An Apology About Coverage Today

31 August 2013

In the interest of being as honest with my readers as possible, I owe you all an apology about my coverage today over on twitter. With major cable issues until after around one this afternoon, I was unable to see of the lunchtime, or traditional kickoffs this morning.

With the little coverage I was able to see this morning and afternoon, I am going to hold off on giving out any of my thoughts until I am able to watch all the games. With this being a three day weekend, I hope be able to have everything put together by Monday early evening.

I'm pretty much at the mercy of my cable provider right now in getting my cable back to full functionality. If I am unable to get anything up, please accept my sincerest apologies in advance. I will do my level headed best to get something up as soon as I possibly can. I'll be posting updates to what I am able to do as I know what I'll be able to do coverage wise.


Premier League Preview: Liverpool host Manchester United and Arsenal host Tottenham

30 August 2013

Kickoff times are EDT. PLET stands for Premier League Extra Time. All games available live on NBC Live Extra. Check you provider for availability.

Manchester City v Hull City (Saturday 7:45 am on NBCSN): There is good news for Manchester City as Nastasic looks like he will start. There's even better news for Manchester City because they are facing a side that has yet to score from open play this season. With Huddlestone and Livermore in central defense, Hull City will be a difficult side to break down. But Hull proved against the big boys away on opening day they'll finally crack. This won't be pretty, and probably cause to go back to sleep, but I see a home win here. Prediction: Manchester City 2 Hull City 0

Cardiff City v Everton (Saturday 10:00 am on NBCSN): Have Cardiff City fans stopped celebrating yet? Nah didn't think so. This should be a little tastier than usual as the Cardiff City supporters probably have a few choice words for former player and manager of Swansea City, Roberto Martinez. I'm sure the last thing the Everton back four will want to see is a confident Campbell. While Cardiff showed they can hold their shape for long periods of time, they have shown in their first two matches that their shape can be broken down. Everton has had to rely on one man for creating both of their goals this season, and he doesn't play for them. I expect to see another crowd that boosts Cardiff City into another unlikely point early in this season. Prediction: Cardiff City 1 Everton 1

Newcastle United v Fulham (Saturday 10:00 am on PLET): Sorry guys, this has the potential to be as exciting as a trip to the dentist without anesthesia. Newcastle United haven't won at home in a while, Cabaye still isn't completely settled, and their home fans are impatient for something positive to happen against a Premier League club. Fulham look like they can play those around them with a little bit of respect. The only prayer this has of being anything worth watching as a contest is if Fulham scores early. I do expect to see one goal here, but not until the second half. Prediction: Newcastle United 1 Fulham 0

West Ham United v Stoke City (Saturday 10:00 am on PLET): This will be a good litmus test to see where their potential is. West Ham huffed and puffed against Newcastle while Stoke City took a while before dispatching a pesky Crystal Palace side. Until Carroll returns for West Ham, I'm very leery about picking them. While Mark Hughes is trying to change Stoke's style, this isn't the match to do it in. There's a first time for everything, and I expect to see a nil draw here. Prediction: West Ham United 0 Stoke City 0

Norwich City v Southampton (Saturday 10:00 am on PLET): The good news for Rickie Lambert is Michael Turner has been a horror show to start this season. Both sides are still trying to piece work their best eleven together into cohesive units. That's good news for Norwich because that doesn't tend to work out on the road. Prediction: Norwich City 2 Southampton 1

Crystal Palace v Sunderland (Saturday at 12:30 pm on NBC): Why can't this match be a quote off between Ian Holloway and Paolo Di Canio? It would be much more entertaining than the national audience on NBC will be watching on the pitch. I still wonder where Sunderland's forwards will get service for, and that's enough for me to say expect Chamakh to score, Moxey to keep his cool, and Crystal Palace to score the upset. Prediction: Crystal Palace 2 Sunderland 0

Liverpool v Manchester United (Sunday 8:30 am on NBCSN): This is one of those contests that provide expectations by the bucket load, but this is going to end up the dud these big clashes seem to be providing of late. I would say my prediction could change if Kolo Toure plays, but Liverpool has had plenty of holes with him on the park. Manchester United should find at least one chance to get all three points away from Old Trafford. However, this is David Moyes against Liverpool. I'm scared he's going to set up more defensively than against Chelsea, and make substitutions for preservation instead of going for three points. When it's all said and done, I expect Wayne Rooney to find one magic moment to make us forget how bad a game this probably will be on the pitch. Prediction: Liverpool 0 Manchester United 1

West Bromwich Albion v Swansea City (Sunday 8:30 am on PLET): When a returning Nicolas Anelka is your best hope of scoring a goal, you're in trouble. I seriously hope Wilfred Bony and Michu start in the same 11 in this contest. It would make up for their meaningless Europa League defeat on Thursday. Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 0 Swansea City 3

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur (Sunday 11:00 am on NBCSN): This is the one contest this weekend I'm not entirely sure what to make of. Tottenham have yet to score from open play, but their defensive shape has been stellar. Arsenal looked good last week, but the injury bug has already struck the Emirates. Ramsey, Wilshere should feature for Arsenal, however Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Arteta won't. This game will have plenty of attacking intent, but since Soldado has yet to prove he can score from somewhere other than the 12 yard dot known as the penalty spot, I can't pick Spurs to win. I do expect a few goals in this one at least, and a thoroughly entertaining game heading into the international break. Prediction: Arsenal 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1


Manchester United 0 Chelsea 0: Was That a Match or Training?

27 August 2013

After all the talk, all the hype of a big four clash just 10 days into the Barclays Premier League season, and anticipation of David Moyes first home match as Manchester United manager, the viewing public saw a nil-nil draw where the highlight of the match wasn't the actual match itself. That honor would go to the minutes applause before kickoff for Brian Greenhoff, Ron Davies and Jack Crompton.

It was a game of quarter chances, half chances at best. Not once in this ninety minutes did was there any moment I thought a goal was going to be scored. Ironically enough, the only player on either side that had any consistent attacking intent was Wayne Rooney, who fired off the two best chances of the game when Petr Cech was caught off his line. Chelsea's midfield spent too much time roving around the ground, making short passes with no real purpose. Ramires was the poorest player on the pitch, constantly giving the ball away in advantageous areas for Manchester United. The lone surprise of the match was John Terry, who showed how valuable a defender he still can be on the big stage.

It could be argued that Chelsea's best chance in the entire ninety minutes was a long distance effort from Gary Cahill in the 59th, right before Torres was subbed on. Once Fernando Torres was brought in on the hour, it was obvious that Chelsea were shutting down and daring Manchester United to score. The long balls played into Torres required headers that had to be sent at a minimum 15 yards before another Chelsea player could get to it. That allowed the Manchester United midfield to continually shut down Chelsea's attack. The one time Torres was able to get forward, he lost the ball under his feet trying to elude three United defenders.

I was disappointed in David Moyes. My worst fears of his substitutions bore fruit. In a game that screamed out for Kagawa in the midfield to continually hustle Ramires, and give Manchester United an even better chance to win, Moyes went the conservative route in bringing on Ryan Giggs and Ashley Young. Neither player did anything to give Manchester United any hope of taking all three points. When Ryan Giggs came on in the 78th, I just wanted full time to blow. It was obvious neither manager cared to win. If David Moyes is going to keep his Everton management mentality at Old Trafford in the big matches, his time as manager as Manchester United is going to be shorter than he would like.

