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Sep 30, 2008

Fantasy Focus: Transfer tactics

Anyone who harbours hopes of winning the overall title in our Premier League fantasy game may be a little concerned at the score some of the top managers have managed to notch up. The leading team, Fern FC managed by 'Damding', has scored 331 points. That's some going, but what's their secret? Transfers - and too many of them.

Using the majority of your transfers early on is a common tactic and while it may bear fruit at the begining of the season it can only end in tears when injuries, suspensions or a lack of form start to take hold - and you've got no changes left to put things right.

Fern FC has very few transfers remaining but the second placed team, Angel Poderoso and Red Devils, has only used around 15 and sits in a good position to challenge long-term.

The real star of the show so far is Michael Teong's Mic Wonderkid Team. He's managed to use just four transfers - remarkably transferring out Ashley Young and Elano, two of the best performing midfielders - and has already earned 311 points and is placed fifth. It's a very strong position to be in. And when you consider Michael does not have Amr Zaki, the top scoring striker at a bargain £6.9m, there remains room for improvement.

The motives for making a huge number of transfers at this stage are clear - accrue as many points as possible to build up a strong position, be it in the overall league or a personal mini-league. There's no doubt that most managers who do this, and do it effectively, will remain up among the leaders for the next couple of months but it can never be a successful long term strategy.

The secret is to make important transfers at the beginning to take advantage of early season price fluctuations and also to spot the top performers before they are snapped up by every other manager. Those who moved for Deco after the opening weekend of the season could have profited to the tune of almost £2million had they then sold him once he was injured. On a similar theme, Shaun Wright-Phillips was another who has seen his value rocket as well as picking up a big points haul.

Most now know about Zaki but the danger with the Egyptian is that he will soon be in just about every team meaning the benefit will be vastly reduced. The key soon will be to find a player who is going to hit form and cash in your chips on Zaki. It's definitely a gamble but if you play it right then it can give you a vital edge.

Many have moved for Dimitar Berbatov after his move to Manchester United. He was reduced in price after going AWOL at White Hart Lane but, a month after making the move, just two assists is a poor return. With star players, though, it's often important to look at the long game. Very rarely do they fail to come good in the end. And with the value on the rise getting in early could eventually prove important.

The same can be said of team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo. He'd dropped down to £11.2million and after a rush for his signature after a return in the Champions League the goal and assist he claimed against Bolton seem sure to attract further attention. By the end of this week the demand is sure to push him above £12million. The longer you leave it the harder it will become to work him into your budget. If you can afford him then don't hang around.

With some players there's a danger of what we call 'horseboltage'. This is a player who is transferred in after they've scored a couple of goals and as soon as you bring them in they never do anything ever again. We've all suffered from it. This season's early season contenders, and it's especially the case for goalscoring defenders, include Brede Hangeland of Fulham, Bolton's Gretar Rafn Steinsson and also Jonas Olsson of West Brom. No doubt there will be a few doing the same with another Baggie, James Morrison, who's netted twice recently though he's unlikely to score many more.

However, perhaps the most desperate transfer business of the last week was the thousands who brought in West Brom's Paul Robinson. He was in the top five of the most transferred in players. Granted, it was perhaps for budgetary balancing but considering Wigan's Maynor Figueroa was only slightly more expensive it's just bizarre.

None of those players will be among the top performers come May. If you believe it your deluding yourself. Put right your mistake before their value drops like a stone.

People have been far more sensible with transfers in the ESPNsoccernet Experts League, though there remain the moans from usual suspects who fail to set up their substitutions correctly.

Dom Raynor, who won the title last season, has set the pace again this term but it's incredibly close at the top of the table. Just seven points separate the top six teams, with Podcast team Dan Mason (level with Dom on 254 points), Jonthan Harris-Bass and Adam Williams proving their doubters wrong. Sadly for Adriano Russo, he lounges just one place off the foot of the table. Kevin Palmer and Norman Hubbard make up the other leading positions.

Dom has made around eight changes which is a sensible amount for this stage though Adam, with 14, could find himself in trouble once winter sets in. The rest of the Soccernet in-house Editorial team have a great deal of work to do to get back in the frame this season.

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