Fox takes Setanta’s USA EPL rights, Don’t Panic

Yesterday, long time reader Matt linked an article in the comments (and on my Facebook page!) from EPL Talk which reported that Fox Sports International is in the process of recovering their EPL broadcast rights from Setanta USA. And in the process, throwing into question the availability of EPL matches to football fans across the USA. There’s also a folllow-up editorial on EPL Talk which basically says that the sky is falling and that Yanks will only get three matches a week from here on out, unless the rights are sold on to GolTV, etc.


EPL Talk does a decent job of getting facts straight and sure enough if you check out and the Setanta USA site both have been scrubbed of most mention of EPL matches live on Setanta. Exactly why this is happening is not being reported, though speculation is that it’s because Setanta owes Fox money. I’m not sure on that, Fox is currently in a huge huff over a lot of things and has been threatening to drop all their content from Time Warner Cable subscribers over pricing problems for a few weeks. Which if it comes true would have meant no Fox channels (read: no FSC, no FSN, etc) for anyone unfortunate enough to be saddled with TWCC. But the fact remains that Setanta has dropped all mention of EPL matches this weekend, save the Arsenal v. Bolton game being shown on same day broadcast (not live) tomorrow.

Still, it isn’t brown trousers time, yet. I remember a similar press-induced panic back when Setanta collapsed at the start of the season. Many folks here in America were worried that we wouldn’t get to see as many EPL matches and what’s actually happened is that we have MORE matches and (despite the fact that they changed the lovely Georgie Bingham for the hideous onion bag troll Tommy Smyth) ESPN has started showing live matches in HD, which we never had the option of before in the States.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll remember that I told you not to panic then and I’m telling you not to panic now. Here’s the deal, those broadcast rights are only valuable if they are broadcast. Every weekend (including the odd Monday match) there are at most 10 Premier League matches and currently, between ESPN and Fox Soccer Channel 4 of those matches are broadcast live and 1 is on delay.  Fox makes no money if they sit on the 5-6 matches that they have the rights to and it make absolutely no sense for them not to broadcast as many of those matches as possible.


Well, they’ve already tipped their hat in that arena with their broadcasts of Champions League matches. Those of you who have Direct TV or access to Direct TV through a bar know exactly what I’m talking about; Fox has half a dozen regional Sports Channels (up here it’s Fox Sports Northwest) which they currently use to broadcast all Champions League matches , live. Something similar could be done with EPL matches. This Saturday morning at 7am (PST) on FSN we have two fishing shows, a sports round-up show, an infomercial, followed by Women’s College Basketball at 9am. On the East Coast there’s even more options with Fox owning a metric ton of channels in many markets and mostly programming filler. Moreover, most of those channels are available in High Definition which would be a huge upgrade on FSC’s current, very poor, broadcast.

Now, I recognize that it’s not a simple thing to rearrange important programming like fishing and infomercials, but Fox have a product that if they don’t show it, will not only lose them money, but will damage their brand. They have worked very hard over the years to position themselves as America’s gateway to world football — they pioneered this. The last thing they’re going to do is sit on it and let it rot.

What we are seeing is the death of one company and the consolidation of broadcast rights in the hands of a few others. There will be some growing pains, for example, right now it looks like there’s no USA broadcast of the Arsenal v. Everton match on Saturday. But that’s just growing pains, I’d gladly miss one match for the prospect of being able to see all 10 games a weekend in HD.

Fear not Yankee Gooners, this will get sorted out, and quick.

Now, if you don’t mind, there’s some fantastic transfer news that I need to get back to.

West Ham 1-2 Arsenal; the Good, the Bad, and Mark Clattenburg

Match Reports

Telegraph: There was a hot frisson of excitement on an afternoon of bitter coldness that Arsène Wenger may have had to contemplate something he has not had to contend before. An exit from the third round of the FA Cup.

ESPNSoccernet: Arsenal scored twice in five second-half minutes to come from behind to beat West Ham at Upton Park and secure their place in the FA Cup fourth round.

Match Video

The dot com has a neat little video of the highlights available for free. Or you could go support the little guy and click on Arsenalist’s highlights and goals.

The Good

I’m just going to go straight in and say Aaron Ramsey was my Man of the Match. Despite having a midfield partner in Merida who seemed to be miles away for the majority of the game (probably already planning a return to the plains in Spain) Rambo conducted himself admirably in midfield, doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the first half and trying to get Merida and Wilshere into the game.

