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Maximising your transfer budget is one of the true arts of being a successful fantasy manager and, with the first fluctuations of the season having taken place, managers will have a first indication of how shrewd they have been.

The first fluctuation is always a little hard to read though, mainly due to new managers arriving after the start of the season. This always leads to undue weight being given to the game's big stars. Almost without exception, the traditional fantasy heavyweights see their value climb.

This season is no different. It's something of a surprise to see Cesc Fabregas top the list of net transfers, mainly due to him picking up an injury against Portsmouth and thus missing out on last week's game against Manchester United. But his early form has been enough to leave him top of the pile.

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A measure of the Arsenal skipper's popularity is that he has been sold by 5,854 teams, but the 20,523 managers signing him means he has a net gain of 14,669 transfers. Those with Fabregas will have seen a value rise of £0.2m. But beware, as he may well drop down again at the next fluctuation point, which comes on September 17, due to the effect of his injury and managers therefore selling him.

The number of managers choosing to ditch Liverpool's Steven Gerrard is also noteworthy. Consistently one of the top scoring players in fantasy across many seasons, it seems some have turned against the England international too early. He's been bumped by more managers than Fabregas, 5,914, despite being fully fit. And there's a good comparison with Liverpool team-mate Fernando Torres, also dumped by 5,279 teams.

It seems clear that most must have sold Gerrard before Liverpool played Bolton, a game in which he scored. But what makes the number of sales all the more surprising is that he is the top scoring player in the entire game. Gerrard, Ryan Shawcross of Stoke City and Tottenham's Jermain Defoe all sit on 24 points after the opening weeks of the season.

So why are managers selling Gerrard despite his success? Balancing the budget is obviously one reason, though so far that must have been a false economy. With Gerrard's value rising by £0.1m at the first value change thousands of managers have made their first error.

Like Gerrard, lots of managers have been replacing his team-mate Torres. Despite being dumped by so many managers he still goes up in value by £0.1m due to a net increase of 11,333. Torres also scored against Bolton and sits on 21 points, fourth in the scoring charts for strikers. Much like Gerrard it seems the decision to replace him is premature.

Four players have risen by £0.2m. Along with Fabregas, the most popular early season signings have been Didier Drogba and Jermain Defoe. But the fourth player to rise is perhaps a surprise - Chelsea skipper John Terry.

While the other players in the fluctuation list have certainly performed so far this term, that cannot really be said for Terry. With 14 points at an original price of £7m, the England international has not offered value. But that has not stopped him being popular in the transfer market and he too shows a rise in value to £7.2m.

At this stage of the season, none of the bargain or surprise success players have won the right to go up in value. That includes Stoke's Shawcross who, at £4.5m, is amazing value on a return of 24 points. Perhaps managers should wait until after Saturday's game against Chelsea before drafting in him in.

Early in the campaign the supply and demand statistics are slightly skewed by new managers entering the game late and setting up their teams from scratch. That should change at the next update when most managers are signed up.

Price drops are largely affected by the real life transfer market, as managers are forced to sell players who leave the Premier League. Anyone who has failed to replace such players - Xabi Alonso, Blumer Elano and Alvaro Arbeloa to name three - will find their budget has slipped.

Alonso, now at Real Madrid, tops the list with a drop of 1,346 selections. He has been dropped by every manager who had him, so he will no longer appear.

Injuries are another important factor in price drops, with Sylvain Ebanks-Blake, Phil Jagielka and Mikel Arteta joining Alonso in a drop of £0.2m. A relatively large number of managers still have both Jagielka and Arteta which means there is scope for further reductions. By the time they are back to full fitness there is every chance their value will be very attractive.

And that's the key to success - buying and selling players at the right time and maximising your budget. It's the way to get the best players into your squad when, at the start of the season, the prospect seems improbable.

It's early days to work out who will be this season's Amr Zaki, a striker who went up over £3m before his form completely bottomed out and his value plummeted. Picking the right time to sell such a player could be the difference between success and failure.

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