In a game that has recently been filled with controversy, there were only two minor ones Monday night. The first came in the 62, when Martin Atkinson questionably denied Manchester United a penalty on a Frank Lampard hand ball. I have seen that call go both ways, and I'd say that was right on the line of being a correct no call. The other came ten minutes later, when Ashley Cole decided to take a dive in the Old Trafford swimming pool, and not be booked for the obvious simulation that it was. It was an embarrassing miss for the referee, who was consistently inconsistent throughout the match.

Chelsea should be happy with 7 points from 8 days' work. They hid their flaws just long enough to sneak a point back to London. Manchester United fans should be furious that their team refused to take matters into their own hands and take three points that Chelsea was inviting them to take. At full time, I honestly didn't know if I just watched a professional football match. I would almost be willing to say I'm not the only one who had that same thought.


Manchester United v Chelsea Preview: Will Chelsea Flaws be Exposed?

25 August 2013

The second full round of Premier League fixtures conclude on Monday as Chelsea take a trip to Old Trafford to play Manchester United.

For Chelsea, this is the first true test of their title credentials. Many, me included, have picked them for the title. However, there play in the first two games of this season have exposed some flaws that I'm sure Jose Mourinho were hoping wouldn't be exposed until later in the season.

The first is that is is beyond obvious that Chelsea's forward play has only been at a level of respectability when Lukaku is on the park. While Chelsea have no goals in his time on the pitch, the quality of chances they've created is much better. The other thing that Chelsea has to remember is that with their first two matches, their opposition laid off for the first twenty to thirty minutes of the match. They won't have that luxury in this one, so they are going to need someone up top who can both setup the midfield and create for himself.

The next flaw is in the back. Both Hull City and Aston Villa have picked on the center backs, and that's where Chelsea's biggest weakness is.With Tim Cahill in the center, John Terry is essentially playing on his own. If Jose was smart, Cahill is nowhere on the pitch. The center back partnership should be Terry and Ivanovic, with Azpilicueta at right back. Oh, and a word about Terry and Ivanovic: they will not get the bailout calls they got against Aston Villa.

The final flaw that is obvious for Chelsea is they have too many chefs in the midfield and it takes too much time for their intricate passes to bear any fruit. This is time they will not have against Manchester United. They have been bailed out by Hull City and Aston Villa being too scared to give up early goals allowing them to set up their play early. If Juan Mata was healthy, this would be the perfect match for him to play in.

Oh, and Chelsea won't have a home crowd happy Jose Mourinho's back on their side either.

Manchester United on the field looked like a better team than the team that won the title last season. The only two question marks have been about David Moyes and Wayne Rooney. David Moyes always struggled in his time at Everton against their biggest rival Liverpool. Moyes would always set up his side way too defensively, and had a difficult time making the right substitutions to swing the game in his favor. You can easily argue with me that he didn't have the same level of talent at Everton that he does at Manchester United, and I would completely agree. However, I'm of the belief of old patterns dictate new behavior. My biggest concern about Manchester United in this match is that they set up too defensively. If they set up to counter in the same manner they did last week against Swansea City, these concerns will be for naught.

I would be a fool if I didn't talk about Wayne Rooney here. While Chelsea need another forward that can hold up play, they won't be getting Rooney. While Rooney and Moyes may not have the best personal relationship, there's been every indication to me that since Wayne found out he's going nowhere, he's knuckled down in training. His performance against Swansea proved that out. While Jose Mourinho may have been as clever as he could be last week in saying the bid was coming for him on Tuesday, he's only giving off the vibe he's scared about this match. These Manchester United players have seen Jose's winding up tactics before; this thin veiled attempt is not going to work.

So what do I see happening here? I see this as a one sided affair. I expect Chelsea to be second best to the ball all night, and Lukaku to start from the bench. Furthermore, Manchester United will want to make a statement that regardless who the manager is, they are still the team to beat in England. If you are expecting a classic encounter, I'm afraid we got that on Sunday with Cardiff City beating Manchester City. When it is all said and done, I expect Manchester United at the top of the table come 5 pm Monday evening.

FT score line prediction: Manchester United 3 Chelsea 0.

The fan in me is dying having to predict that, so I'll ask you: what do you expect the full time result to be? Let me know in the comments below.


Sunday Thoughts, Sorry Spurs, it's all about Cardiff City, NBCSN Be Ashamed

As I woke up hoping Sunday's Premier League action would be just slightly better than yesterday's crickets, I sure didn't expect the result we'd see at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Apparently NBC didn't think before the season started that showing Cardiff City v Manchester City live at 11:00 on NBSN was a worthy pick, opting to air the rearranged fixture between the two sides that played in Europa League qualifiers on Thursday. Normally, those games are played at 10:00 am on Sunday, but today's was moved to 11am. For those making the decisions at NBC as to which game to air live, it was a bad choice. NBC should have shown the Bluebirds first game in the top flight since 1962.

Over the years I can remember, the first home game for teams who have been out of the league for a while, and they've been good contests for one reason or another. The one I remember the most, because the side I support was in it, was Chelsea's trip to Wigan in 2005. It was a game Chelsea had no right to win, but somehow they did. The atmosphere that day was strangely one of the most intimidating atmospheres Chelsea had to play in that season in the league. That was Wigan, normally one of the tamest places to play, but this is Cardiff. Cardiff City is one of the more intimidating places historically to play, and the fans brought the atmosphere with them into the top flight.

It can be argued that there was no way either Cardiff City or Manchester City would play in the same manner they did last week. Manchester City effectively had a bye against Newcastle United, while Cardiff City seemed shocked to be in the top flight and spent more time ball watching than the Upton Park crowd. The team sheet really shocked me for Manchester City, with Garcia and Lescott being the center back partnership. This was a boost to Cardiff City, as they spent the whole first half trying to find balls to split the two, with varying degrees of success. The best moment came late in the first half, after a route one ball found its way through to Campbell. However, it was a late intervention by Lescott that prevented a shot on goal.

After Dzeko's goal was cancelled out by Gunnarsson, Manchester City completely went walkabout on set pieces. When Cardiff took the lead, I have no clue what Joe Hart was trying to accomplish; nor do I understand what Zabaleta was attempting to do not leaping to head the ball to safety. Fraizer Campbell had free reign on an open goal to make the game 2-1. If you think the visitors would have learned their lesson after that, Campbell showed that lightning can indeed strike twice. Another corner, failure from Zabaleta at marking Campbell, and a header that Hart had no prayer at getting to made it 3-1 to Cardiff City.

While Cardiff City, by and large, kept their shape very well throughout today's game, there were signs that late they could be broken down with ease. The nerves mixed with good early defending left some legs dead, allowing Negredo to get through and make it 3-2. Cardiff City can also count it fortunate that the late touch in stoppage time fell to Aguero, who is to Manchester City away what Dzeko is at home: a man who struggles to score goals.

Between the fans, a second half that was extremely entertaining for the neutral, it was only smart that NBCSN 'cut' into the game after Tottenham/Swansea finished. The pity is they shouldn't have been cutting to the game, it should have been the game shown from the off.

