A huge welcome to gibfootballshow for Charlie Johnson. As a long suffering fan of Huddersfield Town he gives us the low down on their chances of promotion this season, and why it’s important they get out of League One ASAP

Until this season Rochdale had spent 36 years in the same division, and my biggest fear as a Huddersfield fan is that we’ll replicate that feat of stagnation and be in League One for an awfully long time.

As a team we rarely flirt with relegation, and usually come within a whisker of promotion, but ultimately we stay in the same division, with every season promising so much, but delivering only increasingly yet expected bitter disappointment.

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A quiet pint with fellow blogger Hayden Shaw turned into a mini-Socrates type meeting. Scott Johnston from thefootyblog.net made the 4 hour trip from Glasgow to join Hayden & I in The Library pub in Leeds as we watched the early match between Arsenal and Leeds United.

Between our frantic beer-fueled dicussions that put the football world to rights I was armed with my trusty dictaphone so thought it would be nice to record our pre, during and post match thoughts.

The audio is only five minutes long and I’m sure it will make you laugh if nothing else.

Enjoy

ARSENAL v LEEDS UTD – MINIPOD

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Barely had the dust settled from another round of SPL fixtures when news came in that Celtic had completed the signing of a new midfielder. Freddie Ljungberg the ex-Arsenal and Seattle Sounders player had signed on a free transfer. The timing of the move meant the possibility of a debut in Sunday’s Old Firm game.

The move seemed to divide the Celtic fans straight down the middle, on one side you will find fans filled with optimism. Ki Sung-Yeung will miss a few weeks on international duty and Ljungberg could be the player to help a stuttering Celtic midfield break down the opposition and add that little bit of experience.

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I’ve been a busy boy of late.

12 Days of Christmas

As Christmas is nearly upon us it is also time to celebrate the year that has been and past, the wonderful people over at World Football Columns (which includes myself) have been posting articles to celebrate the alternative “12 Days of Christmas”.

http://worldfootballcolumns.com/2010/12/17/wfcs-sixth-day-of-christmas-six-meals-a-making/

A few great posts so far, worth keeping an eye on in the lead up to Christmas.

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When Samir Nasri moved from Marseille to Arsenal people knowing that I had a penchant for Ligue 1 and all things French came to me asking how good he was, obviously following his time at Marseille I had only good things to say about Samir.

His partnership with Ribery was fantastic, he wasn’t a goal scorer and he didn’t really get many direct assists but anyone that had watched Marseille for the three years he was in the team could see that Nasri was a quality player.

His first season at the Emirates went relatively well six goals a couple of assists the people that I had given my guarantee of quality were pretty pleased with the Frenchman, the difficult second season followed, five assists but only two goals and it seemed questions were being asked.

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The Third Round of the FA Cup was drawn on Sunday, and before 2nd round ties can be concluded the excitement has already begun to build around West Yorkshire as Leeds will travel south to take on Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. Matthew McKeith explains the history between the two clubs and reasons for the fans to be optimistic.

Leeds United have once again been drawn a mouth watering FA Cup 3rd round tie, away against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The Elland Road side famously beat Arsenal 1-0 in the Centenary FA Cup Final back in 1972 with Leeds legend Alan Clarke heading home a 53 minute winner. 100,000 fans packed into Wembley to witness Leeds win their only FA Cup to date.

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Disappointed that it’s took me a week to write this, but hey better late than never, as Alex Ferguson once said. Last Saturday saw my first visit to the Galpharm Stadium to watch the mighty Huddersfield Town. I had already booked plans to attend the match against MK Dons on the Tuesday but the lovely Grant at STV managed to arrange a ticket. So I was off to see Town versus Exeter City. Two games in four days bliss.

In my six year stay in Leeds I have yet to hoist the colours of my chosen team, spent some time with Sheffield United, the fiancés team, then everyone says “Leeds United” yes the ground is walking distance away, but I just can’t support them, not sure why just something inside me screams NO!

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I had the pleasure last night in taking part in a Podcast for the wonderful website Global Football Today, nice to take part in a podcast when I’m not just talking to myself, we preview this weekend’s EPL games with some predictions, I gave the viewers a quick round up on the SPL’s opening weekend and what matches are on this weekend.

