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Oct 22, 2009

How the mighty have fallen

With almost a quarter of the campaign gone the new fantasy season is starting to take shape. But how have the 15 players who made up the 2008-09 Squad of the Season performed this term? Not well, it would seem, as only Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard feature near the top of the scoring charts. Both Lampard and Gerrard have been in questionable form overall, too.

• Squad of the Season 2008-09

GOALKEEPERS

Pepe Reina was by far the best 'keeper in the game last season, scoring 30.39% more points than the next best custodian. Liverpool have kept just two clean sheets - the same as 19th-placed West Ham United. It means so far Reina has 17 points, placing him in the lowly position of 10th in the goalkeeper charts.

Mark Schwarzer was the second goalkeeper in the squad last season with 102. He, too, has failed to shine with Monday night's clean sheet for Fulham against Hull City being only his second of the campaign. He's the 12th best goalkeeper right now.

The smart money so far this term has gone on Aston Villa's Brad Friedel and Thomas Sorensen of Stoke, who are joint top with 31 points, three ahead of Birmingham City's Joe Hart.

DEFENDERS

The distinct lack of clean sheets has been raised numerous times, and it was again underlined at the weekend with only two out of a possible 20, for unfashionable Fulham and Sunderland. It means defenders, as well as goalkeepers, are suffering.

Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic was the top scorer in the game in 2008-09. But it's been a horror season for the Serbian central defender and he has only 11 points so far. That places him way down in 64th place in the defender charts. Much of his success last term was built on goals as well as clean sheets, but he has yet to hit the back of the net and at £7 million only four defenders are more expensive.

Jose Bosingwa of Chelsea came next, but this season he has been usurped by team-mate Ashley Cole as the top defender at Stamford Bridge. The Portuguese right-back has not had the same impact with goals and assists this season which leaves him in 13th, with plenty of scope to push back up the standings. Cole was also in the squad and has pushed on to be second best now, two goals and an assist helping him to 42 points.

Joleon Lescott has failed to continue his goalscoring ways since moving to Manchester City, and that seems set to to affect his value adversely when the fluctuations change on Thursday. For the past two seasons the former Everton defender has been a high-scoring player, but not this season which means it is easy to understand why he is being deserted. Unbelievably, Lescott has just two points.

The final defender in the Squad of the Season was Brede Hangeland. Fulham have started slowly this term and Hangeland had been a popular pick, due to his bargain status last season, meaning he has suffered a drop. The Norwegian has 13 points this term, helped by the clean sheet against Hull on Monday. It makes him mildly successful, but no longer a real fantasy attraction.

Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen leads the way this season with 47 points. There is also value from goalscoring defenders James Collins and Richard Dunne of Aston Villa.

MIDFIELDERS

The player of the season last year, Cristiano Ronaldo, has of course departed for Real Madrid. Credit to the winger, though, as he is leading the way in La Liga fantasy.

Next in our midfield came the two other big guns, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. It's not been a great season for the Chelsea midfielder who has failed to weigh in with his usual compliment of goals. In fact, he only has one Premier League goal this season but has five assists. He has not scored fewer than ten Premier League goals since the 2002-03 season but it could be a possibility this year. Amazingly, Lampard is still the fifth best midfielder this season but at a price of £12.6 million there is no value for money. Consider that he is 20 points behind the best midfielder, Cesc Febregas, who is £2.4 million cheaper.

Gerrard has also failed to live up to his price tag, and his current injury problems are a concern. He is the second best midfielder in the game, though only four points better off than Lampard and at £13.1 million is very expensive. With three goals and four assists he appears to be more productive, though his points per million is only slightly better than that of Lampard.

Stephen Ireland made the squad last season, but he too has suffered a dramatic loss of form and cannot get in the Manchester City starting line-up. Way down in 38th for midfielders, there are plenty of managers now choosing to desert him. With just one goal and not a single assist it's been a disappointing start for a player who scored 141 points in 2008-09.

Finally, Matthew Taylor of Bolton Wanderers. He scored against Manchester United at the weekend and has shown improved form. There is still value in Taylor, who is currently the ninth best midfielder and with a price of £7.4 million only David Dunn of Blackburn Rovers has scored more points at a cheaper price.

The star turn this season is without doubt Arsenal's Francesc Fabregas. The Gunners just cannot stop scoring attacking points and Fabregas already has four goals and nine assists. His price has risen to £10.2 million and will continue to go up.

Also performing well is Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt, now a midfielder after having been a striker last term, with 41 points at £9.2 million with team-mate Yossi Benayoun having scored 39 points (£8.3 million).

STRIKERS

Last season was not a golden one for strikers; but it's all change now. Last season the top striker, Nicolas Anelka, bagged 152 points. This season Darren Bent leads the way on 56 points, meaning he is on course for 236 points. That's in excess of 50% more than Anelka managed. This season really does appear to be one to follow the forwards.

Anelka has not performed badly this season, sitting in 11th on 31 points which makes him slightly less productive season-on-season. It is team-mate Didier Drogba who has proved the key man, scoring just two fewer points than Bent.

Peter Crouch was the second highest scorer on 123 points last year but finds himself in the shadow of Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane at Tottenham. Crouch has just 19 points and is in 27th place.

And Bolton's Kevin Davies has also found goals hard to come by. After scoring 127 points in 2008-09 he's now on 28, which puts him in 18th.

Along with Bent and Drogba, Liverpool's Fernando Torres is the next best striker but, like the last campaign, his injury ills could affect his long-term chances of being one of the picks of the season in the fantasy game.

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