on-field commentary: the new dimension in football
Sitting and watching Liverpool against Burnley on Saturday night, I decided to switch from watching with artificial fan sounds, to the organic on-field communication. I’ll be the first to admit that when I found out football would be played without fans in the stadium, my initial thought was that it would be a total vibe killer and the game would be less exciting. Anfield without 50,000 passionate Liverpool fans? No way would that work - I couldn’t imagine football any other way. However, as the Premier League has returned and we can now not only watch the play, but also listen to it, I’ve discovered just a new way of watching football - and it’s awesome.
In what is described as “like watching the Sunday league in a big stadium,” we can now watch football in its rawest form - no fans, no chants - just the real-time on-field communication between players and coaches. This has stripped the PL of its prestige and allowed us to peer into the game as if we were on the sideline, listening to the players dialogue as all the tikitaka takes place. While I would love to present you with a play-by-play on how the on-field communication differs between the teams (and it is something I am working on), the reality is that at this level of football, all the teams are communicating efficiently. What is truly interesting about this, is being able to see which players step up on the pitch, offering direction and guidance. Here are a few observations I’ve made over the last few weeks. Jordan Henderson is a polarising player - some will tell you he is a Liverpool legend and others will say he is simply lucky to captain the current squad. However, an absence of Henderson in the last two Liverpool games against Burnley and Arsenal respectively, impacted the on-field dialogue. While Van Dijk stepped up and could be heard shouting directions throughout the match, I am sure that would be relatively standard behaviour for a centre back. In my opinion and from what I've heard, Hendo is typically the loudest and most vocal, offering consistent direction to his Liverpool side during matches. In his absence, we tied with Burnley (a side who hasn’t won at Anfield since 1974) and lost to Arsenal and this could have been a contributing factor to these results. He may not be the most technically refined or instrumental player, but has hearing Hendo proven that he is far more important than we originally thought?
In Chelsea v Man City, I saw the initiative from captain Azpilicueta. During their first drink break, Azpi spoke up and told his team “if we have to go long, we go long. We get confidence from there.” As the Chelsea play changed, it was evident that the direction from the player may have impacted the game as the approach to the Chelsea side changed, and they did in fact start to play the longer ball. Call me naive, but I am always impressed to see a captain actually fulfil their responsibility and steer the ship, as so often we see a captain fail to step up when they are needed most. Watching Manchester United and Bournemouth, there was an incredible amount of dialogue - and a lot of profanity - which made it hard to tell who was speaking, but nevertheless, made the game super interesting. A standout for me was hearing Bournemouth GK Aaron Ramsdale swearing after almost every play - even at his own team! Definitely the kind of behaviour you’d see in the local Sunday league, and to be honest, very entertaining. Another player who likes to swear is Diego Jota. He reminds me of myself, passing off a profanity with every missed goal - this is something I can relate with... (Here's BT Sport Listen In video that includes some *sensored* Bournemouth profanities - enjoy)
This is an element of the game I’m going to continue to observe as it becomes one of my favourite parts of the PL, and something which will change with every game. Have you noticed anything interesting watching / listening to the on-field commentary? Let’s discuss!