It’s no criticism of the player to say that his game really opened up when Wenger put on Diaby and Nasri. Nasri was able to hold the ball up better than Wilshere (who was easily fouled off the ball by Mark Clattenburg, erm, I mean one of the West Ham players) and Diaby provided strength and touch in the midfield where Merida was simply a passenger. So naturally when they came on Aaron blossomed.

Many people are comparing Rambo to Cesc and I can see a bit of that I suppose, but where Cesc has eyes in the back of his head and can see openings that no one else sees, Ramsey is more of a power player ala Steven Gerrard. Well, that’s not fair, Ramsey has far better fundamentals than Gerrard ever dreamed of having. Oh and Ramsey’s only 19.

Either way, Rambo got his second left-footed goal in as many games and is really getting  good run of games here. Wenger set a target of 15-20 matches for Rambo this season, and he’s already got 23. On his current form, I expect he will be the midfield starter in Cesc’s role until Jesus returns.

Meanwhile, up front Eduardo got a very, erm, Eduardo-esque goal heading a wonderful looping shot past Robert Green (who was no slouch). Dudu seemed to be moving a bit better than in the last few games so, let’s hope this signals a return to the form we’ve all been waiting for. I’ll readily admit that he is one of my favorites and I’d love to see him back to scoring goals for fun.

The Bad

A lot of people blame Silvestre for yesterday’s goal, but in reality the whole back line was in tatters throughout the game and especially at the moment that Hammers scored. In fact, it looked like West Ham should have had a couple of goals and but for the lack of class that their players displayed they probably would have.

I’m not absolving Silvestre, he had a rather poor game and clearly doesn’t have the speed to play fullback in the Arsenal system. Either Arsenal need to change their system and basically play three defenders with Sagna as the lone wing-back and Silvestre holding a line with the two center backs or Arsenal need to not play Silvestre. Because pretty much every time he went forward Arsenal were exposed by his lack of pace getting back.

Considering Wenger’s pre-match comments about Senderos getting a start, I was also shocked to see Gallas and Vermaelen out there once again, though in retrospect I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised. At this point you have to think that Senderos moving somewhere is a real option this Winter and I know I’m not alone in hoping that Wenger finds a center half who can come in an do us service in a pinch. After all, we’re rotating the hell out of the midfield and I know it’s not as simple to rotate the central defenders but we really need to be wary of playing Gallas and Vermaelen in every match. So far, they lead the team in appearances with 25 each. That’s 25 appearances out of 31 matches and while I’m aware that guys like John Terry already have 30 games under their belts, Arsenal players tend to be more frail and I’m starting to worry.

The funny thing is Wenger mentioned as much when talking about why he rotated his squad, he has to know that Gallas and Vermaelen could suffer burnout, at the end of the season, when we need them most. Right? Unfortunately, instead of saying that he has a player or two in mind, Wenger said,

I have the money, I have the motivation, I just don’t have the player.

I know I’ve said that buying players isn’t like buying a loaf of bread but I also understand that it’s hugely frustrating for a lot of fans to hear that Wenger doesn’t even have a target.

More bad news (sorry) as Wenger talked about injuries to the team, saying that part of the reason he rotated so heavily was down to the fact that Arsenal had 9 (nine) players out with injury yesterday. Walcott was the buzz of the press, asking about whether he’ll get the string of games needed to see him included in the World Cup squad and Wenger said that Theo has a rib injury and could be out for a month. A month!

The Ugly

It’s a bit predictable I suppose but I really have to say that Mark Crapenburg is a disgrace. A huge disgrace, a Hunt even. How on earth is it that he sees Song’s tackle and gives him a yellow card but when 6’3″ Diaby is kicked IN THE FACE he gives Luis Jiminez a ticking off? What exactly did he have to explain to the player?

Right, Luis, I’m going to stand here, ok? And wave my hands around, as if to say ‘no more’ – shake your head now – and what I really mean is ‘go on, get stuck in.’ I mean, after all what’s a boot to an Arsenal boys face, eh?

There’s something seriously wrong here with Clatenburg and I’m just going to say it; I think he has an anti-Arsenal bias. This is the second time this season where he’s looked directly at a player put his studs on the face of an Arsenal player and given no card. The first was the infamous Adebayor stamp on van Persie and the Jiminez high boot yesterday. Frankly, it’s sickening what he lets Arsenal’s opponent’s get away with, Valon Behrami could have been booked half a dozen times for his dangerous play and yet somehow escaped censure despite committing dozens of fouls.

It was the same in the Citi game, the same in the Spurs game, the same in the Stoke game, and now it was the same in the West Ham game. Mark Clattenburg has now “refereed” 4 Arsenal matches this season, each one has seen serious dangerous play go unpunished, and though Arsenal have managed to win 3/4 of those games, I think we have been lucky to escape one of our players suffering a year ending injury.