We then delved into some transfer stories, Neymar, Alberto Aquilani, Arsenal’s goalkeeping situation, and Loic Remy and we concluded the discussion on the question “Who would you have in your team right now: Frank Lampard or Ryan Giggs”

So if you would like to download the podcast you can visit HERE, HERE subscribed to my podcasts HERE or search for gibfootballshow on iTunes.

Please take some time to visit Global Football Today and go on twitter and follow @GlobalFoot2Day

Hopefully I’ll be on with Brent again, whenever they want me I’m sure I’ll be free.

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You’ve read BBC, consulted TeamTalk listened to the Journalists on twitter, but of course it’s the opinion of me “gibfootballshow” that you’ve been waiting for, Yeah I know this is the 107th Premier League preview you’ve read however where would I be as a blogger if I didn’t recognise one of the biggest leagues in the world starting it’s season, going to try and do it a little different so you don’t lose interest quickly, but I can’t promise miracles.

Instead of just picking the winners, I will list all 20 Premier League clubs and little reasons why as we go on, also at the end there will be 5 players to watch out for this season. So without further ado here we go English Premier League 2010/11 starts now.

 1.Chelsea
2.Manchester United
3.Manchester City

4.Arsenal

I have picked Chelsea as my eventual winners of the league, good manager a very strong squad, if Essien stays fit he is like a new signing for them, Ramires for me is a pivotal move, very strong energetic midfielder, loves to go box to box, great technique, workhorse engine, I think will take to the Premier League like a duck to water, Lampard and Drogba will score 20 goals each as always, Daniel Sturridge will have a good year, I don’t think any of the other teams in the league are as strong or have as much depth.

Manchester United will be strong, Hernandez looks like being the steal of the year, need to see whether he can play with Rooney first, Scholes, Giggs and Van der Sar are another year older, lots of expectation on Nani and Valencia, Sir Alex will need to summon all his managerial expertise to overcome Chelsea this season, not far behind them will be Manchester City, some excellent signings geared more towards building a team than just buying big name players, Kolarov will come to be a very important move, great left back, desire to get forward, cultured left foot, there is also not lots of pressure on him to perform, David Silva and Mario Balotelli are two fantastic signings “Super Mario” is the most exciting signing this summer for me, one of the best young players in the World, £24 million may sound like too much money however in two years he will be worth double, the move to the Premier League gets him away from the pressure of the Italian media that highlight everything he does simply because he is a black Italian man, in this country the things that he does are no different to any footballer, Bellamy, Cole and Terry make him look like an alter boy. Mancini will have a hard job keeping the 25 players picked for the squad happy; this could be City’s downfall.

Year after year we say “Arsenal need a goalkeeper, a centre back and a central midfielder” Well they signed a centre back, but he lacks experience I have no doubt Koscielny will be one of the top defenders in 3 or 4 years, but not this season, with an experienced goalkeeper behind a young defence they would concede fewer goals and have a chance at the title, the first team are Championship material, and on their day capable of beating any team in the league, however once the injuries and suspensions kick in, the players replacing them will struggle, I’m sure Bookies have suspended betting on a van Persie injury occurring at some point.

5.Liverpool
6.Tottenham
7.Everton
8.Aston Villa
9.Birmingham City

Anfield is buzzing again, Roy Hodgson has got some smiles back on the faces of Liverpool fans already, mostly because he has “convinced” Gerrard and Torres to stay at the Merseyside club, Joe Cole is a decent signing maybe not for £6 million signing on fee and £90,000 a week but that will all be forgotten once he scores the winner against a big club, Problems still exist however, the defence is not watertight, Carragher is aging and cracks are starting to appear, whether you can count on Agger and Skrtel together worries me, Glen Johnson proves times after time he can’t defend, and Fabio Aurelio is Liverpool’s best left back, the midfield is strong Christian Poulsen will be a success at Anfield, either along side Lucas or Gerrard with Jovanovic and Cole supporting, I can see Liverpool playing better football than last year but in the end coming up short.

