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On the defensive

The balance between in-form players and long-term consistent performers is often difficult to get right. While it may be tempting to grab those players who start scoring goals or keeping clean sheets it can often be a false move should you be using up too many transfers. It's certainly the case when it comes to your defensive players. Many people foolishly brought in the likes of Bolton's Gretar Rafn Steinsson and Brede Hangeland of Fulham in the early weeks of the season simply because they scored a goal. The chances of those players being useful across the season were always slim.

At one point both players were near the top of the points scoring chart for defenders. Now Hangeland is in 13th and Steinsson 19th. It's a slide which is likely to continue.

The player many people will no doubt have been moving for over the past week is Hull City's Michael Turner - now the subject of a rather hopeful campaign to get him selected for the England team. After scoring two goals and picking up three clean sheets only Chelsea's Jose Bosingwa has scored more points.

Anyone bringing in Turner right now could be about to get a rude awakening. Granted, Turner's haul so far is outstanding for a player valued at just £4million at the start of the season and it's no surprise that he is the best value for money player in the whole game at 7.62 points per million spent, just ahead of team-mate Geovanni at 7.45.

There has been no stampede to bring Turner in, and nor should there be. A rise of just £0.2m shows a lack of confidence in his long-term ability, which will definitely be proved correct. In three of Hull's next four games they face free-scoring Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City and a repeat of their shock victory against Arsenal would seem unlikely.

The truly effective tactic when it comes to the defence is to buy from the top clubs, looking at players who will play every game. It's a bonus if you can pick up a goalscoring defender for a decent price as they are like gold-dust. The top four teams very rarely concede more than one goal in a match, which means there is always a point to be made in every game without taking into account the clean sheets and possible goals.

It will come as no surprise that the table of Premier League clean sheets this season sees the big four at the top, though Arsenal are level on three clean sheets with Hull, Manchester City, Portsmouth and West Brom. But it does mean that no club has kept more clean sheets than the traditional Premier League performers. And that transfers into the fantasy game. If you look at the top four scoring goalkeepers they are the usual suspects of Jose Reina, Edwin Van der Sar, Petr Cech and Manuel Almunia. And for defenders, out of the top 15 only four do not fall into that category; Hangeland, Martin Laursen (Aston Villa), Vedran Corluka (Man City/Tottenham) and Turner.

Defenders from the top clubs may seem expensive but if you can work the transfer market then by this stage of the season you can largely stock up with top players. Out of the seven players in my squad only Brad Friedel and Maynor Figueroa are not from the big four. As the top four clubs can often play on the same day there's little point wasting money on two top goalkeepers, meaning just Figueroa does not come from those clubs. It's a tactic which will bear fruit once May comes around and with the benefit of a possible top player on an injury-related value drop it could be that another top player becomes available.

Those of you that took my advice last week and looked at Dan Agger will already have been boosted by a £0.2m profit and a clean sheet. His popularity is sure to rise over the coming weeks and it's not a transfer to stall on. Still only £4.4m after being out of the first team prior to the injury to Martin Skrtel, he's £2m cheaper than Andrea Dossena and Alvaro Arbeloa and £3.3m less than Jamie Carragher. And as he likes to get forward it's a no-brainer.

Anyone looking to speculate on form should focus purely on attacking players. Defensive goals are few and far between while there tends to be far more consistency in midfielders and attackers due to the roles they perform. Having said that, Darren Fletcher's appearance in the top ten after scoring three goals is simply stunning. After scoring just 22 points across the whole of last term he already has 34 this campaign and is fourth in the Value For Money standings. It'll never last.


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