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Honduras. While Arena said the leaders on the team like Michael Bradley and Tim Howard were there when they were needed, “there were a couple of bad eggs like you have on every team. We were well aware of it.”

The 66-year-old blamed the pre-match buildup to the Trinidad & Tobago team as part of the issue, throwing the communications department under the bus for energizing the home side. “Behind the scenes there were mistakes on our part, probably,” Arena said in what began sounding like an admission of guilt. “Our social media, our communications department, sent out everything humiliating the Trinidad federation on the training facility, which was the game field for that day. It got them all fired up and when we kicked off on that day, it was a battle.”

Arena then railed against those who questioned his tactics or player choices after the disaster, saying, “You got some answers for me the day before the game? During the game? I’m listening. Everyone the day after, you’re a bunch of phonies. I don’t want to hear about it the day after. We’re all the best coaches the day after.”

It took everything Arena had to admit he may have played a part in the failure to qualify, and even then, he did so with plenty of restraint. “I accept that responsibility,” Arena said. “That’s why I resigned so quickly. I accepted my responsibility. That’s the way it goes. I don’t feel good about it, but that’s life.”

Michael Carrick to retire after the season, join Man United coaching staff

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho announced Friday night that 36-year-old midfielder Michael Carrick will retire after this season and join the Red Devils’ coaching staff.

Carrick has made just one appearance for Manchester United this season, back on September 20th in an EFL Cup match against Burton Albion. He has been on the sidelines recovering since an irregular heartbeat was discovered after he felt “strange” in the second half of that game. However, Carrick has been training with the team since November and Mourinho confirmed he could finish out his career on the pitch.

“[He had] a few months without even training so now he is in his second week of training with the team,” Mourinho said to the media ahead of Manchester United’s match against Burnley on Saturday morning. “He is a very important player for us. I think it is a good decision for the team and a good decision for him to finish playing football and not injured or with some problem.”

Mourinho confirmed that the club has offered him a position on the team’s coaching staff, and that he expects Carrick to accept.

“We are all happy and in the end of the season I expect him to join,” Mourinho said, “unless he changes his mind, but the club would be very happy for him to do that. I would be very happy also for him to do that.”

Carrick has spent his entire career in the city of London. He began his career in the West Ham youth system, making his professional debut in 2005 and spending five years with the Hammers before moving to Tottenham in 2004. He spent two seasons at White Hart Lane before joining Manchester United in the summer of 2006, where he would go on to 460 appearances across all competitions, scoring 23 goals and assisting 36 others. He has won five Premier League titles with Manchester United, as well as a Champions League, an FA Cup, and three League Cups.

Brighton nabs club record signing Jurgen Locadia

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Brighton & Hove Albion have secured a new striker for the stretch run of the Premier League season, signing Jurgen Locadia from PSV Eindhoven for a club record fee.

Locadia cost Brighton $19.3 million, breaking their old transfer record, set just last August when they brought Jose Izqueirdo from Club Brugge, by about $500,000.

The 24-year-old Dutchman has nine goals and six assists this season in 15 Eredivisie appearances for PSV, although he’s missed their last three games reportedly with a hamstring injury. He scored four goals in one game against FC Utretcht back in late September.

“We are delighted to have signed Jurgen, and pleased to welcome him to the club,” said Brighton manager Chris Hughton in the official club release. “He is a player we have been aware of for sometime, and it’s been no secret we have wanted to add a striker of his type. He is a strong, powerful and quick center-forward, with a real eye for goal and will increase our attacking options in the second half of the season.”

Locadia made his Eredivisie debut with PSV in style back in 2012, scoring a hat-trick against VVV Venlo in a 6-0 win. He would go on to score a career-high 13 goals in his first full season in 2013/14, eventually racking up 62 goals for PSV across all competitions in 176 appearances.

A PSV youth product, Locadia has been in the national team picture, riding the bench for a pair of World Cup qualifiers in October, but has not received a cap for the Netherlands. He was in the national youth setup as well, making appearances for the U-17 and U-21 sides.

Jupp Heynckes calls Aubameyang, Dembele behavior “unacceptable”

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Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes has labeled Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s and Ousmane Dembele’s behavior at rival club Borussia Dortmund “unacceptable” and suggested such players would not be signed by Bayern Munich.

“It’s unacceptable how certain players act in professional football,” Heynckes said speaking to the media ahead of Bayern’s on Sunday against Werder Bremen. “It’s just not right. These situations have always happened, but now they have reached a whole new dimension.”

Aubameyang has not yet left Borussia Dortmund, but reports all over Europe suggest he is pressing the club to leave, with Arsenal linked, as well as a move to China. The Gabonese international has been suspended by the club for missing meetings and training, and reports say he has handed in a transfer request.

Dembele left for Barcelona back in the summer, and was similarly suspended for missing training in hopes of forcing a move. The 20-year-old later admitted that he intentionally missed training with the intent of pushing the club to sell him.

“The Dembele and Aubameyang situations have to be viewed in a critical light,” Heynckes added, also hitting out at former Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who the Reds insist they did everything in their power to convince him to stay before he ultimately left for Barcelona. “I am very critical of this because players are very privileged. The Coutinho transfer was similar but solved more elegantly.”

The 72-year-old, in his fourth stint as Bayern Munich manager, said he would not sign these players if up to him, and suggested that Bayern Munich has a higher standard.

“Ethics and morals form part of our job and we have to look at the bigger picture and what’s happening in society. You have to consider how difficult it is for others to earn their monthly income. Clubs signing these players have to expect that this behavior will continue at their club. I don’t want to speak of solidarity, but it’s a team sport where you cannot afford to set your own individual targets. Clubs should think twice about signing these players. Honestly, I would reject it.”

Heynckes said that clubs shouldn’t take a hard stance with a player, instead hoping to placate them with a softer touch.

“Banishing the player to the stands is not the way,” Heynckes said. “You have to work at it, communicate and care for the player. You need a clear direction and I think we have that at Bayern Munich.”