Another talented writer makes his début on gibfootballshow. Euan Marshall originally from Glasgow and now a resident in South America uses his new found love of Latin football to tell Blackburn Rovers fans all about their new signing Mauro Formica.

Under ambitious new ownership and with some decent form under their belt, Blackburn Rovers have all the makings of a football club on the rise. To go along with the shrewd loan signings of Schalke 04′s Jermaine Jones and the returning Roque Santa Cruz, Blackburn have decided to go out and buy a South American attacking midfielder. They did not end up with Ronaldinho Gaúcho, but they have managed to sign an extremely exciting and promising young Argentine, Mauro Formica.

Formica’s recent form for Newell’s Old Boys in his native Argentina has generated a lot of buzz and interest throughout the football world. His 16 appearances and 2 goals in the 2010 Torneo Apertura attracted suitors from all over Europe, with Rubin Kazan, Galatasaray, Genoa, Blackburn Rovers and Monaco all looking to facilitate his move across the Atlantic. He looked certain to sign for Les Rouge et Blanc in France, but as Newell’s tried to squeeze more money out of the principality club, the move stalled. That was when Blackburn jumped in and made an improved offer which was swiftly accepted by Newell’s. Finally, “El Gato” (“the Cat”) agreed a contract with Rovers which will see him in Lancashire for the next three years.

A Newell’s boy born and bred, Mauro signed his first professional contract with la Lepra in 2006 when he was 18 years old. He has always been highly coveted at Newell’s, and after three years he broke into a regular first team place in the 2009/2010 season, managing 38 appearances and 8 goals in all competitions. However it was not until this season’s Apertura where 22 year-old Mauro really blossomed, becoming a key player in the Newell’s squad.

Formica hails from a nation notorious for hyping up their young talents, with several youngsters tipped to be reincarnations of national football heroes like Diego Maradona or Ariel Ortega. Unsurprisingly, Mauro has not been able to escape this, with several pundits dubbing him (inexplicably) the “new Batistuta”; however the more accurate comparison comes from Argentina’s neighbours Brazil, in the shape of Real Madrid’s Kaká.

Not only does he bear a truly startling physical resemblance to Kaká (everything except the 80s style mullet), Formica also has several similarities to the Brazilian in his playing style. Watching the way he drives at defences, with the ball appearing to stick to his boots, you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching a young Kaká. He skips past defenders in the same way that Kaká does, naturally and with pace.

However Formica isn’t just a dribbler, he has technique and flair in abundance, making him a fantastic player to watch. He has a tremendous passing range, a great first touch, he hits a great shot from distance, and he is able to pull off deft flicks, back-heels and nutmegs when the situation calls for it. Without trying to over-hype the 22-year old, he really does possess the skill set of a truly world class attacking midfielder.

Mauro Formica belongs to a generation of very talented Argentine footballers, and unfortunately for him this could seriously affect his chances of featuring for the national team in later years. Formica is a number 10, an attacking midfielder, what the Argentines refer to as an enganche, and he’s going to have some serious competition on the international scene. Already Ángel di María has made a name for himself at Real Madrid and has appeared several times at international level, furthermore two of the game’s most promising players will be desperate to fill the number 10 role; Javier Pastore of Palermo, and Erik Lamela of River Plate.

As I have mentioned earlier, Formica is a proper South American number 10. At Newell’s he played either behind two centre-forwards or as the left sided attacking midfielder in a 4-3-2-1. He serves as an excellent link between the midfield and attack, and is able to intuitively move into the right areas to receive the ball and then produce the killer pass. He has all the wonderful passing attributes of a great playmaker, and his equally wonderful dribbling skills mean he can go it alone if necessary and provide a different threat to opposing defences.

Certainly the main question regarding Formica’s move to Blackburn is whether he will be able to adapt and thrive in the Premier League. English football is certainly a very different game from what Formica is used to back home, the pace is much higher, with creative players not allowed much time on the ball, and overall the game is a much more physical affair. It is expected that Formica will need some time to adapt, and he may find it hard to make much of an impact between now and the end of the season.

Formica will be hoping to slot into a position similar to his number 10 role at Newell’s. He will have players like Morten Gamst Pedersen and Junior Hoilett to link up with in midfield, and two good forwards to aim at, fellow South American Roque Santa Cruz, and the Croatian Nikola Kalinić. A main part of his success at Newell’s was his excellent ability to link with players around him, so Formica will be hoping to develop the same rapport with his new Ewood Park team-mates.

With all of these qualities and obvious potential, Blackburn will be hoping that the introduction of Formica will bring some real South American class to their midfield to help their push for European qualification. How much of an immediate impact he will make is impossible to know, but with Formica’s style and talent we can be sure of plenty breathtaking moments from el Gato for years to come.

To read more of Euan’s work please have a look at his wonderful website “I like football me” and also catch him on twitter for all the goings on in Brazil and South America. Also soon to join the gibfootballshow podcast ;)

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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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