There will not be much between Spurs, Everton and Villa, with O’Neill gone and Milner surely to follow Villa will struggle, there are still quality players there, Ashley Young and Agbonlahor are cornerstones to build the team around, if the new manager spends the Milner money wisely (if he gets any at all) then they could push for top six, Tottenham will need to find a way to balance the league matches with the Champions League, favourites to qualify over Young Boys, Arry Redknapp needs to strengthen his squad to have any chance of competing on two fronts, defensively there are problems, King and Woodgate will not play 20 games between them, Dawson needs a stable partner to be able to excel, Keane, Defoe, Crouch and Pavlyuchenko are all good players but lack that extra little touch of quality all the big teams have.

David Moyes has been quite quiet so far, Jermaine Beckford arrives with high hopes, able to score in League One for fun, questions over whether he can make the big step up, Pre-season form in promising, Bilyaletdinov, Cahill and Saha are important pieces of the Goodison Park jigsaw, Jagielka and Heitinga are the safety net keeping it all together, all the pieces there for a good season, depth could be an issue. Nikola Zigic and Ben Foster no doubtly make Birmingham a better team, I worry on how Zigic will adapt to the EPL style and the laws of averages would say it would take a miracle for the performances seen at St.Andrews to be repeated, there is time still left for Alex McLeish to strengthen the squad, does the club have that extra ambition though.

10. Wigan
11. West Ham
12. Fulham
13. Sunderland
14.Stoke City
15.Wolves
16.Blackburn Rovers

7 teams that could all either finish top half of the table or near the relegation battle, worse case scenario they could end up with both, the league is tight enough that a victory either way could mean 9th or 16th, which I suppose is the appeal of the EPL. Wigan and Martinez need to adapt and play a passing but defensively tough strategy, Boselli is an exciting signing, added to Rodallega, N’Zogbia, McCarthy and Alcaraz they are a young exciting team, with an equally exciting manager. West Ham have a chance to redeem themselves from an awful season last year, good signings in Winston Reid and Pablo Barrea, dealt a blow with Hitzlsperger’s injury, they have the tools to finish safely away from relegation.

Fulham are a bit of an unknown force with Mark Hughes in charge, not quite sure how they will line up, If they complete the deal for Moussa Dembele he will be an excellent recruit, as of right now I think the team is weak in parts, with Schwarzer, Hangeland, Murphy and Zamora it is a strong spine. I worry for Sunderland at times, they sign good players Riveros, Mensah and Wellbeck, but they suffer from players not being able to settle or injuries the North-East is a place where the fans are always expectant and this pressure sometimes becomes too much for players, they rely heavily on Bent’s goals and I’m not sure they have the players to be creative for him.

Stoke and Wolves are two similar teams, both now have a big money striker, Fletcher and Jones, both play a strong physical game, and both in their first season in the Premier punched way above their weight, this year will be another tough year, the worst thing a team can do is think they are “established” and rest on their laurels, which is why both teams have went out and spent money on making the team better, I’d prefer Tony Pulis to Mick McCarthy as a manager, not the prettiest football to watch but it produces results, another team under the same ilk are “Big” Same Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers, only one signing so far in Mame-Biram Diouf on loan from Manchester United, not the worst team but they are not going to strike much fear in the other teams, could get drawn into a relegation battle, but should have enough to survive.

17. Newcastle United
18.Bolton Wanderers
19.West Brom
20.Blackpool

So on to the bottom of the Premier League, I think everyone has Blackpool going down, it would be a massive shock if they stayed up, a bit like Arles of Ligue 1 in their story and their signings, lots of journeymen onboard, a good manager, but it will be a long old season for the seasiders. I see West Brom joining them in the drop zone, I like Roberto Di Matteo as a manager has done a great job however they just don’t have a strong enough team to stay up, another yo-yo year for the Baggies. The big battle for me will be the last relegation place, which will be between Newcastle United and Bolton, no offence to Owen Coyle but his team I think will struggle, Elmander has just not turned up in the EPL yet, Klasnic is good, the loss of Weiss and Wilshere will effect them, Petrov isn’t getting any younger, and they could lose some good players in January at the latest, Chris Houghton is probably the most inexperience manager in the league and with Newcastle not splashing the cash they could find it tough on their return to the top flight, Collocini and Gutierrez, Nolan and Steve Harper are of Premier League quality, and could be the little bit of class that keeps them up……just.

