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December Squad of the Month

Even if you take into account the fact that a gameweek was all but wiped out by the wintry weather, the December Squad of the Month is still a low-scoring one considering there were five gameweeks.

It is dominated by defenders, and only one of the 15 players comes from the traditional big four clubs - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.

And as a measure of how far Chelsea have fallen both in the Premier League and in fantasy, they have not had a single player in the squad for the past two months. Their players are no longer scoring certainties, and look more like a drain on the budget as teams in the lower reaches of the Premier League find more goals and clean sheets.

It doesn't happen very often, but a defender takes the Player of the Month award. Blackburn Rovers' Ryan Nelsen, with 27 points, scored five more points than any other player in December despite the club's off-field troubles. Nelsen only kept one clean sheet as Rovers conceded six goals in the month but, remarkably for a defender, contributed two goals and two assists.

The uncertainty at Rovers means a move for Nelsen, priced at £5 million, still looks a gamble - especially as he only scored 20 points in the opening 15 gameweeks of the season. They also face Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in two of their next three fixtures.

There are seven defenders in the squad, which has never before been seen, with two defenders from both Fulham and Sunderland. Chris Baird, classified as a defender in the game though often seen in midfield, is the classic fantasy red herring. He may have scored twice in one match in December, but they were his first goals for four years. Baird scored 22 points in December, and his overall total is only 38.

Aaron Hughes is the second Fulham player to earn a place, with his goal against West Ham United, along with two clean sheets, amounting to 19 points.

Fulham players may look a tempting prospect now, with Brede Hangeland on target in early January and Clint Dempsey also amongst the goals. And the Cottagers have a very favourable run of fixtures, which means bringing in some of their players for the next few gameweeks could give you an edge against your rivals.

Over the next five gameweeks, Fulham have home games against Stoke City and Newcastle United and also visit Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa. A trip to Liverpool is sandwiched in there, too, but there's no reason a player such as Dempsey or one of their defenders should not pick up plenty of points for their value.

Hangeland is now the second top-scoring defender in the game behind Nemanja Vidic, but at £5.1 million is considerably more expensive than other Fulham defenders. Hughes at £4.5 million provides much better value.

Sunderland's two defenders are Nedum Onuoha and Phillip Bardsley, with 20 and 17 points respectively. Bardsley gets into the squad as the best value for money player from a raft of players across all positions who scored 17 points for the month. Onuoha has proved to be one of the most popular signings of recent weeks, now priced at £5.3 million. Onuoha had three clean sheets for December.

Level with Baird on 22 points for the month was Stoke City's Robert Huth, who has now featured in two consecutive monthly squads. Stoke's improvement from the opening weeks of the season has been marked with Huth, now up to £5.0 million in price, scoring two goals and picking up one clean sheet from four appearances in December. Stoke play Bolton, Fulham, Sunderland and Birmingham over the next month, meaning Huth could make it a hat-trick of appearances.

The final defender in the squad is Everton's Seamus Coleman with 18 points. One of our bargain tips at the start of the season, Coleman is the fantasy league classic of a defender playing in midfield.

Only one goalkeeper makes the squad, and it's Tottenham's Heurelho Gomes, even though he only picked up one clean sheet in the month - his first since the opening day of the season.

The Midfielder of the Month is the departing Tim Cahill, who is now at the AFC Asian Cup with Australia. Cahill, who was Player of the Month for November, will not be on top of the scoring charts by the time he returns, stuck on 100 points for the rest of January. His score of 21 points is the lowest ever for the top midfielder.

Three midfielders have 19 points - Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Tom Cleverley (Wigan) and Jordan Henderson (Sunderland). The midfield is completed by Arsenal's Samir Nasri, the only representative from the traditional big fantasy clubs.

Even the forwards have failed to impress, with the Striker of the Month award shared by two Manchester City players on 19 points. Carlos Tevez, despite playing in only three gameweeks, scored three goals and also picked up an assist. Mario Balotelli, meanwhile, started in four of the five gameweeks but left it until the final match against Aston Villa to score the hat-trick which puts him into the squad.


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