In search of value
The value fantasy league signings rarely come from the expensive players at one of the top clubs. But this season Chelsea are bucking that trend by having five out of the 18 players to offer the best points return for your money.
Go back 12 months to this point last season, and Chelsea could only supply two of the players to make the list. But they have been so dominant - especially in defence, that it has been impossible to have a successful fantasy season without owning three players from Stamford Bridge.
Manager Choo Clarence holds an eight point lead at the top of the overall standings on 407 points and he has Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda and Alex in his squad and has been aided a superb transfer move for Rafael van der Vaart. Every team in the top ten has three Chelsea players.
The best value for money player is currently Joe Hart of Manchester City, largely due to his understudy's value at the beginning of the season. Hart has already gone up £0.5 million in the four weeks of value fluctuations and is now worth £4 million. He will almost certainly be worth £5 million by the end of next month and out of the realms of a true bargain by Christmas. His 32 points have come at 8.00 points per million spent, well ahead of the next best (Alex).
Hart was also the best value goalkeeper at this point last season, though next term there's no chance of getting him for such a steal.
But Hart is not the top-scoring goalkeeper in the game, that accolade goes to Chelsea's Petr Cech. With 36 points at a cost of £6.9 million he's the third best value 'keeper, costing 5.22 points per million. Cech already has five clean sheets and has conceded just two goals all season. He might be expensive, but you cannot see Chelsea's defensive dominance changing any time soon.
Second for goalkeepers is Ali Al Habsi of Wigan Athletic. After Antolin Alcaraz was the Defender of the Month for September, there's another indicator for Wigan's improved form. Initially signed as back-up to Chris Kirkland, errors gave the Oman international his long-awaited chance in English football and he has excelled. With 21 points from five games, Al-Habsi has a better points-per-game ratio than both Hart and Cech. He's kept three clean sheets in those five appearances and at £3.5 million has earned 6.00 points per million.
Chelsea supply three of the best value defenders. Alex is now a certain starter following the sale of Ricardo Carvalho to Real Madrid and had a reserve's price at the start of the season. Alex, who has scored 38 points and is both the top scoring and the best value defender, costs £5.7 million at a return of 6.67 points per million.
Alex - who may miss the game against Aston Villa due to injury - has not changed in value since rising by £0.1 million in each of the first two fluctuation weeks. The explanation for this is that most managers already have three Chelsea players and do not want to swap out the likes of Ashley Cole, Drogba or Malouda to fit in Alex, despite his price tag. Alex's goal against Arsenal sent him to the top of the defensive points table.
The other Chelsea defenders in the top five for value are Ashley Cole (35 points, £6.9 million, 5.07 points per million, fourth) and Paulo Ferreira (23 points, £4.6 million, 5.00 points per million, fifth).
Antolin Alcaraz, another goalscoring defender, is second behind Alex with 5.25 points per million, scoring 21 points for his £4 million. Alcaraz has three clean sheets and one goal. Even though he has conceded 13 goals Wigan's defensive record has improved a great deal since the opening fixtures. The remaining defender is Manchester City's Kolo Toure with 25 points at a cost of £5.9 million, and he's in third.
Mirroring the defence, the top scoring midfielder is also the best value - and yet again it's a Chelsea player. Florent Malouda, clear of Drogba to be top overall points scorer, has gone up by £0.2 million in each of the four price fluctuations so far this season. That's a net rise in selections of 26,309 over the past four weeks. With 54 points at a cost of £9.3 million, he has scored 5.81 points per million making him the third best value player overall.
Blackpool skipper Charlie Adam is second among midfielders, weighing in with two goals and two assists for his 29 points at a cost of £5,5 million, worth 5.27 points per million. But for an own goal against Blackburn Rovers last month he would have an even better return.
Two players are in joint third with 5.20 points per million spent. Both costing £5 million with 26 points, Fulham's Simon Davies and Craig Gardner of Birmingham will not be in too many teams. Gardner will be the most popular, as he has risen £0.5 million from the start of the season - one of the biggest overall rises - while Davies remains at his opening price.
The last midfielder is Marc Albrighton of Aston Villa. A player who was so unknown that he was not even in the fantasy player list in July, Albrighton has 23 points but he is the cheapest midfielder in the game at £4.5 million. His first ever Premier League goal, scored at Tottenham last Saturday, puts him into this list at 5.11 points per million. He has started every Premier League game and also has two assists.
In a complete turnaround in fortunes from his first two seasons, the leading value striker is Bolton Wanderers' Johan Elmander. He scored three Premier League goals in the whole of last season - and he already has four this term in seven outings. It's tough trusting the Sweden international to continue that kind of form, though at 30 points for a cost of £6.1 million, that's 4.92 points per million, he proven to be a great wild card for some as shown by his rise in value of £0.1 million.
The Premier League's Player of the Month Peter Odemwingie has quickly marched up the points table as the seventh highest-scoring striker. With four goals already, his 27 points at a cost of £6.0 million are worth 4.50 points per million - making him the second-best value striker.
Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov comes in next at 3.96, with the top five strikers completed by Andrew Carroll of Newcastle (3.94) and Darren Bent (3.84). Bent was top of this category for strikers last season, and he yet again he continues to be a consistent and well-priced goalscorer.