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Dashing for cover

We're only a month into the season but already injuries have hit the fantasy game again, and it seems even worse than last term.

The list of important players ruled out long-term seems to grow with every passing week, which has led to requests for additional transfers already. That didn't happen last season until January - and it remains a request that cannot be granted. Injury problems are frustrating; it's something you must factor in when using your transfer allocation.

There's a natural tendency to make a change as soon as a player is ruled out but it is important to take a number of factors into account. If a player is injured for just a couple of weeks, regardless of his cost, there is little point in wasting a transfer.

Take Frank Lampard or John Terry, for example. Both players may have missed two Premier League matches, but using up transfers in replacing them - and possibly another two in bringing them back - is folly come the end of the season when you could be desperate to switch your team around.

ESPNsoccernet's fantasy league is a squad game, and the bench can be used to protect your transfers by rotating short-term lay-offs. It's not so easy if you've chosen to fill your squad with the cheapest players in the game, thus creating a 'dead bench'. You'll never be successful with a 'dead bench' in the long run as you will always have to make transfers for injuries or suspensions or risk playing with less than 11 players.

It's also important to consider the fixture list. If you have a player out for three to four weeks, but their team has a clutch of difficult fixtures, then it's likely you'd leave him on your bench anyway. So why waste a transfer?

Some of the Premier League's top fantasy performers face time on the sidelines. We run down some of these stars, how long they face on the sidelines and whether a transfer would be wise or wasted.

Cesc Fabregas
As one of the premier players in the fantasy game, managers will be keeping a very close eye on the news of Fabregas' hamstring injury when he finally has his scan; with the player himself saying it could only be two weeks. Arsenal have a mixed fixture list over the next month, with trips to Chelsea and Manchester City plus home games against West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City. Factor in the international break too, and as long as Fabregas is back in time for the Birmingham match on October 16 there is little point in using up a transfer. Watch that space.

Theo Walcott & Robin Van Persie
Walcott began the season in electric form, and even though he has missed Arsenal's last two fixtures he remains the second top scoring midfielder with 32 points, second only to the irresistible Florent Malouda. After four goals in three games he became one of the most transferred players in the early weeks of the season. That trend will surely reverse in the coming weeks - even though he has yet to fall in value from his initial rise of £0.2 million.

Van Persie did not start the season quite as impressively with just eight points. Both players face at least another month on the sidelines and given their injury records a switch from Walcott to Michael Essien of Chelsea or Tottenham's Gareth Bale could prove beneficial. Van Persie is expensive at £10.4 million and Carlos Tevez of Manchester City or United's Dimitar Berbatov appear to bring much greater value.

Thomas Vermaelen
Arsenal have kept their cards very close to their chest on the length of the Belgian defender's absence, but with just two weeks to go until the international break he is unlikely to have an extended lay-off. Transferring him out of your side is likely to be a wasted transfer, but one to keep an eye on.

Bobby Zamora
It goes without saying that a player who faces around five months out of the game has to be sold. After being a popular cheap signing last season his broken leg and ligament damage mean he won't be seen until 2011. But there's a readymade replacement at Fulham in the form of summer signing Moussa Dembele, who is already something of a crowd favourite at the Cottage with two goals and two assists, and at £1.0 million cheaper than Zamora.

Mario Balotelli
It's remarkable that 664 managers have Balotelli in their side, considering he has not yet played a single Premier League game and is unlikely to for another month. A simple message for all those who are holding on to the young Italian striker: sell Balotelli and sell him now.

Aleksandar Kolarov
Most managers should have jettisoned Kolarov after he was injured just 45 minutes into the Premier League season. Manchester City now fear he will be out until November which means Micah Richards, who is £0.1 million cheaper, is worth bringing in as he is the top scoring defender after the Chelsea trio of Ashley Cole, Alex, Paulo Ferreira. Kolarov remains in 2,071 teams.

Jermain Defoe
The Spurs striker's early season form was hardly awe-inspiring, considering his sum fantasy total for the season is four points. His goalscoring with England suggested his club form should have been better. Defoe has already been dropped by 3,027 managers - and curiously signed by 783 teams in the same time period - and as the striker is out until the New Year his value is likely to continue to drop. Kenwyne Jones of Stoke City could be a replacement who will score goals from Stoke's aerial assault and who will be in few rivals' teams.

Michael Dawson
The Spurs defender will be out until the end of October at the earliest which means he must be replaced in your team. Dawson has dropped in value, so again it could be that Man City's Micah Richards is the best available replacement.

Antonio Valencia
The winger's horrific injury sustained against Rangers in the Champions League means he is unlikely to play too much this season, and it is vital that he is transferred out of your fantasy team before this Thursday's price fluctuations as he is sure to drop by £0.2 million. Valencia had scored just four points and so has already dropped in price. As one of the most expensive pre-season defenders there are plenty of other options though a spare £0.1 million to bring in Florent Malouda looks likely to bring the best return.

Dirk Kuyt
One of the most consistent fantasy performers of recent seasons is out until mid-October with a shoulder injury picked up on international duty. Liverpool's poor start to the season is reflected in his own disappointing score of nine points. While he will only miss two more games it may be a gamble holding on to the Dutch player. There may be better value elsewhere this term, with Gareth Bale once again being a leading option.


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