5 PLAYERS TO WATCH IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE

#1 – RAMIRES – Chelsea

Just signed today for Ancelotti’s team, I have like the player since I first saw him in last years Confederations Cup, he started next to Kaka in midfield and was breathtaking to watch, Brazil played with a fast counter attacking style and Ramires was the catalyst being the pace and the power, a player that never stops running, will defend and attack all game, good on the ball, does the simple things well, just an all round good player and a very exciting signing for Chelsea fans to watch.

#2 – WINSTON REID – West Ham United

Signed from FC Midtyjland this New Zealand international was one of the brightest prospects in Scandinavian football, after a great World Cup for the only undefeated team at the tournament he looked very good, Strong, good in the air, seem to have a good positional sense, has pace to stay with the speed merchants, I think he will add an extra layer of protection in front of Robert Green, and could become the leader of the Upton Park backline.

#3 – JERMAINE BECKFORD – Everton

A free signing for David Moyes, everyone is questioning whether he can make the step up in class, there is no doubt Jermaine has the ability, his mentality might be under question, failed to turn up at times when Leeds needed him most, this could be the best situation for the striker, no pressure to score loads of goals, Everton don’t have a World Class forward in the squad so there could be plenty of chance for Beckford to step in, as a player he knows where the goal is, has pace to trouble defences, a true predator.

#4 – GIOVANNI DOS SANTOS – Tottenham Hotspur

Now by the time the transfer window closes, dos Santos could have left Spurs, I really hope he stays, he seems to have grown up a little, maybe even matured, after a fantastic World Cup where from the first minute he looked in the mood to terrorise defences, he was one of the reasons Mexico drew plaudits and made it through their group stage, I watched Spurs play in pre-season and again he looked in the mood, a lovely back heel to Bale for the only goal against Benfica, he seems to have played his way in Redknapp’s squad, I would love to see him given a chance at White Hart Lane, this could be the year he fulfils his potential.

#5 – STUART HOLDEN – Bolton Wanderers

If Coyle’s men are to stay up they will need to exciting play of the only Scotsman to play at the World Cup, born in Aberdeen, Stuart has been a star of the MLS and is due to break into the US Men’s National Team very soon, had his season disrupted by injury during a friendly in the Netherlands with the National Team, Bolton fans were just starting to appreciate his talents, a tricky winger who can play in a fantastic cross, he will be a star for his country leading up to the 2014 World Cup, and I expect him to be a star for the Lancashire club this season.

There we go, predictions done, teams put into order and players to watch, now tomorrow of course they will all either not play, get injured or lose.

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Very interesting news came out on Friday; New French manager Laurent Blanc announced that all 23 members of the 2010 World Cup squad would not be picked for next month’s friendly against Norway. On Thursday the 5th of August Blanc will name the players pick for the match on August 11th, but who will he choose.

As an avid follower of French football this is a really interesting time, will he go for experience and steady the ship, or will he look to the future to set an example to the 23 players expelled that there is a future without them and that they are not automatic picks.

This morning I have had a look round the available players and had a go at picking a 18 man squad that I would pick for the match, a list of about 35 players was narrowed down to 24, and then the final cuts were made till I had the 18 men I could see taking the FFF forward.



 

#1 Mikael Landreau Lille Goalkeeper
#12 Nicola Douchez Rennes Goalkeeper
#15 Rod Fanni Rennes Defender
#2 Mathieu Debuchy Lille Defender
#3 Bruno Tremoulinas Bordeaux Defender
#4 Julian Escude Sevilla Defender
#5 Adel Rami Lille Defender
#6 Laurent Koscienly Arsenal Defender
#14 Rio Mavuba Lille Midfield
#16 Samir Nasri Arsenal Midfield
#17 Yohann Cabaye Lille Midfield
#18 Moussa Sissokho Toulouse Midfield
#7 Hatem Ben Arfa Marseille Midfield
#8 Lassana Diarra Real Madrid Midfield
#10 Kevin Gameiro Lorient Forward
#11 Jimmy Briand Lyon Forward
#13 Loic Remy Nice Forward
#9 Karim Benzema Real Madrid Forward

So let’s explain this squad a little;

In goals I have picked Lille’s Mikael Landreau, did extremely well to recover from a serious knee injury at the start of last season, a great shot stopper, bags of experience and I think it helps a back 4 if you have a Goalkeeper who has been there to talk you through the match, Nicola Douchez has impressed for Rennes so we would be the substitute, Landreau deserves his place between the sticks for his performances for Lille last season.

