The Premier League returned to our screens once again and made a slightly anti-climactic start, and it was the start of season broadcasting that was most intriguing.
Sky’s Soccer Saturday started the build up and although Jeff Stelling’s friendly face was a welcome sight after a barren summer, his companions on the panel left a lot to be desired.
Unable to offer any expert opinions or an ounce of intelligence, the quartet of Matt Le Tissier, Paul Merson, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas don’t offer many positives for the viewers. I’ve never been a great fan of any of the four not so wise men, and having not endured their tedious or stupid comments for the past two months, they stood out even more when one of them did slip into dialogue.
The strangest comment came from Merson who proclaimed “I’ve said it before, if you’re a footballer who can’t run in this day and age, you won’t get very far.”
I’m still not convinced about the intelligence or thought process behind that one Mers.
Furthermore, throughout the show, the four on the panel and reporters from elsewhere persisted in pronouncing every player’s name completely wrong. Challenge Jonathan Davies to pronounce ‘Alan Smith’ incorrectly and I’m sure he’d find a way.
Those that watched Soccer Saturday and didn’t attend the Wigan vs Norwich encounter, like myself (rubbish fan) will know exactly what I mean.
Common sense suggests these pundits should have at least some footballing knowledge to land a job reporting on football, yet not everyone has a great deal of common sense nowadays.
Even with a team sheet with a full list of player names in front of them, Merson and co managed to mispronounce the names of Di Santo, Emnes and Mackail-Smith consistently, insisting on ‘Di Santi’, ‘Emenenes’ and ‘Makal-Smith’.
For a pedantic sod like myself, this is incredibly frustrating. These people are paid for their ability to report on matches, yet they even fail to read out player names correctly. Unbelievable Jeff.
Also on Sky, Super Saturday’s first game between Stoke and Chelsea meant Ray Wilkins had to compliment Stoke at every chance possible.
He even offered praise for Stoke’s ‘great variation’ as instead of hurling the ball into the box direct from a throw, they threw it short, then hoofed it into the box. This simple manoeuvre was treated like a footballing revelation.
Wilkins then gave Stoke credit for having an extra white stripe on their home shirt since last season and to their grounds man for getting the pitch markings ‘very white’, maybe…
Match of the Day didn’t fair too much better, at least Shearer was able to state the obvious pretty well though.
In a nutshell: Lineker forgot what year it was as he introduced us to the 2010/11 season a whole 12 months late; Hansen continued his obsession with the phrase ‘strength in depth’ and Shearer added little really, besides the obvious.
To be fair to Shearer, even that requires the common sense Merson and his crew lack so he’s one up on them.
I wouldn’t have minded Merson’s poor punditry so much if he’d been reporting on a 5-0 home win for the Latics. Unfortunately, this was a little ambitious.
Drawing the three promoted clubs in the first three games isn’t ideal, as we found out last year at home to Blackpool.
If anyone expected the trip of Norwich to be easy, then they were very much mistaken. Despite being distinctly average on paper, promoted clubs always seem to have the grit, determination and energy to make up for the gap in quality.
Norwich were no different.
I was glad to see that Franco Di Santo (or Di Santa/Di Santi/Santi/Dos Santos if you’re Merson) decisively pounce on a mistake by Ritchie De Leat for earn a penalty, which Ben Watson expertly dispatched for the opener.
The same couldn’t be said of Diame who dispossessed Zak Whitbread in a similar position, he attempted an audacious lob that only the likes of Rooney, Gerrard or Figueroa could pull off. Needless to say, it went hopelessly off target.
This was a waste as a 2 on 1 situation in the attacking side’s favour on the halfway line should result in a goal with a bit of simple movement and passing, a player with half a footballing brain would work this out and choose this option over firing a desperate attempt towards goal. This effort screamed ‘I’m not fit and I can’t be bothered to run in case a defender catches me up and I get tackled, embarrassing myself in the process.’
Or it did for me anyway.
It was a shame that we couldn’t build on this lead and Norwich pulled level following a mistake from the usually reliable Ali Al-Habsi.
This goal was typical, well from my point of view, as Merson has given us the kiss of death.
“Wigan look in control, Norwich are having lots of possession but don’t look like scoring Jeff.”
Needless to say, within seconds, Norwich equalized.
I think what we can all take from this is that Paul Merson actually can be trusted, in a way. Just take whatever he says will happen, then totally reverse it and you have the outcome of any situation.
If he said he was immortal, would never leave the Soccer Saturday panel and Wigan will finish dead last, personally I’d be delighted.
Despite his common inaccuracy, Merson did point out the expert display from the impressive Victor Moses.
I’m excited to see if he can fill the boots of N’Zogbia and provide some pace and cutting edge on the wings to replace what we’ve lost.
He indicated that this could be the case with an exciting attacking display on Saturday, if he keeps it up he could be like a new signing. That’s the final cliché of this article, I promise.
I just hope Roberto can convince Dave to buy a similar type player for the opposite wing, as Jordi Gomez, despite being an unfair scapegoat most of the time; simply isn’t in the same league as far as being a winger’s concerned.
It could be worse though, we could have signed a winger who got sent off on his debut, or a freebie who decided to square up to him.
I am of course, referring to the petulance shown at St James’ on the opening day.
Joey Barton, for all his problems is very entertaining. Yet he doesn’t do his public image any favours by his own actions does he?
I’d hate to be his PR manager, it’d be almost as hard as being Stan Collymore’s, or Osama Bin Laden’s, when they were in their prime of course.
Whether Gervinho dived or not is up for debate, but even if he did, there’s no need for Joey to get involved. The referee didn’t give a penalty so there’s no issue there, Joey and his team haven’t been cheated at all.
For some reason, Joey felt the need to square up to Gervinho and grab him by the neck. I really do want to know what he thought he’d achieve.
Gervinho, probably bemused by the situation more than anything, slapped Barton in the face. Barton later clearly claimed that Gervinho punched him, many a fan watching it wished that he did.
Even Alan Shearer was intelligent enough to distinguish the difference between the punch Barton claimed, and the slap that he received.
Regardless, Song’s stamp on Barton beforehand was unacceptable and I hope the FA respond accordingly, even if many did enjoy watching Joey getting riled up. Will he ever learn?
Typically, the aforementioned actions were the only ‘highlights’ in an otherwise bland scoreless draw. Is this a sign of things to come for Arsenal without Fabregas?
Goal of the Week: Seb Larsson’s stunning volley, Liverpool 1-1 Sunderland
Hero of the Week: I’ll give it to the unspectacular and reliable Wes Brown for his display in the same match on his Sunderland debut.
Mug of the Week: Take your pick, Merson, Barton or De Gea for his pathetic attempt to save Shane Long’s pee roller.
Comment of the Week: Many contenders, but I’ll give it to Merson for his euphemism about players that aren’t able to run…