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Oct 7, 2008

Fantasy Focus: Squad of the Month

The Premier League Squad of the Month for September certainly underlines the point that loading up on players from the big four is not a recipe for success. Only four players out of the 15-man squad represent either Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal. And United do not have a single player in the list, underlining their stuttering start to the season.

The Most Valuable Player this month, though, is Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor. That's almost solely down to his hat-trick scored at Blackburn Rovers. Even without the assist he claimed against Bolton there would still have been no player with a higher total.

The other Arsenal player in the squad is bargain-basement Neves Denilson, who remains the best value-for-money player in the game although. Get in quick because his value continues to steadily rise.

Jose Reina is always a reliable fantasy performer between the posts. The Liverpool keeper has been a must-have selection since moving to Anfield and was the number-one fantasy keeper in 2007/08. He again tops the charts this season and there is clear daylight to his nearest challenger, Petr Cech of Chelsea.

Taking a place on the bench, and an increasingly popular transfer due to his price, is Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Chris Kirkland. There have not been too many points around for goalkeepers in September and England international Kirkland makes the squad despite scoring just eight points.

Manchester City find two players in the defensive positions despite keeping just one clean sheet for the month. Richard Dunne and Vincent Kompany both scored a goal which boosted their points tally by eight. Kompany is looking like a canny purchase as a City defender who is playing in midfield. It means you have a player capable of getting full clean sheet points but who is also more likely to score attacking points. Kompany remains in the cheap bracket and could be a way of shuffling the pack to create budget space elsewhere.

The top-scoring defender of the month - and in the whole game - is Chelsea's Jose Bosingwa with 26 points at the end of September. Fifteen of those points came in the month and, like Dunne and Kompany, was boosted by a goal. At £6.5million he remains affordable in comparison to other 'top four' defenders and may be worth swapping in for Ricardo Carvalho while he's out injured before his value soars.

In fact, every defender in our list managed to score. Jonas Olsson was on minus points until he picked up a goal and a clean sheet in West Brom's win at Middlesbough. But you cannot see him being a season-long points-bearing player despite being available at a pittance of £3.5million. His clean sheet against Fulham in the first weekend of October, though, may have more people horsebolting.

Both Olsson and Christopher Samba of Blackburn managed to notch 12 points. Samba scored against Newcastle though Blackburn are too inconsistent to be considered a viable pick at the back.

As we've already seen, the majority of points come from the midfield and attack. Second only to Adebayor for the month are Aston Villa's Ashley Young and James Morrison of West Brom. Morrison's goals in consecutive games may, like Olsson, have put a skew on his ability over a season. However, Young is a player who appears to have been strangely overlooked by many managers early this season.

After dropping in value in the opening weeks of the season only now has he recovered to his opening price of £8million. That seems odd because Young is guaranteed to grab many assists due to the fact he takes corners and free-kick, and those set pieces also enable him to score from the dead ball too. Young is now the sixth best midfielder in the game but is the only player in the top ten not to have risen in value so far. Time to take advantage while you can?

The returning Tim Cahill would actually have matched Adebayor to Player of the Month but for his red card against Liverpool. Up until the Merseyside derby the Australian had notched 17 points in just two games. He now, of course, has another two matches still to serve on his ban for that dismissal which means he's not a player who should be in your thoughts for a few weeks.

The final player in midfield is West Ham's Matthew Etherington, also scoring 17 along with Cahill. He's ranked at 11 in the midfield table following strong points scoring performances against Fulham and Newcastle.

The first place alongside Adebayor in attack goes to Jermain Defoe of Portsmouth, who at £8.4million remains a tempting price and will surely score throughout the campaign.

And on the bench is Brazilian striker Robinho. Already up in value to £9.7million, you have to feel that despite his good start it will be Defoe who, across the course of a season, will score more points at a cheaper cost.

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