Rennes - Rod Fanni

My back four would be: Rod Fanni, Bruno Tremoulinas, Adel Rami and new Arsenal man Laurent Koscienly, at Left Back Tremoulinas adds instant width and an ability to deliver a fantastic cross that new Arsenal man Marouane Chamakh benefited from last season, Bruno can also defend, but I’ve picked him more for his attacking prowess. To balance the attacking instincts of the left back I’ve gone with Rod Fanni of Rennes at Right Back, he also loves to get forward, maybe doesn’t quite have the quality in his deliver but he’s big and strong and can defend well.

In the middle I have gone with a young pairing of Rami and Koscienly, Laurent who was signed for Arsenal has had a meteoric rise in the last 2 years from Tours to the Emirates, I would not bet against him pulling on the national jersey and excelling at this level too, beside him is a young player that’s impressed me loads in the past few years, Rami has been a rock in Lille’s defence for the last few years, constantly linked with moves to various clubs, mostly Lyon, he is great in the air, fast over the ground, and not afraid to get a boot in.

A strong back four, with youthful exuberance, power and pace, with the wise head of Landreau behind to keep them right.

The midfield will play with 2 sitting players and 3 attacking, my sitting players have been 2 of the best midfielders in France recently the tenacious Rio Mavuba and one of the best young midfielders in Europe Moussa Sissokho, Rio has been superb for Lille ever since his loan move from Villarreal, he’s added a needed composure on the ball, most Lille moves go through him, the brains behind Rudi Garcia’s successful team, Sissokho is a very talented very sought after man, often compared to Mamadou Diarra and Patrick Vieria, Moussa can play anywhere in midfield, I want him to provide the energy in defence as well as attack.

Jimmy Briand shows his pace

My attacking players bring not only a balance to the team but also a touch of mystique and creativity, Hatem Ben Arfa, Lassana Diarra and Jimmy Briand, Hatem and Lass don’t come with the best reputation for their attitudes but no one can deny their ability on the field, Lass provides an attacking option however he can also swap with Sissokho when the big man breaks forward, great distributor of the ball, great feet, would be an excellent spearhead to the attack, to the left of him would be Ben Arfa, undoubted skill, great confidence, maybe not as consistent as the top managers would like, however on his day he is up there with the best, to the right of Lass would be Lyon’s new signing Jimmy Briand “The new Henry” loves to play wide and cut inside, explosive pace, scores goals, a wonderful young talent, a handful for any defence, accustomed to playing wide at Rennes, we would be perfect in this role for Les Bleus.

The front man in my attack is not a well known player outside France and is actually still to decide if he wants to play for Blanc and the French but Kevin Gameiro’s 17 league goals last year was the best strike rate in France, also eligible to play for Portugal but he has come up through the French ranks, made his name at Strasbourg he was bought by Lorient to replace Andre-Pierre Gignac and his 28 goals in 2 seasons has certainly done the job, not the tallest player however he uses his body well and has that sixth sense some strikers have to find space, and he is deadly around the box.

What about Nasri and Benzema I hear you cry, very good questions, Benzema basically purely on form, he’s not made the jump to Madrid very smoothly and I feel the other players are ahead of him on that reason and with Nasri, if we were 5/6 weeks into the new season then maybe I would play him instead Diarra or Ben Arfa however a few preseason goals mean nothing to me.

I will be very interested to see Blanc’s squad on the 5th of August, even more interested to see how many I got right, and how close his team is to mine; I would leave to hear your thoughts on this, so please feel free to reply.

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