Other thoughts:
* The sooner Wilfred Bony and Michu are partnering up front for Swansea City, the better they're going to be.
* Spurs are struggling mightily to score from open play. There were only a couple of chances that Vorm was tested on. For all the complaining last season Tottenham rightly had for not getting a kick from the twelve yard dot, they're getting the calls this season. I'm more than convinced the Spurs penalty decision was a make up call for the screw job the man in the middle tried to pull in the first half.


Saturday Thoughts: Waiting too Late to Play, What a Difference a Week Makes

24 August 2013

The biggest thing that grabbed me today was seeing how two teams in particular waited until they fell behind before starting to try and get into the action. Those teams, Aston Villa and Fulham, deserved the defeats they were involved in today.

It's not a good time to be a Fulham fan. Their defense is already not the best in the world, and having Taarabt on the pitch is like having to play a man down when having to defend. However, some would argue the best defense is to attack, but it wasn't until they were already 1-0 down before they did. Even then, they were too slow to second chance efforts, and Szczesny was able to make the makeshift defense in front of him look better than they were. It wasn't until Darren Bent came on an hour in before they really started to look serious. Unfortunately, they were 3-0 down before Bent was able to start to put the ghosts of Aston Villa behind him.

Fulham's two best players on the pitch today only came into the club in the last eight days. Stekelenburg being out did hurt Fulham, and they have to hope gets healthy soon. Unfortunately, they're still on zero points, and I'm struggling to figure out when they're going to get a first, much less three.

Aston Villa is an early favorite for most frustrating team of the season. In all three matches, they have waited until going behind to start playing in a manner that I'm pretty sure everyone sees is their best. When that midfield pinches in the actual midfield instead of at the top of their defensive third, they actually get Benteke involved.

However again today, they decided to lay off the ball early, and Daniel Sturridge took full advantage of it. Again, once they crowed Liverpool in the midfield, they became the more dangerous side. However, it wasn't until the late inclusion of Helenius before it started to look like Villa could equalize. It was the sub's header that got Benteke in, but it was Kolo Toure that made just enough of an intervention to prevent the Villa forward from opening up to the far post.

When Villa realizes they can hang for 90 minutes, they're going to be good. Unfortunately, the lack of confidence early in matches is only hurting them now...because it's obvious to me they should have no problem hanging with the top teams in this league.

Other thoughts from today's action:
* What a difference this week has made for Arsenal. After losing last week, they've spent this week scoring six goals. The biggest difference for me today was seeing Podolski looking more comfortable in the attack, and looking like the player he was a Koln. He's not just a goal poacher, and he showed that with his second today. Giroud is starting to slowly look the genuine article as well. I don't think they need help going forward, they have enough help there. If Arsenal can find some adequate defensive cover, and maybe a starting center back before the transfer window closes, they are going to be better than many (myself included) thought prior to the season started.

* Everton/West Brom and Newcastle/West Ham were ironic nil draws. The irony being the two sides that many were expecting to lose had the better quality chances in the game. If West Brom had any true attacking bite, they would have stolen three points out of Goodison Park. Neither side at St. James Park had a good chance to win until the final few minutes of the match, and it wasn't until stoppage time before Newcastle should have won it. Newcastle looked better today, but that's tantamount to damning with faint praise.

* Michael Turner continues to be Norwich City's player of the season. People may say the penalty decision was soft, but when take out a player from behind, regardless if it looks like its slow motion; you're going to have the call go against you. To make matters worse, Norwich couldn't break down Hull City in the second half despite being a man up. Having Tom Huddlestone in the middle of the Tiger defense brought the same positives it did the week before against Chelsea. If Hull can find goals from open play, they'll be just fine.

* If Liverpool continue to have this many second half lapses in defense, they are eventually going to be bitten. If they are going to defend, bring most of the midfield back to help. It has seemed to me in these first two games that the midfield is playing too far forward. While that maybe to help speed up service to Sturridge in the counter attack, it's not doing them any favors. Mignolet also looked impressive in stopping what Petr Cech couldn't in midweek.

* The sooner both Southampton and Sunderland learn to defend set pieces, the better. They both made the same mistakes today they made opening weekend. Unlike last week, Southampton paid for their lapse today.


Weekend Preview: Arsenal Look to Rebound, Villa End Tough Stretch vs Liverpool, Spurs and Swansea Meet After Qualifiers in Europe

23 August 2013

Kickoff times are EDT. PLET stands for Premier League Extra Time.All games available live on NBC Live Extra. Check your provider for availability.

Fulham v Arsenal (Saturday 7:45 am on NBCSN): Neither side impressed on opening weekend. Arsenal go into this one at least with some confidence after their exploits in Turkey this week. Fulham, steady but unimpressive last week in their win; get steadier in the midfield with their inclusion of Scott Parker. Arsenal should have enough talent to see this one out, but we thought the same thing against Aston Villa. The difference between Villa and Fulham, Villa are a much more talented side. The mustaches maybe in full flow, but Fulham fans will see what Shad Kahn's Jacksonville Jaguar fans see plenty of times a season; a home defeat (I should know...I'm subject to them all by living 10 minutes from Everbank). Fulham 0 Arsenal 2

Southampton v Sunderland (Saturday 10:00 am on NBCSN): I hate to be cruel to Sunderland, but I have no choice. Southampton at home should be able to shut down service to Jozy with no problems whatsoever. Sunderland proved they had no plan b at home. If Sunderland can't come up with a plan b at home, I don't expect Paolo Di Canio to be able to come up with one on the road. While Southampton didn't impress against West Brom, Sunderland were worse. The NBCSN audience tuning into see Jozy Altidore will be in for as frustrating an experience as he will have begging for anything that would qualify as respectable service. Southampton 1 Sunderland 0

Everton v West Bromwich Albion (Saturday 10:00 am on PLET): West Brom has to be praying that the Scott Sinclair loan pays off. I'm not convinced it does this early. Everton proved they can score goals; I'm just not 100 percent certain they can prevent them. The good news for Everton is that West Brom looked so tepid against Southampton that I'm not convinced they can score them. I fully expect Roberto Martinez's side to get off to a roaring start at home. Everton 3 West Bromwich Albion 1

Hull City v Norwich City (Saturday 10:00 am on PLET): The sooner Huddlestone and Livermore are playing 90 minutes, the sooner Hull play to their fullest potential. Norwich City showed the promise last week that lead me to believe they can finish in the top half of the table. As long as Michael Turner doesn't screw up like he did last week, Norwich City should be okay. However, I don't see that being the case. I think we see Huddlestone start, and give Hull their first point of the season. Hull City 1 Norwich City 1

Newcastle United v West Ham United (Saturday 10:00 am on PLET): Will the real Newcastle United please show up? I questioned their professionalism after being thrashed by Manchester City, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one. The problem is, we don't know who the real West Ham United is either. They got the lucky lottery of doing very little in beating Cardiff City. The difference between the two is West Ham United have the appearance in midfield of getting forward at will. That is plenty enough of a difference to continue to make Alan Pardew's life miserable. Newcastle United 0 West Ham United 1

Stoke City v Crystal Palace (Saturday 10:00 am on PLET): My nominee for ugly game of the weekend. This will be all action signifying absolutely nothing. Stoke should have just enough to edge this out. Stoke City 1 Crystal Palace 0

