Searching for value
Twelve gameweeks remain in the fantasy season, almost a third of the season, and with the consistent performers in the game becoming more expensive, finding key value performers is vital.
Few will be surprised to find Michael Vorm as the best value goalkeeper. Vorm was more impressive in the first half of the campaign, when he clocked up the majority of his 123 points - a total that ranks him in second, behind Joe Hart. But his cheaper price tag brings a return of 21.58 points per million (ppm), which is far in excess of the next best, West Brom's Ben Foster on 19.46 ppm.
Vorm, who missed the last gameweek through injury, has not kept a clean sheet since January 2 - and that is Swansea's only one in the last ten matches. A pack of other goalkeepers, led by Brad Friedel and Ali Al Habsi, are now closing in on second spot in the points table after Hart last week went to the top with his clean sheet against Blackburn Rovers.
There's a surprising name at the top of the value list for defenders as Aston Villa's Stephen Warnock checks in at 19.56 ppm, with his value having dropped down to £4.5 million. Warnock only ranks 16th among defenders, but his price aligned with a haul of 88 points provides the value.
Add to that Villa's upcoming fixture list of a trip to Blackburn Rovers and home games against Fulham and Bolton and he could be a short-term option - as after that Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool lie in wait.
Next up is our Defender of the Season so far: Tottenham Hotspur's Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The Cameroon defender may be the weak link in the Spurs defence, but in fantasy terms he ticks all the right boxes. In 26 games, he has two goals, four assists and ten clean sheets (only Patrice Evra has more) putting him on 123 points - 11 clear of Everton's Leighton Baines, with a ppm of 17.08.
Our second Swansea representative is Ashley Williams, who comes in third with 99 points at 17.07 ppm. He has dropped down to tenth in the defender rankings having been among the very top scorers for much of the season. Swansea have a mixed bag of fixtures coming up, meaning it is difficult to have faith in a return to form. They go to Wigan, Fulham and Tottenham while entertaining Man City, Everton and Newcastle. After Wigan, it's not a straightforward run.
Completing the defence is Queens Park Rangers' Luke Young. Few would back QPR defenders right now with their form since November, but a return of 80 points at £4.7 million gives him a value rating of 17.02 ppm. Just outside the team are Stoke duo Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross. It's worth noting that Huth has dropped to the bottom value of £4.0 million and to also consider that Shawcross is now close to a two-game ban for cumulative yellow cards.
Moving on to the midfield, it's Norwich's Anthony Pilkington who is way out in front as the value performer. With a return of 21.2 ppm, second only to Vorm in the entire game, Pilkington has scored 106 points, which ranks him in 12th, through scoring seven goals and providing one assist. Also, Norwich have upcoming fixtures that could provide attacking points, at home to Wigan, Wolves and Everton and away to Stoke, Newcastle and Fulham.
It's no surprise that the next two players also make the value squad: Stephane Sessegnon of Sunderland and Fulham's Clint Dempsey. Their performance has made them two of the most popular players in the game with an ownership level of 44.8% and 55.9% respectively. Sessegnon, at 18.92 ppm, has flourished under Martin O'Neill and has six goals and seven assists.
Just behind on 18.89 ppm, USA international Dempsey has ten goals and four assists, placing him just behind Tottenham's Gareth Bale for Midfielder of the Season.
Completing the line-up in the middle of the park is Stoke's Matthew Etherington at 18.36 ppm. Etherington has gone under the radar this term, with an ownership level of 7.8%, but this is the second season he has figured so prominently.
Close to making the team were Newcastle's now-injured Ryan Taylor and Stephen Ward of Wolves.
Up front, we find our only leading points scorer by position to also top the value table. Despite now having risen to £10.3 million - a price that will rise again this weekend - Robin van Persie still clocks in at 17.86 ppm. He is 22 points ahead of Bale to be named the fantasy Player of the Season, plundering 23 goals and providing eight assists. Such is his dominance in attack (he's 37 points better off than Sergio Aguero, the next best attacker) that no one can expect to do well this season without the Arsenal forward.
Van Persie is joined up front by a player from across North London, Spurs striker Emmanuel Adebayor. Despite a drought prior to his recent goals against Newcastle and Arsenal, he still comes in at 17.72 ppm with 140 points at a current price of £7.9 million. Norwich's Steve Morison and Newcastle's Demba Ba just miss out.
Darren Bent has not been as reliable as in previous seasons, as reflected in his post-Christmas ownership level of 4.4%, and the injury picked up in the last gameweek has already seen 0.8% of managers sell the striker. He is likely to be out for the season, so selling up is the wise option.
Liverpool defender Daniel Agger is also facing up to a month out of action. He is only in 3.8% of teams and is ranked 33rd among defenders, but will be on the sidelines for up to five games.
Liverpool and Everton have announced that their postponed game will now take place on March 13, meaning there is a double gameweek for both clubs for the round that starts on March 10. The games moved for the FA Cup on March 17-18 - Everton v Arsenal, Spurs v Stoke, Aston Villa v Bolton, Blackburn v Sunderland, QPR v Liverpool - have been rearranged for the following midweek, which means the original gameweek will not be affected.