Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Another Euro night car crash from ITV

As half-time approaches, Arsenal's Champions League group stage encounter with Partizan Belgrade is proving less than compelling. Which is a pity, because on their day (or evening) the Gunners are one of the most attractive sides on the planet to watch. The occasion is not helped by the fact that I'm having to view it on ITV, whose coverage is proving as lamentable as ever. One moment it drips with condescension or dismissal towards the 'foreigners'. The next it offers another wobbly footed cliche, banal 'insight', or minor piece of misinformation. "He's probably going to get that treated... Oh, he's back on the pitch."

Robin Van Persie's penalty to give the home side the lead was very soft, but they should have enough to see them through, even if Partizan are not quite the supreme mugs ITV clearly thinks them to be. The best moment so far has been the commentary team's 'Alan Partridge blip' with the nickname of Parizan's supporters (read: ultras). Grobari means 'Gravediggers' they rightly inform us, before speculating vaguely that this might have "something to do with their black uniforms". Then, with perhaps the faintest warning echoes of Balkan politics (and maybe the recent history of regional football hooliganism) sinking in, they add: "er, hopefully nothing more sinister."  No, of course not, boys.

Meanwhile, anchor Adrian Chiles' attempt to explain the fairly simple maths of Group H produces amused consternation in the studio and further bafflement in the gantry. For the record, Arsenal need to beat Belgrade in this, their final match, to guarantee progress. Shakhtar Donetsk will top the group if they avoid defeat to Braga, who are also seeking a place in the next round. Arsenal can still go through if they draw or lose to Partizan Belgrade but only if Braga do not improve on that result. The Gunners can also still top the group if they win and Donetsk lose to Braga. Seemples....

The second half resumes. "What could possibly go wrong?" asks Peter Drury of Jim Beglin. Or possibly the other way round ... it's all becoming a horrid blur. Well, for one thing, lads, Partizan could score. Oh look, they have! Who'd have thunk it, what with them being vastly, ridiculously, unfathomably inferior and all that? Ah well, "that's football". Now the Gunners could be sunk by a single goal in one of two other games. (Oh good, they've figured that. Things are looking up.)

Theo Walcott scores on 72 minutes and Samir Nasri makes it 3-1 on 76. "Huge relief" and "it's all right on the night" (especially for the commentators). Arsenal will now progress in the European big boys' competition. The affable Chiles will try to throw a bit more humour at his colleagues' weapons-grade cluelessness. The rest of us will survive to return to another TV channel, thankfully. Job done.

Image (c) and courtesy of Sabotage Times: "We can't concentrate. Why should you?"

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