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Bargain hunting

With seven weeks gone in the fantasy season the form players and bargain buys are starting to take shape.

With price fluctuations in full effect the star players will only get more expensive leading to a search for value in a bid to afford the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

As predicted, the new points for saves has led to goalkeepers from the Premier League's so-called lesser lights make a name for themselves.

Leading the way is Birmingham City's Joe Hart, who with 27 points at a cost of £4 million has a rating of 6.75 points per million. Hart also stands as the number one 'keeper in the game with six points added for saves. With games to come against Burnley and Sunderland there may be some value left in the next few gameweeks.

Only just behind Hart is Sunderland's Thomas Sorensen, coming in at 6.25. And perhaps, team for team, the greatest all-round value comes in the form of Manchester United reserve Ben Foster at 5.5, though his days in the team may be numbered as Edwin van der Sar returns to fitness.

Of the traditional top-scoring goalkeepers, Petr Cech fares best in fourth, but his high value means he is worth just 3.01. Meanwhile, it has been a harsh season if you have signed Arsenal's Manuel Almunia, who at £6 million has scored a total of zero points.

If Almunia may have brought no joy whatsoever, then Arsenal team-mate Thomas Vermaelen is just the opposite. Picking up points at 6.20, the Belgian is by far the best value player in the entire game and it is all down to his goalscoring exploits. He looks set to rival Joleon Lescott and Nemanja Vidic on that front. Vermaelen has 38 points, just one ahead of Ashley Cole but he is £0.6 million cheaper.

Stoke City produce the third and fourth best value for money players in the game but it's Abdoulaye Faye who edges in front of Ryan Shawcross, as there is a £0.1 million price difference for a return of 24 points. The cheapest option for long-term gain could well be James Collins of Aston Villa, as he still carries his West Ham cost of £4.5 million and is already fifth in terms of value at 5.11.

There are few surprises when it comes to the top-scoring midfield players with Steven Gerrard, Cesc Fábregas and Dirk Kuyt leading the way, though each of these players - especially the Liverpool skipper - comes at a premium price. Gerrard, while scoring 41 points, has a return of only 3.18.

The current bargain of the season is the unknown Tamir Cohen of Bolton Wanderers. With 26 points at a price of £4.5 million, Cohen has scored at 5.78. There is obviously very little confidence in the Israeli international continuing that form for the Trotters, as he has been bought by just 2,213 managers.

Though people were slow to pick up on the potential of Hull City's Stephen Hunt at £5.5 million, he has now been bought 23,615 times and is still the second best value for money midfielder and is on the same number of points as Cohen.

Completing the top five in the middle of the park is Burnley's Wade Elliott, Yossi Benayoun of Liverpool and finally Darren Fletcher of Manchester United. With the latter two the only players from the traditional top four to provide true value for money, perhaps fantasy managers will now turn to these to open up their budget for the striking talent.

There is no doubt that it is panning out to be the season of the striker. The top two players in the game both play up front as Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba score 47 points and 42 points respectively. They both fit into the value for money top five, with Drogba joint fifth best with Kenwyne Jones of Sunderland and Torres fourth. But at just over 4.00 they are not great value compared to other positions.

The bargain buy is Sunderland's Darren Bent, way out in front at 5.63 with a return of 40 points at a price of £7.1 million. Surely the doubt that has seen his value rise by such a small amount will now be a thing of the past.

Robbie Keane's four goals against hapless Burnley have pushed him from obscurity into second place at 4.63. In third place ahead of Torres comes Wigan's Hugo Rodallega at 4.17.

The value is out there and there is money to be made if you can pick up the right players who will continue their good early season form, which will undoubtedly lead to a price rise used to reinvest at the right time.

While the likes of Cohen may be a red herring and pure horse boltage, Bent looks to be the catch of the season in relation to an outlay of just £7.1 million for a forward.


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