Highs and Lows of the Soccer Viewing Experience, August 15-18

In a new feature on World Soccer Talk, I’ll review the highs and lows of my soccer viewing experience on a weekly basis.

The feature will review what’s it like watching the beautiful game online and on TV from the perspective of a soccer fan — someone, like you, who loves the sport and eats, lives and breathes the game. It’ll encompass my thoughts on everything from soccer commentary, production, TV shows, the online streaming experience and anything else that’s noteworthy from each weekend.

From this past weekend, my entire time was spent watching the Premier League games, and the shoulder programming that took up practically my entire weekend. I typically find time to watch the other leagues too, but there was so much Premier League content to be consumed that it ended up almost taking over my life for three days.

Here are my highs and lows of the soccer viewing experience:

Highs

1. Improved tactical analysis from NBCSN

While last year’s tactical analysis was hit or miss across the entirety of the season, you can tell that Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe have been sharpening their tactical analysis skills over the summer.

The best examples of this were during the half-time and post-match analysis of the Manchester United-Swansea and Liverpool-Southampton matches. For example, Earle and Mustoe clearly and succinctly pointed out Juan Mata’s error of failing to track back to defend Ki Sung Yueng who advanced to the edge of the penalty area.

That analysis by Earle and Mustoe was a crystal clear example of how they added value to the broadcast by pinpointing a player’s error, and showing how Mata was partly to blame for giving Ki too much space, which led to Swansea’s first goal.

Not only was the expert analysis spot on, but the graphics used on-screen by NBC Sports to identify the space that Ki created due to Mata getting caught out were clear and easy to understand.

To illustrate how effective this one piece of analysis was by Earle and Mustoe, compare it to how Alan Shearer dissected the incident on Match of the Day. When Ki scored the goal in the 28th minute of the match, Earle and Mustoe had approximately 15-20 minutes to discuss, to themselves, what happened (while trying to watch the rest of the first half) and then get ready to demonstrate that to viewers on live television. In contrast, Shearer had more than 9 hours of time between when the incident happened and when he discussed it live on MOTD. Yet Earle and Mustoe’s analysis was far better and better presented on-screen. Hats off to NBCSN on stellar work in the opening match of the season.

As an aside, Shearer blamed Ander Herrera and Darren Fletcher, not Mata, for giving Ki too much space. Not only did Shearer miss Mata’s mistake, but he rambled throughout his analysis.

Throughout the weekend, Earle and Mustoe were on top form. They were equally impressive when they clearly dissected Liverpool’s changed formation at half-time against Southampton, where they explained how Rodgers had changed the system to play a more calculated style that may end up being more effective, but it’s one that Liverpool fans will need to have patience with due to the lack of thrills compared to last season.

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