It's on the cards
The fantasy season has entered the final straight with managers eager to find the last little bit of quality to earn the mini-league bragging rights. While a player's total points gives an obvious indicator to their fantasy worth the breakdown of their scoring can present a more exact indicator of potential as the business end of the competition looms.
Goals, assists, clean sheets and the dreaded yellow cards, which will lead to damaging suspensions, loom around the corner.
Though frustrating at the time, with a booking removing a point from your squad's total, yellow cards can prove to be a bigger nightmare once they tot up at this point of the season. Many players are walking a suspension tightrope and face a one-match ban - which comes into force seven days after receiving a fifth card of the season - up until February 28.
There are currently a glut of players on four yellow cards and among that group are some key fantasy players. Those on the verge of a one game ban include Gabriel Agbonlahor, Gareth Barry, Ashley Young, Jose Bosingwa, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Danny Murphy and Jermain Defoe.
Young, of course, is in the middle of a three-match ban for a red card and could be banned again as soon as he comes back. All three of those Villa players have been popular and consistent performers all season and a loss to suspension at this stage would be a blow.
But others have been granted an audience with a referee more often, none more so than Marouane Fellaini of Everton who has picked up ten yellow cards and a two-match ban already at just under a card every other game. With Everton having at least 17 matches yet to play this term it will be hard for the Belgian not to climb up to 15 yellows which will then rule him out of another three matches.
It's disappointing as Fellaini has proved to be an interesting option since arriving from Standard Liege. With four goals and eight clean sheets he has scored 56 points making him the 29th best midfielder, which is not bad at a price of £7m. In fact, without the yellow cards he would be as high as Danny Murphy in 17th.
Wilson Palacios of Spurs is now coming off a two-game ban for 10 cards so will not yet be able to make his debut for the White Hart Lane club. There are no players in immediate danger of picking up a suspension for 10 yellows, the closest being Lee Catermole, Ricardo Fuller, Kieran Richardson, Stephen Warnock and Ian Ashbee on seven.
Goals bring the geatest scoring rewards but a regular assist grabber can be both cheap, and quite often an unknown quantity. For instance, top of the table for this season is Steed Malbranque of Sunderland with eight to his name. Malbraque costs only £6.4m and has dropped in price since the beginning of the campaign. It's excellent value for the 19th best midfielder.
The big fantasy players fall in just behind Malbraque, though perhaps surprisingly attackers are performing just as well as midfielders. After Mikel Arteta and Young, also on seven assists are Dimitar Berbatov, Agbonlahor and Robin van Persie. There are four midfielders on six assists: Stephen Ireland, Florent Malouda, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Gareth Barry.
Defensively there's no surprise to find Bosingwa on four assists, but the top defender is Gretar Rafn Steinsson of Bolton with five to his name. Though with the Trotters conceding goals the benefit is being eaten up.
Nicolas Anelka has long been top of the Premier League scoring charts on 14 goals but be warned, the Frenchman has not found the back of the net since December 14 and is finding it hard like most of the Chelsea squad. Former budget buster Amr Zaki is also struggling after racing to ten goals and has not scored from open play since 1962. On 11 goals there is Robinho but he too has become inconsistent and has not scored for a month.
The goals value up front could come from those just in behind who have had an indifferent pre-Christmas period. Jermain Defoe, Agbonlahor, Van Persie, Berbatov, Kenwyne Jones, Jason Roberts, Benedict McCarthy and Djibril Cisse are all worth consideration. If you transfer correctly up front there is ground to be made.
In midfield, it's the old timers of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who must be in just about every fantasy squad, that lead the way with nine goals, just ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, who remarkably has not scored since November 15. On a goals to game ratio, Tim Cahill could prove value with five from 15 games at £7.4m. With five from 16 at £6.1m Arsenal's Samir Nasri looks an even bigger steal.
At the back three players have plundered three goals, including last season's stand out central defender Lescott. He's joined by Nemanja Vidic - who has ursruped Boswinga to become the top defender in the game, Michael Turner and the surprise name of Juliano Belletti. Goalscoring defedners truly are the Holy Grail - and Lescott remains an unbelievable bargain at £5.4m after being deserted earlier in the season as Everton shipped goals.
As always, the top teams dominate the clean sheets with Vidic way out in front on 15. The best players not from the traditional top four come from Fulham, Everton and, somehow, Tottenham. Aaron Hughes, John Pantsil, Phil Neville, Phil Jagielka and Lescott each have eight clean sheets. Vedran Corluka is the Spurs player - though only thanks to three clean sheets picked up while still at Manchester City.