Counting the cost
Ten weeks after our last update of the Premier League fantasy bargains we've seen some new faces force their way into the reckoning, while others are proving to be real value for money across the season.
Midfielders have now emerged as the clear leaders in terms of points gained compared to money spent. At one stage it looked as though strikers would return to their former position of power, but now midfielders are out in front.
There's no real change at the top, with both Joe Hart and Thomas Sorensen continuing to prove the value additions. This time, however, it's Hart who is the best value for money player in the entire game, with a return of 14.47 points per million spent.
Though Hart may be second to Aston Villa's Brad Friedel in points scored, he is £1.1 million cheaper. A run of five clean sheets from his last nine appearances has earned a return of 37 points.
While Sorensen remains in the top two, the clean sheets have dried up at Stoke City. Sorensen has not picked up a clean sheet since gameweek 14, and only two overall since gameweek four.
That means he is quickly being caught by Friedel on value. Friedel is now up to 12.76 points per million, with Sorensen on 13.13 points.
Back at the start of November, Graham Alexander's goalscoring exploits had sent him to the top of the value for money standings. But with no clean sheets and just one goal in the interim period, the Burnley defender has now dropped out completely.
The honour for top defender falls to Birmingham's Stephen Carr. And it is the St Andrew's side which dominates the value ratings at the back, joining goalkeeper Hart. Of the top five defenders, three of them belong to Blues.
Carr (13.50 points) and Roger Johnson (13.33 points) take the top two positions. Like Hart, they have picked up five clean sheets in recent weeks to make them the perfect fantasy makeweight for bigger names. The other Birmingham player is Liam Ridgewell on 11.50 points who takes fifth place.
There's a surprising name in third place, that being Jody Craddock of Wolverhampton Wanderers. He's defied the criticism of this column, advising not to bring in a player with a suspect goalscoring record. He's now up to four goals this term and while he may be 13th in terms of total points he's third on value.
A second Villa player takes the final place, with Richard Dunne's finishing at the other end of the field making him the top scoring defender and the fourth best on value.
Falling out of the defensive positions are Aston Villa's James Collins, Thomas Vermaelen of Arsenal and Stoke's Abdoulaye Faye.
The top two scoring players in the game are midfielders, but the price tag on the shoulders of Cesc Fabregas and Frank Lampard mean they do not represent the best value.
Back in November, a Burnley player managed to top this position too. But, just like Graham Alexander, Robbie Blake has fallen away. Blake has not even started a match since gameweek 16 which no longer makes him a viable midfield purchase. Even though Blake actually used to play with new Clarets boss Brian Laws back in his Darlington days, it seems unlikely he will see much game time.
Again, Birmingham players dominate. Sebastian Larsson's form has improved greatly and he is the top value for money midfielder at 14.20 points per million, placing him just ahead of Lee Bowyer (14.15). Larsson, a goal scorer as well as a set piece taker, has picked up three goals, one assist plus four clean sheet points since gameweek 14. Bowyer has a goal less.
Hull City's Stephen Hunt, linked with a move away from the KC Stadium to balance the books, is in third. His price of £5.6 million comes at a return of 78 points.
The first and only player to come from the traditional 'Big Four' is Abou Diaby of Arsenal. Previously not thought of as a player capable of picking up attacking points, the France international has weighed in with two goals and two assists in recent weeks, pushing him on to 70 points at a value rating of 13.46 points per million spent.
Completing the midfield five is Charles N'Zogbia, maybe the biggest surprise of all. With three goals in six appearances he is now on to 72 points at a cost of £5.5 million. Would you really be confident of that form continuing? That's doubtful unless you're Roberto Martinez who has compared him to World Player of the Year Lionel Messi.
Andy Reid of Sunderland, Bolton's Tamir Cohen and Stoke City player Matthew Etherington drop out of the value rankings.
The top value striker is Steven Fletcher at Burnley, with 11.58 points per million after scoring 66 points at a cost of £5.7 million. Despite Fletcher's overall form - he's bagged five goals this term - he has not scored since gameweek 14 as the Clarets have gone off the boil. It's hard to be confident of the striker rediscover his scoring touch.
Darren Bent, who led the standings last time, is now second as he continues to prove one of the fantasy signings of the season. He is also the second top scoring striker and fourth overall.
The final player is Louis Saha of Everton. He remains a gamble due to his injury problems, but with Everton's form improving a return of 10.56 points per million makes him a viable option.
Hugo Rodallega's missed penalty against Wolves at the weekend costs him his place.