Aston Villa v Liverpool (Saturday 12:30 pm on NBC): Aston Villa have looked the genuine article in their first two matches, and they close this difficult week hosting a Liverpool side that still have a question about their keeper. While Simon Migonlet saved a penalty last week, he was shakier during open play than the scoreline would suggest. Benteke has started the season like a house of fire, and if he finishes this week like he played against Arsenal and Chelsea, Villa could have six points. Before a ball kicked off, I thought they'd be lucky to get one. The good news for Villa is, I thought this would be the game they'd get a point in. I'm not wavering from that pick either. Aston Villa 2 Liverpool 2

Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City (Sunday 11 am on NBCSN): While both sides enjoyed the relatively same Europa League success on Thursday, I could see this playing out in exactly the same way both teams played in their opener. However, the lone exception there is I expect the Swans to have much less of the ball than they did last week. Swansea's defense looked extremely shaky on the counter attack against Manchester Untied, but Spurs's drop off on the counter isn't as big as one would think. The only question I have about Spurs is if they'll be able to finish those chances. Considering Tottenham made it harder on themselves than it should have been on opening day, I have to say I expect much of the same. The Wilfred Bony/Michu partnership looked dangerous late against United. Tottenham Hotspur 2 Swansea City 1

Cardiff City v Manchester City (Sunday 11:00 am on PLET): Cardiff City maybe at home, but if they do as half as much ball watching as they did against West Ham, this will over in triple quick time. Cardiff City 0 Manchester City 2

I'm saving my preview of Manchester United v Chelsea for Sunday evening.


Chelsea 2 Aston Villa 1: Referee Hands Chelsea Three Points

22 August 2013

Chelsea's cracks were papered over on Wednesday as Kevin Friend, and his linesman, bailed Chelsea out on three separate occasions. Those three decisions allowed Chelsea to edge out an uncomfortable 2-1 victory over Aston Villa.

It was obvious that Aston Villa had their 8-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge last season fresh on their mind as they started the game way too tentatively. Villa's defenders backed off way too much, and paid the price for it six minutes in. Hazard's effort towards goal was placed in a place where Brad Guzan had no choice but to parry it. That was because Luna was too close to Guzan for him to stretch out to make the save. This resulted in Guzan parrying the ball off Luna's chest, and into the back of the net.

Once Villa went down, they're midfield and defenders got a better grip of the game. However, it wouldn't have appeared to be the case. Aston Villa were woeful on the ball in the first half, lucky to have the ball for more than four touches. What they did do to Chelsea though, was keep the midfield from making bending balls in to Demba Ba. With no appearance of another plan of attack, Chelsea were rendered to short passes in the slim glimmer of hope of finding one cutting pass that was never going to come. In fact, it could easily be argued that Ba's best touch of the game didn't come until the 48th minute, and he failed to even set up to shoot on goal. Aston Villa's defense weren't exactly the most fluidly shaped, but they were able to target the one man Chelsea were intending to find. With Chelsea's midfield unable to get further forward into the attack, it slowly allowed Aston Villa to get into the game.

Chelsea were also guilty of shutting down in first half stoppage time. Jose Mourinho had to be the angriest person at the Bridge as Guzan lulled his players into a false sense of security. This allowed Villa to settle, and spring Agbonlahor down the wing. Ivanovic was a mere spectator as Agbonlahor's cross found Benteke. What Benteke did to finish this chance was pure genius. Benteke first spotted John Terry looking noncommittal in closing him down: he then saw Petr Cech already leaning far post, leaving a yard of space open on the near post. Benteke did all of this when while setting his first touch to settle the ball, and then firing near post to equalize right on the stroke of halftime.

Villa's equalizer gave them a much needed confidence boost coming out for the second half. A higher line was played that immediately frustrated Chelsea's midfield. Combined with better ball retention and passing, and it wasn't long before Villa was the better looking team on the pitch. Two efforts in two minutes from Benteke (just over), and Weimann (just saved by Cech) showed how much more lethal Villa were looking in attack. This sprung Jose into finally subbing Ba off for Lukaku, and even then the game only went from fully in Villa's favor to being an even contest.

We then enter the time period where Kevin Friend and his assistants screwed Aston Villa, and gifted Chelsea this match.

1) 70th minute. This is when Kevin Friend wrongfully kept Ivanovic on the pitch. The elbow Ivanovic landed on Benteke's throat was even more stupider than Steven Taylor's forearm through the back of Aguero's forehead. Looking live, I thought it was red. On replay after seeing the yellow card, I actually felt for Villa. If this was any other game, the defender is sent off. I'll never know how Friend came to the conclusion that wasn't a red card offense.

2) 73rd minute. On a Lampard free kick after a foul on Lukaku, Ivanovic is offside at the point of contact. While that is no excuse for Lowton and Benteke to not even make a play on the ball in, the linesman should have flagged for offside. If I am able to spot the decision from a long camera angle, the linesman has to be able to spot that standing in line with play. Between the Villa line not going up on Ivanovic, and Guzan not being positioned well, it allowed the man who should have been sent off three minutes earlier to pick his spot on the header towards goal.

3) 93rd minute. After Villa pressed for goal, and Chelsea creating chances on the counter, none of the referees spotted an obvious John Terry handball. On a ball played in by Delph, Agbonlahor's header was handled by John Terry in the penalty area. Despite the close proximity between header and when the ball was handled, the referee failed to call the obvious penalty decision. I'm not buying the excuse that the referee didn't call the penalty because of how close the offense took place to when the ball was headed. Had he not handled the ball, an Aston Villa chance on goal would not have been denied.

Aston Villa looks like they are going to be a contender for at least a Europa League spot. Despite a couple of knocks to some defenders, Okore looks like a very steady defender. They have plenty of fire power up front, and their shape will frustrate any team they play. Chelsea have a problem, and that's Jose Mourinho has to start Lukaku if they want any chance of serious title contention. Teams will quickly catch on to pressing Chelsea from the off and not conceding easy yards early in games. Torres and Ba do not look like players who fit this Chelsea system. Lukaku is the only forward who has effectively got Chelsea's midfield into their strongest forward positions. Their early starts have masked alot of their deficiencies, and those paper thin cracks could easily be ripped open this upcoming Monday night if Manchester United play even half as good as they did against Swansea City.


4 Recommended Changes Comcast Should Make With Premier League Extra Time

21 August 2013

With the Premier League kicking off this past Saturday, Comcast were completely caught with their guard down. The rumors about Premier League Extra Time turned into stone cold fact. The above picture, which was the path to get into Premier League Extra Time on Comcast’s X1 platform, was taken on my iPhone right at 10:00 Saturday morning. As you can see, there were no live games available to watch. That meant that besides NBCSN, the only other way to watch games was though NBC Sports Live Extra. The online service, at least for me, worked flawlessly.

However, for Comcast’s inability to get games live on Saturday morning, all Premier League Extra Time games were actually available on-demand by halftime of the Swansea City v Manchester United game. Comcast does deserve one bit of praise. Along with the games, they put MOTD and MOTD2 up on demand. Doing that allowed those who didn't watch live, or set up to record, to watch at their leisure during the week. 

Having spent all weekend watching games through my on-demand platform, I started compiling my own notes about what I would recommend changing. Below are the highlights of what I would recommend to Comcast for making our Premier League experience better going forward.

