Friday 15 December 2017

Incident-driven analysis offers no proper insights

We really don't need Robbie Savage to tell us if there was contact - tell us what we don't know

Sky Sports enjoys nothing more than getting stuck into a contentious penalty decision, such as this one for Harry Kane against West Ham at the weekend
Sky Sports enjoys nothing more than getting stuck into a contentious penalty decision, such as this one for Harry Kane against West Ham at the weekend

Joe Molloy

Lately I've taken to fast-forwarding through the 'Match of the Day' analysis on a Saturday night. For some time now on the Beeb's flagship football show, a philosophy has taken hold which places the genuine dissection of matches secondary to the parsing of vaguely important refereeing decisions. This trend of 'incident-driven' analysis is being taken to new lows. And it is a gross dumbing down of the game.

One can regularly watch an entire analysis segment after a big game and come away knowing very little about the overall trends or tactics at play, or even more simply, if a given team deserved to win or not.

Instead, with a weird kind of faux gravity, Gary Lineker will announce at the outset that there are several quite contentious decisions to get to and Robbie Savage is going to take us through them one by one. Frankly, I can think of few things in life more uninspiring than Robbie Savage telling me if there was contact or not.

The great irony of course is that this is an area of the game which is incredibly straightforward. Most people can see for themselves if there was contact during the actual highlights.

The last thing they need is the expertise of an ex-pro afterwards, particularly at the expense of far more useful information which one can't deduce from watching an eight-minute highlights package.

The Beeb aren't the only offenders of course, but it's particularly glaring when they use their very limited windows for analysis so badly. Sky Sports enjoy nothing more than a contentious penalty decision to get stuck into, from every angle.

I presume it provokes a lot of interaction on social media from interested fans and gets some people quite worked up, but the truth is, for the majority of us, it's unmercifully tedious. We learn nothing.

Thankfully, in more recent times, Gary Neville has demonstrated the joys of in-depth analysis of less obviously controversial issues. I remember he spent the guts of one half-time looking at a Stoke goal which came from a pre-rehearsed corner move, and it was utterly brilliant. You learned something new.

Here at home, the RTE panel have made a point of talking about the wider trends in games. Setanta Sports' highlights package on a Saturday is an excellent example of what can be done in tight windows.

To be fair to 'MOTD', on Saturday, Alan Shearer did a great package on Man City v Newcastle. It was rare and beautiful. We learned about the nuances of the particular match. I wish they'd keep it in mind the next time they ask Robbie if the handball was deliberate or not.

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