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Jan 12, 2010

December Squad of the Month

December was a busy month with plenty of goals around, and that's reflected in the Premier League Fantasy Squad of the Month.

That said, there are still plenty of plaudits to hand out to defenders, with Tottenham and Aston Villa dominating at the back.

The Player of the Month is Antonio Valencia of Manchester United. The midfielder scored a total of 39 points in a month which included six gameweeks. It looked as though the Red Devils' midfield was going to be a fantasy wasteland this season with the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, but Valencia seems to be proving us wrong.

With three goals and three assists, Valencia has shot up the rankings and now is the fourth best midfielder in the game, and he's closing in on a century of points. Still priced at just £8 million, the Ecuador international represents good value for money, especially considering he plays for one of the top clubs.

Valencia takes the monthly gong just ahead of a rival from across the city - namely Carlos Tevez of Manchester City. Tevez is now the player to have, especially with Didier Drogba away at the African Nations Cup and the fixtures City have to come.

Tevez's importance has been further proven by the hat-trick he scored against Blackburn on Monday night. And with many players missing the first gameweek of the month it means he is certain to make the January Squad of the Month.

The Argentina international started his amazing goalscoring run in the first gameweek of December, and went on to plunder seven goals in the six matches played. If he'd have got just one assist he would have been the Player of the Month, instead he finishes on 38 points.

Valencia and Tevez have a cushion to the next players on the list, one of which is Tottenham defender Michael Dawson on 32 points. Dawson, who was not even expected to be a regular for the north London club this season and featured just three times in the first 11 gameweeks, takes the gong for the Defender of the Month.

Dawson, who scored a goal in the first match of December and ended the month with four consecutive clean sheets, is joined by two other Tottenham players at the back. Benoit Assou-Ekotto also slots into the defence while Heurelho Gomes takes the accolade of Goalkeeper of the Month. Gomes, priced at £5 million, doesn't exactly offer the best value but if he continues to make the Squad of the Month that will not be the case.

There could have been a fourth Tottenam player in the squad, though that goes against the game rules. Midfielder Niko Krancjar, now turning out to be an absolute steal at just £6.2 million, scored 29 points for the month and was the fourth highest scoring player in his position. He still carries his initial value from his Portsmouth days but his place in the Spurs starting line-up is now under threat from the return to fitness of Luka Modric. That alone makes Krancjar a risky purchase.

Two of the remaining three defensive positions are taken up by Aston Villa players - namely Richard Dunne and Stephen Warnock. Like Tottenham, Villa picked up four clean sheets in December. The only other player to make the defence is Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, back from injury.

Brad Friedel should have qualified, making this the first time that three goalkeepers have managed to make it into a Squad of the Month, but again this would break the three-player rule. Perhaps we are seeing a growing importance for clean sheets at the midway point after such a dearth in the opening gameweeks.

The other Villa player in the squad is midfielder James Milner, who scored 31 points.

Joint third top scorer for the month is Birmingham City midfielder Sebastian Larsson. Despite Blues' great form - they are top of that table for the last eight matches - they have not actually done a great deal to boost the fantasy manager. But Larsson, the cheapest player to make the squad at a mere £5 million, has bucked that trend with 32 points thanks to the three goals he scored. But with Birmingham due to play Chelsea and Tottenham in the coming weeks it is not the best time to bring him into your squad.

The other two midfielders are Damien Duff of Fulham and, more surprisingly, Abou Diaby of Arsenal. Diaby, who makes the squad due to the enforced omission of others, missed the first game of the month but still makes it into the 15 with two goals and one assist.

Joining Tevez up front is another player from across the city - namely Wayne Rooney. Four goals and two assists put him on 31 points for the month. Completing the squad is Bobby Zamora of Fulham, who faces weeks out with a shoulder injury, and Ivan Klasnic of Bolton Wanderers. Klasnic is another player proving to be one of the fantasy gems of the season, priced at £6 million with a return of 26 points for December.

Along with Krancjar and Friedel, two other players had to be omitted from the squad to fit into the £100 million budget limit. Darren Bent of Sunderland and Arsenal's Andrei Arshavin both scored highly but proved too costly.

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