1) Comcast need to publicly apologize to those customers who did not even have Premier League Extra Time available to them. As of this writing, I have seen no formal communication from Comcast apologizing to their customers for making a mess of something that should have been easy to do. It wouldn't have been difficult for them to say they were sorry for not having PLET ready on day one, and that they were working double time to ensure PLET will be available prior to the start of this weekend’s games. The various time frames that I've seen online in the Comcast forum is simply inexcusable. It is too time consuming to apologize to customers one at a time. This would be one of the few times admitting that they got this wrong would make for some positive PR, instead of being thought of as liars.  

2) Comcast should have ‘Premier League Extra Time Channels’ set up instead of having to access games live through the on-demand menu. To me, once PLET is available to everyone, this seems the easiest no brainer decision to make. They were able to set them up for the Olympics for the basketball and soccer competitions, so customers already know overflow channels can be done. 
They also need to use overflow channels because they as a company can only keep games up for a week. There are going to be fans who will want to DVR certain games to watch at their leisure. You can’t do that if you have to watch games going through the on-demand functions. While this last bit is my own personal preference, I want to be able to DVR these games so I have better use of the rewind/fast forward functionality that the X1 DVR provides.
While I know I’m reaching on this last point, if Comcast continues to insist on PLET games live through the on-demand channels, it would make life much easier on the customer looking to watch those games to just be able to access the Premier League menu directly through the main on-demand screen. 

3) When making games available on-demand, do not split the first and second halves up. The PLET games were split by half on Saturday, and the way they were split did not allow for any of the split first halves to be played past the 44th minute. Comcast is extremely fortunate that nothing happened late in those first halves. It would appear a lesson was learned, as the late game Saturday, and the game available on-demand Sunday was not split. Hopefully, that trend continues.
In talking with a friend this weekend, they made an excellent point to me. Having these PLET games available quickly on-demand is as important as having the games available live. 

4) Finally, the games need be better titled. Every single game available on-demand right now has the title of ‘Barclays Premier League Soccer’. How difficult would it be to make the title of each game the actual match being stored, with the description/info message being a quick preview of that actual game. It should be easier than it is to pick out a game and watch. Right now, you have to open each item individually to know which game, and segment of that game you’re about to watch.

Comcast, as owners of NBC Universal own the Premier League rights in this country. While week one brought more growing pains than they would like to admit for their cable platform, making a few minor adjustments quickly will make a demanding public quickly forget how much of a joke this opening weekend was.

If you are on Comcast, or any other cable platform, what changes would you make? Let me know in the comments below.


Thoughts from Manchester City 4 Newcastle United 0: City Smoking, Newcastle Lack Professionalism

20 August 2013

Manchester City Reaped the Benefits of Early Summer Signings
I don't think Manuel Pellegrini could have asked for a better way to start his tenure as Manchester City manager. His team clicked on every possible cylinder, showing the benefits of getting your summer transfer business done early in the window, and allowing those signings to integrate into the system being played.
Navas and Fernandinho both played vital roles in the Manchester City midfield. Fernandinho played a little deeper in midfield, but his defensive play allowed Toure and Silva to move forward at will. Navas was more lethal in the attacking third, setting up wonderful scoring opportunities with his passing. Ever touch both players provided had purpose and it always put Newcastle on the back foot.
While Manchester City will have better opposition that will test the on field chemistry of the team, today's performance is going to be the standard most neutrals will expect week after week. It's not often that one can say after the first round of matches that the summer signings of any club look like they've been at the club for years. Monday, Manchester City proved not only is it possible, the practice should become the norm.

Steven Taylor Deserved His Red
Steven Taylor had sixty seconds at the end of the first half that could easily have been the worst minute by any player this weekend. After looking guiltier than he ever should have looked on a hand ball shout, Taylor was shown a red card for a forearm to the back of Aguero's head. Despite Paul Walsh's huffing and puffing about the decision on the television broadcast, Andre Marriner had no choice but to send the defender off.
Steven Taylor picked the worst possible way to get out a half of frustration. However, most of it was caused by own poor play. He was constantly caught out of position, leaving his center-back partner Coloccini hung out to dry. I would argue that his positional play in the first half meant that Newcastle was already playing a man down, because Newcastle played just as well with ten men on the pitch than they did with eleven.

Tim Krul Deserves Professionals in Front of Him
Many may disagree, but Tim Krul was the man of the match. It also exposed something that should scare Newcastle United fans, and that is the players in front of Krul are not professional in any way, shape, or form. Without Krul's form in goal, this scoreline could have easily read 8-0, possibly more.
I'm going to start with Alan Pardew for thinking it was a wise idea to play a midfield that provided Newcastle's back four with absolutely no cover. There was simply too much space for Manchester City's midfield to move forward, and too much time for Manchester City to pick out where the final ball would end up. Furthermore, the midfield players were bossed off the ball with too much regularity. Manchester City's second goal was a prime example of this. By the time Gouffran realized that Kompany had taken the ball from him, it was 2-0 to Manchester City. It took seven touches between the moment Kompany took the ball, and the touch that saw Aguero slide it past Krul. Also, why did Pardew not sub off Cisse when it was obvious to the whole world he wasn't bothering to try when Newcastle was making halfhearted attempts to get forward?
Their set piece play wasn't any better either. On Toure's free kick goal early in the second half, Anita thought it was be a smart idea to just abandon the space he was in, instead of taking one for the team. If you look at the free kick closer, the ball curls at precisely the same spot Anita was positioned before the ball was struck. While Negredo's effort was correctly ruled out for offside from an interfering player, the fact he was completely unmarked on the corner kick was embarrassingly bad.
What's scary for Newcastle United fans is these players didn't quit, but never showed up. The Cabaye rumors are no excuse for playing this poorly. Of the 20 teams that played this weekend, Newcastle United were the worst; and the worst by a substantial margin. When your own players refuse to take advantage in an obvious Joe Hart weakness and test him from distance, it makes me wonder if all of them want out of the north east. With Joe Kineear back at the club, I have to openly question when all hell truly breaks loose in public. I have to question aloud now if said hell hasn't already broken out behind the closed doors.


5 Things From Palace/Spurs & Chelsea/Hull City. Ian Holloway & Referees, Jose's Back, & Signings

18 August 2013

Here are my thoughts on Sunday's games, which saw Tottenham win away at Crystal Palace 1-0 and Chelsea win at home against Hull City 2-0.

Ian Holloway Is Wrong About Refereeing Decisions That Led To Spurs Goal
After reading the Crystal Palace manager's quotes post-match, I decided to go back and re-watch the whole build up from tackle to penalty conversion. Having re-watched that three minute stretch multiple times, all I can conclude is that Ian Holloway is just asking to make life harder on himself this season.
Let's take a look at the beginning of the sequence, when Chadli dispossessed Dobbie. Dobbie lost possession of the ball when trying to make his run forward. From there, it's a 50-50 ball, that Chadli was able to pick up to spring another Tottenham attack. It wasn't a full on barge as Ian claimed. In my opinion, it could easily be argued that Dobbie made more of that challenge than it was. Furthermore, referees tend not to give fouls on tackles that are deemed shoulder to shoulder without any use of the arms, and that was this challenge was.
If Ian Holloway was wrong about an alleged Dobbie foul, he's even more so after seeing Moxey's handball. First off, the player is diving at the ball with his arms out. Secondly, he's making a play towards the ball. Moxey isn't sliding; he's lunging at the ball with his arms out. Once contact is made, the referee has the easiest decision he'll ever have to make. Those who have read my work for any length of time know how often I've dished out criticism of Clattenburg's work, but this is one instance where I simply cannot.
The Palace manager better be more careful about his words in the press about the refereeing of his team's play. It will eventually lead to a real decision going against them due to the subconscious from those men in the middle.

