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Friday, December 3, 2010
Premier League Squad of the Month

Dale Johnson

Chelsea's dominance of the Premier League came to a shuddering halt in November and, for the first time this season, not a single of their players makes the Premier League fantasy Squad of the Month. This is in stark contrast to the early part of the season, when as many as eight Chelsea players could have been eligible for the monthly squad. Despite there being five gameweeks in November, it was a relatively low-scoring month by comparison. In October, from three gameweeks, the top-scoring player had 30 points and the optimum overall score was 352 points. For November, the Player of the Month has 34 points and the top total is 401 points, showing a marked drop in average scores. A lack of clean sheets across the Premier League is one reason. The final gameweek of the month provided the first weekend in Premier League history that not one team managed to avoid conceding a goal. The Player of the Month for November is Everton's Tim Cahill. The Australian international bagged 34 points in the month to move him within three points of the top-scoring player in the game, Chelsea's Florent Malouda. With four goals in the month, Cahill is proving to be value for his 8.7 million, having risen from 8.0 million at the start of the season. Everton may face Chelsea and Manchester City away in December, but home matches against Wigan and Birmingham plus the trip to West Ham United suggest there will be more value. Just missing out on the Player of the Month award is Blackburn Rovers' Morten Gamst Pedersen. Way back in the mists of time Pedersen used to be an important fantasy player. In 2005-06 he scored nine goals, with another six the following season, together with six and 11 assists respectively. Those days of a high-scoring, low-budget player seemed to be behind him with just eight goals in the last three seasons combined, but four goals in the month of November earned him 33 points and sent him up to 11th among the midfielders. Despite Blackburn's thumping at the hands of Manchester United last weekend, Rovers have a great run of fixtures coming up with matches at home against Wolves, West Ham and Stoke and trips to Bolton, West Brom and Sunderland. Maybe Pedersen is back to the form he showed in his early Premier League years. Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung was close to being the POTM, too, scoring 31 points. Park, who has only seven points across the rest of the season, scored three goals and an assist too. The South Korea international may only cost 6.5 million, but November must surely be a flash in the pan. Gareth Bale's superb form earns him a return to the squad this month. He is now worth 8.2 million, though despite scoring 30 points for the month he is still only seventh among midfielders. Team-mate Rafael van der Vaart takes the final place in midfield, appearing in consecutive months, on 27 points but any manager who has just brought the Dutchman in will have been left cursing the hamstring injury suffered last weekend. For the first time we see three players share a monthly award, with Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Pablo Zabaleta all scoring 22 points. At one stage it was Chelsea defenders who dominated the game, now they do not hold either of the top two scoring spots in defence. Vidic is now on 62 points, three ahead of Liam Ridgewell. Both Vidic and Evra scored goals in November to earn their places in the squad, while Zabelata needed an assist to take his place among the trio having been suspended for gameweek 15 for picking up five yellow cards. Completing the defence is Stoke City's Robert Huth. He scored 20 points, as did Nedum Onuoha of Sunderland, but Huth is selected on value for money as a tie-breaker. Two players also share the Goalkeeper of the Month award, with Joe Hart once again making an appearance. Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, in their team in place of Thomas Sorensen, also scored 23 points. Hart's rise up the values continues, as he is now priced at 4.9 million - up 1.4 million - having scored only six fewer points than Petr Cech, the top-scoring goalkeeper on 64 points. Hart and Begovic took the goalkeeper award in keeping three clean sheets from five fixtures. Bolton's new-found attacking prowess is reflected up front, with two Trotters among four strikers to take a place in the squad. The Striker of the Month is Kevin Davies, notching 30 points for the month at a cost of just 7 million. Davies scored four goals in the month, and he provided two assists too. The second Bolton forward, who many would have expected to have scored more than Davies, is Johan Elmander. His superb season shows no sign of slowing, as he is now the second top-scoring forward in the fantasy game. The Swedish player scored three goals and assists which left him two points short of Davies. Sandwiched in between the two is Arsenal's Marouane Chamakh on 29 points. Chamakh scored four goals and contributed two assists but it was a yellow card picked up at Aston Villa last weekend which cost him top spot alongside Davies. Completing November's squad is Danny Welbeck. The Sunderland man scored 27 points as the cheapest striker in the game at 5.5 million. But don't expect his run of four goals in three games to continue.

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