Generally, the Champions League group stages go more or less the same every year. A few big sides suffer shock defeats, but in the end all get through and finish more or less where everyone expected. This is the nature of having a seeded group stage - it serves to mitigate against the inherent unpredictability of football by having a larger sample size to even things out.
This time, however, there were slightly more shocks. Benfica being replaced by Olympiakos is a surprise, but not one that will change much in the grand scheme of things. Juventus' exit was by far the bigger shock, leaving 9th-placed AC Milan as Serie A's only club in the knockout stages. There, they will face one of Manchester United, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund, all of whom they are likely to lose an encounter with.
Meanwhile, with four German clubs making progress, Lothar Matthaus and Franck Ribery were among those hailing the bold new era, claiming the Bundesliga as the world's best. It seems a rather cheap way to look at it - the team currently second in the division, after all, were defeated 9-2 on aggregate by the team currently ninth in England. Borussia Dortmund only scraped into the final sixteen with a late goal, while Bayern Munich lost at home to Manchester City and Schalke were far from impressive either.
People will also point to the continued decline of Serie A, but that's only really true for talking about the coefficient scores, which will leave them trailing further behind Germany. In reality, Juventus more than held their own at the Bernabeu until some idiocy from Giorgio Chiellini, combined with complacency against Copenhagen, cost them dearly. Napoli were also close to going through from an impossibly difficult group.
The heavy skewing of the financial situation in Germany towards the elite is not uncommon for European leagues. What is uncommon is that the elite seem to only have one member in Bayern Munich. The playing field is far from level, and until it's addressed, any German sides making progress will be anomalies, unable to compete with the tsunami of cash that arrives in the coffers of clubs in England through TV money every year. In Italy, they might not have those riches, but overall, the playing field is more level.
While coefficients will take a blow, the events of last night aren't symptomatic of anything deeper. Sometimes weird things happen in football - for those reading anything else into it as this point, the wish seems to be the father of the thought.
* * *
Another club that should be disappointed with last night is Arsenal, who once again got through the Champions League group stage, once again finishing second, once again very likely to exit at the first knockout round. It's been a very familiar tale over the last few years, and this group was more difficult than most, but it should still be a worry for Arsene Wenger that his team fell at the final hurdle.
Now, Arsenal will have to face one of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain or Atletico Madrid. The odds will be against them in all five games, as another forgettable run is lined up. It may end up being something of a reality check for the side. While they are rightly top of the league in England, their success has mostly been built around their consistency of defeating smaller clubs, which nobody else has been able to achieve.
It takes a lot more to be able to compete with real giants who have their act together. Although this may be the best thing for Arsenal - if they find out they can go toe-to-toe with Barcelona, great. If they can't, all the fewer fixtures to concentrate on the league.