Crystal Palace Lack Any Forward Bite
Having watched all ten games this weekend, I am beyond baffled at how poor Crystal Palace were going forward this weekend. My first thought at full time was this team could threaten the point's total Derby County had in the 2007-08 season. At least then, Derby County fooled me opening day with a 2-2 draw.
If Palace were bunkered in all game, I don't think I would have reached this conclusion. However, Palace had plenty of possession in this one. The problem was, when trying to link the midfield to the forwards, the ball was going right back to Spurs through any of the various means a ball can be dispossessed with. Sure, you can argue with me that I am being too harsh considering how well Spurs played, but I'd counter that with looking at what Palace did when they made their triple substitution 25 minutes from time. It was pretty much more of the same, with only one late chance to seriously get back into it.
Kevin Phillips is a proven goal scorer, but at 40, his spells will be off the bench. Last season his super-sub abilities paid off, but he had chances created for him to do his magic. He only had one ball played to him in an attacking position, which allowed him to create. Later on, a ball played in to Phillips took him away from goal. It was one of the few times I've ever seen KP play where I thought he was rendered useless by his own side.
The learning curve from the Championship to the Premier League is a steep one. At least Palace's defense looks like it will keep them in matches this season. Jedinak played a vital role in slowing Spurs down today. Moxey, penalty aside, also held his own. That was despite Spurs tactic of trying to isolate him. If Palace want any serious chance to stay up, their midfield better figure out how to link play with their attack. They got away with a lackluster attack in the Championship late last season. This season, that will be exploited right to relegation and 20th position in the table.

Tottenham's New Signings Show Plenty of Promise
With all the changes Tottenham made in midfield and up top this summer, I was very leery about how long it would take all of them to mesh together. Having watched them against a better than expected Crystal Palace defense, they showed enough to make those fighting for a top position more nervous than they were before kickoff.
Using Lennon as the basis of their forward play, Paulinho and Dembele got into very good attacking positions. Once they got into those attacking positions, their efforts towards goal were quality efforts that on other days could easily go in. Soldado's touch in tight positions was very fluid, and made Speroni's afternoon difficult. While Soldado's goal came from the spot, he could have easily had one more.
The only one of the Spurs new signings that I thought could have played better was Chadli. He seemed too hesitant to get into the attack, but his play in defense was very strong. His lack of forward movement caused Spurs play to look more unbalanced to the eye than it in reality was. Capoure's cameo off the bench was uneventful, something needed when looking to close out matches.
As long as Spurs can stay healthy at the back, they will have more than ample opportunity to score goals. Tottenham's schedule the next two weeks is a tricky patch to navigate, but their play today showed more signs this won't be the Spurs side we've seen in years past. That's something that should worry their north London rivals like it hasn't had worried them before.

Jose Mourinho's Back to the Same Boring Chelsea
Sunday brought Jose Mourinho's brand of football to the Stamford Bridge pitch, and it was pretty much much of the same during Jose's first two seasons at the club. They pushed early and got their goals. From there, Chelsea's play slowed to a crawl, and it allowed Hull City to make an effort at getting back into things. However, with two matches coming up in the next week, it was completely understandable to slow it down against a side that didn't look too threatening until the hour mark.
It wasn't until Lukaku's replacement of Fernando Torres late in the second half that Chelsea stepped up their tempo again. Part of that is because Lukaku wants to be that main starting striker, but I don't see that happening. His role under Jose Mourinho for now will be to play that super sub role that he mastered at West Brom last season.
Chelsea weren't threatened at all, but that's because of the opposition they were playing. Their defensive frailties are going to be put to the test next week. However, Chelsea look like they will be able to attack at will this season. Based on what I saw today, if Chelsea were to simply make some defensive signings in this transfer window, they would be better off than they would be if they were to chase another forward.

Hull City Need Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore in the Starting Eleven
For an hour today, Hull City looked as poorly as the other two promoted sides did during this opening weekend. However, unlike those two sides, they were able to make one change that forced Chelsea to a rethink of how they were going to see the game out.
Once Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore were substituted on the pitch, Hull's attack immediately looked sharper. While most of their final touches were still poor, it was looking more and more likely they could get a goal to make the closing stages difficult. It forced Jose Mourinho to bring Lukaku on, and his ability to hold the ball up in the final third allowed the Chelsea midfield to push into spaces they hadn't done in the entire second half.
I get why these two were not started on Sunday. Their fitness was not where it needed to be after limited preseason action. Their thirty minutes though should give Hull hope. Once they are fully match fit, they will be first selections into the starting eleven. If Huddlestone and Livermore can get Hull to play full matches like they did the final half hour at Stamford Bridge, they look to be the only promoted side to be in the Premier League next season.


5 Things: Manchester United, Michael Turner, Jozy Altidore, Koscielny Sees Red, Cardiff City

17 August 2013

Here are my five biggest takeaways from today in the Barclays Premier League.

1) Manchester United played like they didn't lose a step.
While they were second best for large periods of the first half, once Robin Van Persie beat Swansea's defensive line, that immediate loss in confidence gave United the ability to finish off the hosts before halftime. The second half was almost a repeat of the first; the lone difference being Wilfred Bony showed how good a partnership he and Michu should have during the season.
While Rooney may have been a side story, but his play on the pitch did not reflect his pouting nature he portrayed on the bench. His set up for Welbeck to make the game 4-1 reminded us that he is indeed a gifted professional. However, Rooney needs to understand that right now he's not needed up top. Robin Van Persie's play Saturday was as good, if not better than last year. Welbeck is finally coming into his own up top, and is playing the role in the manner that David Moyes wants to. With Rooney liking to track back, it only makes sense for him right not to play in this Manchester United midfield.
While one performance doesn't make me change my mind about where I see United finishing at the end of this season, United made this opener more comfortable on the scoreboard than actually was the case. In this funny old game of football, that's the only thing that matters.

2) Michael Turner's 5 minutes of insanity cost Norwich City a chance at three points against Everton.
I know this may sound harsh, but I'm putting the sole blame on Norwich City's five minute bad spell in the middle of the second half squarely on the shoulders of Michael Turner. Starting from the moment Turner was booked for a stupid challenge on Steven Pienaar, to the point Coleman's effort put Everton 2-1 in front, he was the underlying reason why Norwich City shared the spoils instead of winning this one.
It was just eight minutes after Whittaker's opener for the Canaries before Turner found the book for a rather stupid challenge on Pienaar. He was second best to a lackluster ball, and had he went for playing his position instead of taking the Everton man out at the ankles, the sequence of free kick to throw in to set up for Barkley doesn't happen. To make matters worse, Turner turns away from Barkley's effort on goal, instead of trying to block it, leaving Ruddy out to dry in the process.
The equalizer gave Everton a spring to their attacking play they had not shown prior to the hour mark. Before then, Everton's slow build allowed Norwich to get back into position rendering much of their attack useless. Five minutes later, the faster play paid off. When Pienaar was let in, the Canary defense was not set, and attacked Pienaar's position. That allowed Jelavic to get in behind, and place a shot that Ruddy could not parry out for a corner. The rebound went right to Coleman who was able to slam it home into an empty net.
Turner should be thanking both Whittaker and van Wolfswinkel for bailing him out. It was a botched effort on goal/cross into the box by Whittaker, but the only man to make a leap for it was the man on debut for the home side. Had Turner not lost his cool ten minutes prior, we're more than likely talking about 3 points for Norwich City, instead of Roberto Martinez's side getting a point.

