NBC Sports’ fourth year of Premier League coverage has been, in some manners, stale and predictable. But as always, the real test of coverage of the world’s most popular soccer league doesn’t come in August or May, but during the festive period.
This festive period was a mixed bag for NBC Sports. Let’s take a trip through each item of their programming:
Rebecca Lowe did her usual professional job of presenting. Lowe was given a break for the two days after Boxing Day by Liam McHugh, an NBC personality that does a number of different sports. McHugh did very well as he had a few weeks earlier in midweek duty. Neil Ashton, as always, provided good analysis and was particularly useful around American Bob Bradley’s sacking by Swansea City. On the December 27 Premier League Live program, Ashton answered a question from McHugh about whether Bradley’s fate would be decided in the next 48 hours. Ashton said he believed the decision would be made much sooner. Just as Ashton intimated, Bradley was sacked before McHugh and co. signed on hours later on Goal Zone.
The studio analysts provided a mixed bag during this holiday period. Kyle Martino. as usual, was a must listen while Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe both shared their usual predictable analysis. Earle, though, is more often correct in his analysis, while Mustoe — who is savvy — does have his moments where even his predictable pieces of analysis are delivered with such conviction and gusto that it makes it entertaining. For example, Mustoe’s denunciation of Pep Guardiola on the January 2 Match of Day was a good example. His opinions following Guardiola’s ridiculous post-match interview were particularly well done.
However this season, the Earle/Mustoe dynamic has gotten stale in many ways. It’s not that they are off in their analysis but that they suffer now from four years of overexposure as a tandem between NBC studio shows and the The 2 Robbie’s radio program.
For whatever reason, NBC didn’t have a Match of the Day program on New Year’s Eve but came back in a big way with a program that taped different segments of Goal Zone with Martino and Mustoe on January 2. That was a particularly good show hosted by Lowe.
Premier League Download – Bob Bradley, Pep Guardiola and Premier League Shorts
Roger Bennett, the co-host of the Men in Blazers show, hosted two Premier League Download programs during the festive period – one with Bradley, which aired about 24 hours before the American was sacked as Swansea manager. The other with Guardiola.
Bennett’s interviews were not really done at a high level. Because Mustoe, Martino and Earle are overworked and perhaps overexposed, they aren’t sent to the UK to do these interviews. But they’d be much more insightful with one of them in place of Bennett. That having been said, Bennett has a soothing, comforting interview technique that especially for the combative and arrogant Guardiola seems to have worked well to have brought some interesting comments out of him.
NBC’s decision to send Bennett to interview Guardiola was a missed opportunity given that Guardiola can talk tactics and playing style better than anyone. However, considering how abrasive the Manchester City boss can be with the media, Bennett did well despite his obvious limitations.