Why Sky and BT show the wrong games.
There’s something about a last minute winner, the only truly fitting way for a football match to end. For players, this often means tearing your shirt off before being smothered by your team mates and the occasional overly exuberant manager. It causes fan to show strangers love and affection many of their wives could only dream of. But for neutrals, it is a satisfactory ending, what we have been crossing our fingers for. That one final rush of adrenaline and one last high pitched involuntary yelp. And yet, this grand finale can create a positive mirage of the previous affair and any afterthought is often artificial. A turgid 89 minutes of sideways passing and full back’s balls into channels can be unfittingly concluded by one moment of mistake or magic.
This was not the case for Wolves versus Leicester. Our Sky Sports Saturday lunchtime viewing was a treat of exciting, direct attacking play which became so intriguing and unpredictable that even after Wolves' impressive late winner, with Neves’s delightful diagonal passes to Doherty becoming a real trademark of their season, we were left wanting more. This was not a game of immense quality or tactical nous but was fuelled by the excitement of watching two dangerous and, crucially, evenly matched sides go full tilt to actually try and win a football match.
This may sound bizarre - surely each team go into every game with the sole aim of claiming three points? That is certainly the monotonous line we are fed week in, week out by players and managers alike. Yet tomorrow our Sky Sports viewing will comprise of Huddersfield hosting Manchester City followed by Spurs travelling to Fulham. Of course we all love the tale of an underdog and once in a blue moon the minnows may snatch a point or even a famous win but the reality is the gap between the top 6 and these ‘second tier’ clubs is growing every season and shocks are becoming less and less common. Liverpool have not lost at home in the league since April 2017 and have not dropped a single point to a team outside of the top six this season. When you factor this in with the top sides possession obsession, particularly Chelsea and Manchester City, and the damage limitation approach applied by more limited sides, these fixtures are not only becoming more inevitable, but mind-numbingly tedious.
Newcastle were slated for their lack of ambition and negative style in big games by various Sky and BT Sports pundits last season, yet both home and away legs of their fixtures against Manchester City and Chelsea this season will be televised. Surely the rational response to this would be to avoid televising lopsided, top heavy games and reward paying Sky and BT customers, who’s role has been so crucial in the financial advancement of the Premier League, with more competitive fixtures.
This is not a dig at televising the top sides games', I am genuinely excited for the match up of Chelsea and Arsenal later today. However, the thought of tomorrow’s snooze fest of 80+ percent possession and wingers as full backs really turns me off. December’s midweek fixtures left a particularly sour taste when Manchester United’s routine victory away at Newcastle prevented BT Sport viewers watching the madness unfold during Bournemouth and Watford’s 3-3 draw. Carefully selecting a more balanced set of televised fixtures would increase the chances of what we saw today in a genuinely exciting mid table match. Add another of those (Bournemouth vs West Ham) in with the emotion of a relegation 6 pointer (Newcastle vs Cardiff) and the quality of a top 6 clash (Chelsea vs Arsenal) every week and I'd park my arse on the sofa for four games a weekend, August through till May.