3) Jozy Altidore is going to be one frustrated individual in short order.
The lone reason I cared about Sunderland/Fulham this afternoon was to see if I was going to be hopelessly wrong about the service Jozy Altidore would see this season. Unfortunately, if today is a snapshot into the service he'll see, Altidore is going to be in for a longer season than even I had expected. In today's match, against a lackluster Fulham side, Altidore had one meaningful cross in to work with, and one good ball down the middle in 95 plus minutes. Both times, Fulham's best defender Brede Hangeland made sure Jozy had a difficult time getting a shot on frame. Despite the lack of quality service, his runs still looked crisp, and he put in what I thought was a good shift under some underwhelming circumstances.
Jozy needs service if he's going to score goals. He's someone who can't do it all, but can make alot happen if he's got the right dance partner. Based on today's game, I would seriously doubt Altidore getting into double digit goals this year. While Di Canio may not want to, if he wants to see Sunderland safe this season, he is going to need to find some better play out wide. Whether or not this comes through the transfer market, teams got a fairly good blueprint on how to see defeat Sunderland. If Jozy doesn't see any help soon, I expect his play to suffer tremendously as he fights to keep interest in the action on the park.
Between Sunderland's crosses in, poor set pieces and Valentin's pathetic marking of Kasami on Fulham's goal, there frankly wasn't much to be positive about when it came to Sunderland. Fulham looked much stronger than I expected them to be, and were deserving of the three points.

4) Koscielny deserved both yellow cards.
Both calls against Laurent Koscielny may be deemed 'soft' to the masses, I have to give referee Anthony Taylor full credit for making the correct decisions, which ultimately led to Koscielny's dismissal. On the Agbonlahor penalty, just because Koscielny got the ball first doesn't give him carte blance to take out the attacking player. While I thought red would have been the wrong color of the card, yellow was more than fair. While it should have been a warning, it wasn't.
Six minutes later, he made an even crazier decision to lunge at Weimann studs up. While he made minimal contact, the referee knew he had to go. There are some things a referee will give players a last warning for, but lunging into a player is not one of them. If he had made full contact with Andreas Weinmann, that card could have easily been a straight red. Again, it doesn't matter the contact, the intent of the challenge does.
It was the final piece that caused the Arsenal jenga board to come crashing down. Even though Brad Guzan had to make one spectacular save after the sending off, Arsenal were too far forward and were caught out on a counter attack to be seen off 3-1 by an Aston Villa side that looks much better than many thought they would. Arsenal's lack of depth is something they better hope isn't exploited many more times this season, because it's already being tested at the start of the season.

5) Cardiff City given a reminder they aren't in the Championship anymore.
I've struggled with what I thought was the worst performance of the day. Between Sunderland, Stoke City, and Cardiff City, there was some pretty dire play. In the end, I have to go with the recently promoted Bluebirds.
Cardiff was just way too tepid today. From ball watching to giving up soft goals, they were given about as rude a reminder of the division they were as one could get. To make matters worse, they did absolutely nothing in attack. They only had about 5 minutes to start the second half where I thought Cardiff might try and make it interesting, but they ended up with nothing on frame. In fact, they only tested the West Ham keeper once, and it was a weak test at that.
While I think West Ham will be very comfortable in the mid table this season, today's performance was nothing to get excited about. Actually, if I was a Hammer, I'd be regretting they didn't win by more.

What were your thoughts on the start of the season?


Premier League 2012-13 Final Table And Round 1 Predictions

16 August 2013

Before I begin this, I owe many of you a debt of gratitude. What I've seen the last few days has made my return back into this sphere worth it.

Due to the lateness in the hour, I'm going to do a speed round tonight whereby I give how I think the final table will end. I've spent the week making a couple of minor adjustments, but not too many.

1) Chelsea
2) Manchester City
3) Manchester United
4) Arsenal
5) Tottenham
6) Liverpool
7) Norwich City
8) West Ham United
9) Aston Villa
10) Swansea City
11) Cardiff City
12) Southampton
13) Sunderland
14) Everton
15) Newcastle United
16) West Bromwich Albion
17) Stoke City
18) Hull City
19) Fulham
20) Crystal Palace

And with kickoff a mere hours away, here's my I Know the Score Predictions for this upcoming weekend's slate of games. I'll include what I believe will be my banker and which game I took insurance out on.
Liverpool 2 Stoke City 0
Arsenal 2 Aston Villa 1
Norwich City 1 Everton 0
Sunderland 1 Fulham 1
West Bromwich Albion 0 Southampton 2
West Ham United 2 Cardiff City 2 (insurance)
Swansea City 1 Manchester United 2
Crystal Palace 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3 (banker)
Chelsea 5 Hull City 1
Manchester City 3 Newcastle United 0

Again, apologies for the late hour of this. Beginning next week, I'll get back to being more in depth with my weekend previews and predictions.

Let me know your thoughts to the look of my final table, and week one predictions in the comments below.


Comcast Admits Lying to Customers About Premier League Extra Time

Almost immediate after last night's piece went up about Comcast, I was pretty much informed by someone associated with an NBCU entity that I was flat out wrong. Believing I was right, I continued to keep digging for that silver bullet that told me they were in fact lying when they said all Comcast customers would be getting Premier League Extra Time. This morning, I was able to find that piece of information.

Searching through the various Comcast forums, I found the link to NBC Sports Extra Time's web page. It's as simple as it looks, put a zip code in, find your provider and see how games will be available. Looking at what the had under Comcast, I had what I am calling the paragraph that catches Comcast in the cookie jar.

Barclays Premier League Extra Time is available in select XFINITY markets, with the remaining markets expected to be added by the end of the year. Go to On Demand/Sports & Fitness/Premier League to see if you receive the Extra Time package. All Barclays Premier League Games are available at NBC Sports Live Extra.
Having checked the path specified above in my On-Demand menu, it was not there. So after all this time, the original conclusion I came to on Wednesday proved to be true.

This is multiple black eyes all rolled into one. First off, it is the proof that the press release Comcast released yesterday a lie. From what I have been able to see, every other provider at least have the Extra Time channels blocked off, with some already even showing a test pattern. Comcast's fragmented set up, and inability to get them all situated before day 1, means that much of the good will they have built up through out this summer goes away. There will be some customers who will see this as a prime opportunity to bail for a provider who already has the full Extra Time and Live Extra experience. Honestly I wouldn't blame them if they did leave.

Secondly, it meant that the first line of defense Comcast has with their customers were left in the dark. Honestly, I could have left things lie after the first message back from Comcast on Wednesday. If was after getting the impression they were not only ignoring me, but weren't going to be honest with me, did I start piecing everything together.