Yesterday was Alex Song’s last game for Arsenal until after the ACN and he put in his usual huge performance in the middle of the park. Arsenal will have some big shoes to fill now and it’s a bit worrying that Wenger doesn’t know who he’s going to put in there.

Most folks point to Denilson, and the boss has said that if he’s fit he’ll play Denilson on Wednesday. Though whether that’s in the holding role or not is anyone’s guess. Diaby, for his part, is going to have a word with Wenger and try to secure the holding midfielder role for himself. I’m fine with that, Diaby is bigger and stronger than Denilson and can fill in at center back when Gallas and Vermaelen go marauding forward. Well, physically he could… mentally? I have to wonder. But if he’s up for the job and begging to do it, then I’d let him have a go at it in training and see if he really does have the restraint needed, and positional awareness necessary to do the job. He is our biggest midfielder by far and the one I think most physically capable of handling the job.

As for the other injuries, I think we saw that Fran Merida and Jack Wilshere are no where near ready for first team action yesterday and we have to keep our fingers crossed that Rosicky gets back in to shape and can get some games under his belt. If Merida was bossed off the park by West Ham, he will be utterly destroyed by Bolton.

Next up for Arsenal in the FA Cup is another away trip, this time to Stoke City on January 23rd. Meanwhile, Chelsea get another bye week in the FA Cup with the draw pulling Championship strugglers Preston North End. Chelsea really have the best luck when it comes to cup draws.

Irregardless, there’s a lot of football before then. In fact, next up we’ve got the famous game in hand against Bolton at home on Wednesday. Win that and we’re just one point off league leaders Chelsea and certainly giving all the doubters something to think about. Especially considering the toll that injuries have taken on Arsenal this season.

Hulk smash, Beckford class, Chamakh (something that rhymes with class)

Not a lot going on ahead of the FA Cup clash with Wet Hams. There isn’t anything concrete but the papers have linked us with a few folks today, you know, for a change.

First off, there’s all the guys that Arsenal aren’t signing, which if I had a dime for all the guys that were linked to Arsenal who we didn’t sign, I’d have enough money to pay off Iceland’s bank debts.

Today’s first “player who Arsenal aren’t signing” is Andre-Pierre Gignac. Meh… I mentioned that I didn’t think he was good enough when he was first mooted and now it’s being reported that Arsenal are saying that he’s not up to Arsenal’s high standards. Of course, I famously was wrong about Andrei Arshavin so, like I always say, “what the hell do I know?” Wenger’s transfer record is pretty fabulous so if he does sign Gignac, I will be ecstatic, though that’s looking very unlikely today.

Another player who Arsenal aren’t signing is Marouane Chamakh, though the player seems intent on keeping his name in the papers with all kinds of foolish talk about Arsenal “pressuring” him to sign. Gingers for Limpar has an interesting piece about how all this negative talk reminds him of the failed Adebayor experiment. I agree with Gingers, and suspect that after the way Adebayor left and the way Flamini treated us Wenger will be very cautious about signing a player who is so openly courting tons of clubs. And make no mistake, that’s what this is. This player is keeping his name in the papers by talking about how much Arsenal want him in order to drive up his value, his signing on bonus, and his weekly salary. He all but admits as much when he mentions Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton, Sunderland, Sevilla, and Milan all in the same breath.

The only player that today’s papers are linking Arsenal to is Porto’s Hulk. Hulk’s an interesting player and again, while I don’t think he’s up to Arsenal’s standard, “what the hell do I know?” I do think that he’s not a realistic January signing, he’s got a £100m release clause in his contract and irregardless the “source inside the club” who says that he could go for £20m, I have to think that the huge release clause gives Porto too much power. Arsene never likes paying over the odds for a player and that release clause could put him in a pickle.

One player who’s not being linked but who I thought reminded me a bit of Ian Wright (because he’s a great finisher and he’s come from relative obscurity to being linked to big clubs) is Jermaine Beckford. I just watched the FA Cup match between Leeds and United and Beckford did a decent job playing as a center forward and even got the winning goal. He’s tall, he scores tons of goals, he’s English, he’s got bags of pace, he’s mature, and his finishing showed real class today. All of which means Arsene will never sign him!

Right, that’s pretty much it for today. Got to get down to Doyle’s for the Arsenal FA Cup match and right after I’ve got our Sunday kickaround so, I won’t be back to defend myself for several hours. Have at me!