Setanta Television, the diminutive Irish satellite channel, delivered a performance on Saturday 30 August 2008, that was so appallingly biased and self-opinionated that it will be hard for them ever to recover any respectability as a commentator on the game.
The channel used the build up to its live coverage of Arsenal vs Newcastle to indulge in continuous diatribe against the management of Arsène Wenger, calling for the manager to reverse his policy and buy player after player. A series of supporters were interviewed outside the ground, with the interviews edited so that there was not a single word saying, actually we have a really good team here and there is no need to change it. Meanwhile the two so-called “experts” in the studio – someone who appeared to be called Macca, and another bloke who had nothing to do with Arsenal – both spent their allocated time endlessly saying that the manager had to buy.At the end of the game one of the commentators returned to the theme again calling for Wenger to buy two or more players.
The fact is (although you wouldn’t know it from anything that Setanta said) that Arsenal have a whole raft of central midfielders: Song, Fabregas, Denilson and Daiby, with Eboue as a backup – all spring to mind at once.
Then there is the fact that Nasri can also play in the middle (so you might imagine Rosicky and Theo as the wingers and Fabregas and Nasri in the middle).
Then there is Bischoff – by all accounts a highly talented central midfielder who could end all our problems. Ah but he’s injured, people say, as if that means he won’t ever play again. But then think of Gilberto – out for a year with his back injury. And Robert Pires with his knee ligament problem. And quite possibly Eduardo. People do come back, although Wenger admits Bischoff is a gamble, his gambles come off more than not.
So, to cover that ground again: Song, Fabregas, Denilson, Diaby, Eboue, Nasri and Bischoff. That’s our central midfield. Of course you can still create an argument for more – but surely such an argument should take account of all the midfielders we already have. And I haven’t even mentioned Ramsey.
As if this lopsided approach to commentating was not enough the TV station then spent much of its coverage pushing the idea that Barton should not be allowed to play for Newcastle, because he had been in prison.
Here again there are two points of view, and whatever you think of Barton, you have to recognise that there is the point of view that says, when a person has been found guilty of a crime, and has paid their fine or served a prison sentence, then that should be it. The courts are the designated place in which retribution against offenders is meted out in the UK – unless of course you fancy justice by Irish owned TV station.
I personally felt Arsenal were right to stay with Tony Adams during his imprisonment, and to bring him back into the team as captain upon his return. But much more to the point was that Setanta kept on giving voice to the notion that there is a moral stance for Newcastle to take – that of giving Barton the sack. In fact there is another moral stance to take – which is to say, people who have been to prison should be given help and support once they have served their time, and that this is a more moral stance than sacking a person.
Of course, as TS Eliot pointed out in “Murder in the Cathedral” it is possible to do the right deed for the wrong reason – and for the club to hold onto Barton because they are short of players smacks of that as it does not take any sort of moral stance at all. But no one mentioned that issue. And the fact is that the arguments of the station on a complex moral point were simplified and trite. If they were not going to cover the issue properly they would have been better off leaving it alone.
Finally there’s the man of the match award from Satanta for Van Persie. I don’t have inside knowledge on this but I was sure that RVP was a Muslim – which would mean that he can’t drink. If so, it’s a bit dumb to give him that prize isn’t it. £300 to a charity would be better.
I’m not saying Sky, BBC or ITV are any better. It’s all fairly awful in fact – this one just happened to annoy me more than most.
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