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Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Musings

What a nice change to see a genuinely entertaining domestic Cup final. Birmingham City's surprise 2-1 victory over odds-on favourites Arsenal was full of drama from the first minute to the last; great for the neutral, unforgettable for Blues fans, but a disaster for the Gunners who were ready to end their 6 year trophy drought.

Yes, Arsenal had more chances, but I can't help feeling Birmingham just about deserved the victory after they were incorrectly denied a 2nd minute penalty which should've seen Szczesny red-carded. 11 men v 10 men for 88 minutes on the huge Wembley pitch would've swung the whole thing in Birmingham's favour, but at least the linesman's error allowed for an end-to-end match packed full of chances, saves, and a farcical finish.

Birmingham started the game far better and despite the "non-penalty" they took the lead through Zigic, before the giant was denied a second goal as Szczesny saved well when one-on-one. Arsenal came back in to it and Van Persie equalised with a goal of technical brilliance, volleying in mid-air on his unfavoured right-foot. He appeared to suffer an injury in the process but came back on within a minute, looked OK, and Arsenal were then well on top. At half-time I though Birmingham's chance may have gone, the momentum was with the Gunners and I could only see one winner.

Arsenal pressed throughout the second half forcing a number of good saves from eventual man-of-the-match Ben Foster, but Birmingham had their own chances, with Fahey hitting the post from 20 yards. The tie changed on 70 minutes as Van Persie was surprisingly withdrawn, Arsenal's dominance subsided sightly - and as both managers made attacking substitutions - the game appeared to be heading for extra time.

It took the gaff of all gaffs from Szczesny and Koscielny to gift Birmingham the winning goal in the 90th minute. It's hard to even explain what happened - neither really left the ball, they both sort-of went for it - but both completely fluffed it, and the ball fell to Martins who rolled it in to the empty net to seal an unlikely but famous win for Alex McLeish's men.

The result ends Arsenal's dream of the quadruple, To add to Arsenal's woes, Wenger revealed he'd been forced to withdraw Van Persie because of the knee injury he sustained when equalising in the first half, and early reports suggest he's a doubt for the second leg of the Barcelona Champions League tie. With Fabregas & Walcott also struggling this really could not have happened at a worse time and you wonder what psychological impact this will have on the players and the manager.

For fantasy managers the Van Persie news is either good or bad. If you dropped him for this week's blank/double then you're pleased as it looks like he could miss further league games; if you kept him then you'll be waiting on the news and hoping it's no more than the Sunderland game next weekend. I feel sorry for the Dutchman as he's been sensational over the past few months and I hope it's nothing serious. As a fan of the Premier League I want to see the best players at the top of their game, and of course Arsenal need him if they want to sustain their title challenge.

In terms of Fantasy Week 28, it's gone really well so far. The gamble of picking 8 Manchester United players brought 94 points on Saturday and a further 13 from Kolarov & Dzeko yesterday leaves me on 107 points, up to 60th overall. With Carew to go tonight and hopefully 8 to go vs Chelsea (although Rooney could be banned after his stupid off-the-ball elbow into James McCarthy's head) it could be a really big week & I'm hoping it could even be big enough to push me in to the Top 50. I've NEVER seen my team on the Top 50 leaderboard in my eight years of player the Yahoo game, so I'd be delighted if I can finally make it.

Of course next week is potentially a double for Everton & Birmingham, so I was pretty annoyed I missed the barndoor on Saturday night, meaning I'm paying full price for Everton players. Still, I've managed to put together a team I'm reasonably happy with, with plenty of time to change things around.

Howard, Kolarov, Ridgewell, Coleman, Baines, Arteta, Bentley, Cahill, Carew, Beckford, Zigic

£1.5m left in the bank, so I may still think about Roger Johnson, Obafemi Martins & Louis Saha. A lot depends on injury news as a few of the players listed could be doubtful, but we'll have more on that later in the week.

I'll leave it there - please let me know what you made of yesterday's game. How are you getting on in Week 28? Who have you got left?


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