If that wasn't enough, it meant that Comcast didn't have a clue on how to handle their own customers. Had they just come out even when I started asking question Wednesday and said something to the effect that they will be unable to have all Comcast subscribers set up by opening weekend but will be as soon as they can, I would have been much more forgiving than I am now. I'm already not thrilled about the stuff mentioned yesterday, and not having a simpler way of accessing these games. However, knowing now that there were elements within Comcast's organization who were lying straight through their fingertips makes me wonder if the statement on the Extra Time website is even close to true.

Using a code phrase like 'expected to be added by the end of the year' is a scary proposition. A set date should already be established for every market. This is Comcast speak for 'if you get it great, if not congrats being a second class citizen to our organization'. It's just sad the truth came out this way, because had Comcast told their customers the truth from the moment there could have been problems, they wouldn't be facing some of the wrath they're facing now. It wouldn't have even been an issue with me. At least I can now focus on the football this weekend knowing that Comcast is treating their own customers like they're second rate citizens.


Press Release Lies About Comcast & Premier League Extra Time

15 August 2013

After personally finding out yesterday that Premier League Extra Time, NBC Universal's overflow channels that will air all games not already on a NBC Universal cable channel, may not be on all Comcast platforms, a minor detail was leaked that is tantamount to false advertising. That new detail, first seen on Jonathan Tannenwald's @thegoalkeeper twitter page, is a note stating that Comcast will only be showing Extra Time matches live through Xfinity On-Demand, and not through any live channel set up.

While I was hopeful yesterday that Comcast customers would be getting the same live experience that at least uVerse and DirecTV customers will be getting, and announce what channels games would be on in each of their markets, now I'm willing to go as far as to say that Comcast is lying to their customers. Based on the information Comcast's social media's correspondent told me, and this information found out yesterday, this leads me to believe that only some customers will be able to see games through their on demand service. As someone commented on twitter to me, if you use a service like TiVo, which uses a CableCard to watch TV, you are completely out of luck if you are in an area that is 'fortunate' enough to even get Premier League Extra Time.

So why is it that I think Comcast is lying to their customers?
1) In all of their press communications, they have made mention that Premier League Extra Time will come through in live channels. While games maybe live on demand, it's not an actually a channel one can go to on their TV guide. If you are someone who likes to flip through games, you will have to go through the menus to do so. Furthermore, the fact you will have to go through multiple prompts instead of having the option directly from your on demand screen is pretty pathetic. It should only take a second or two to change the channel, not the 10-15 seconds it will take to work through the multiple prompts you will have to go through on demand.
2) Having games through their on-demand program does not allow one to make use of their DVRs. If you are someone like me, I want to be able to record those games I am not watching live. Sure, I know in the minority on that one, but it's my way of being able to keep up on the entire league so when I write I'm not just talking about the same teams week in and week out. 
3) If you are fortunate enough to have Xfinity's X1 platform, having the ability to record 4 games and watch a fifth will provide you a golden opportunity to be able to watch every game each week, without having to hope games will be archived on demand. As of this writing, there is nothing confirmed through a NBCU spokesman on record that archived games will even be a possibility.

If that wasn't enough for me to write on, this afternoon Comcast issued a press release about taking the game to new heights. For Comcast customers, this is only a half truth. Reading the passage on Premier League Extra Time, they make the same mention they have since announcing their coverage plans. No where do they say it will only be available in selected markets, or that there will be no channels to clue in on to decide what game they want to watch. 

For being the organization that owns these league rights, it's just inexcusable to think they didn't even have the foresight to plan a nationwide rollout of these channels until seemingly a few days before the season starts. They had plenty of practice last year with this kind of set up, with rights they already owned. With their Olympic basketball and soccer channels, I saw them on my TV guide 2 weeks before the start of the soccer competition. The fact they were unable to replicate that success with the Premier League is something they should be ashamed of.

The fact it is looking more and more likely that Premier League Extra Time will not be a nationwide roll out on Comcast, and that those who will have the service will have to watch the game through their on demand service, gives off the worst impression. Comcast is telling their customers that they will not be getting the golden treatment for a property they own. If you are an uVerse or DirecTV customer, you will be getting a better experience than those who are customers of the Premier League rights holder. Comcast subscribers need to let them know they will not settle for second rate service of the upcoming Barclays Premier League season. Contact them on Facebook, Twitter (@comcastcares), and by calling 1-800-COMCAST. Hopefully by now they will have gotten the message. Sadly, it appears they have not. Hopefully Comcast is willing to provide clarification between now and when the start of the season begins Saturday morning.


If You Are a Comcast Customer, You May Not Get Premier League Extra Time

14 August 2013

Certain Comcast customers maybe in for a rude awakening on Saturday morning come 10 a.m.

If you are like me, you have been checking your channel guide on your cable box waiting for the Premier League Extra Time overflow channels to appear. Having spent the last few days checking to see if they had appeared, and seeing they had not, I decided to do some investigating of my own.

After asking the official Comcast twitter account which channels I needed to look at to see said channels, I was led to Comcast Matt (@ComcastMattV). From there, I had what could only be described as an exchange that I'm still scratching my head at. After taking a look at my account, I was informed that the only way I would be able to see the games not on my normal cable package would be online though NBC Live Extra. There would be no Premier League Extra Time for me. For the company that owns NBC Universal, the group that won the Premier League rights, to tell one of their customers that they will not be getting the full experience on their own cable platform is not something they should be saying. Comcast has been unable to provide me an answer to the question if this is happening only in selected markets or if this is happening to everyone.

For all the good that NBC Universal has done in promoting their upcoming Premier League coverage across their networks, this is one giant black eye. I have seen from people who have AT&T U-Verse and DirecTV, and they already see these channels. Basically Comcast, as owners of NBC Universal, is saying that their own customers are not valuable. If Comcast is unable to get Premier League Extra Time up by Saturday morning to everyone (I have spoken with someone in Chicago and they do not have the channels up either), this could wipe out all the good will NBC Universal's good will they have built up in their promotion of the For some, not being able to get the entire experience that was promoted on Premier League Countdown last Thursday could quickly wipe out all the good will NBC Universal, and Comcast have built up in their promotion of the league.

Sure, it can be argued that one shouldn't complain because we'll still be able to watch online live for free. However, I would counter that argument by saying that NBC Universal has not made any public mention that games will be archived online post match for those, like me, who want to watch everything. Considering I haven't seen anything on NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC's online video platform, archived, this leads me to believe these game will not be archived either. While Fox Soccer 2 Go cost a pretty penny, at least we had one week to watch games.

While I won't go as far as to say Comcast lied to their customer base in their press releases, they've grossly misinformed them. Everything Comcast has released in public has made it appear that their customers will have the entire Premier League experience this season; it does not seem it will be the case. Even if they decide after the season starts they will go ahead and provider the Extra Time service in addition to Live Extra, it could be too late to retain some customers. From where I'm sitting, if the phone lines were strong enough in my apartment complex, I'd be running right back to Uverse. If I didn't have to pay a ridiculous deposit to have a dish, I would even consider that.

What I would recommend you do if you're a Comcast customer is go to Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m., and scroll through your channel guide. If you are unable to see the Extra Time live games, get in touch with Comcast on FacebookTwitter (@comcastcares), and by calling 1-800-COMCAST. If you are able to see the games on offer this weekend that aren't on NBCSN, let me know in the comments below. I'll compile a list of those Comcast markets that will and will not get the whole experience.


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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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