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The Toe Poke

The bargain basement

It's all change in the value for money squad despite there being just five weeks since the last update.

Only four of the 11 players from January have managed keep their place as value rises or a loss of form has its effect.

Taking over as the best value goalkeeper in the game is Birmingham City's Ben Foster, who has finally managed to usurp Joe Hart. Manchester City stopper Hart has been in the keeper's position for the whole season but his price is now at £6 million, from a starting point of just £3.5 million. While Foster's fee has risen too, it has not been so dramatic and he costs £5 million for his 16.60 point per million pounds spent (ppm).

Hart is only just behind on 16.50 ppm which still makes him the second best value for money goalkeeper.

Fulham defender Aaron Hughes, who did not even make the squad last time, has leapt to the top of defenders. Fulham's upturn in form has seen Hughes pick up three clean sheets in the last four gameweeks, and five in the last eight, for a current return of 16.44 ppm.

Hughes climbs to the top above last month's leader, Phil Bardsley of Sunderland. But Bardsley remains second with his value rating now at 16.00 ppm. Both Bardsley and Hughes are still available at £4.5 million, with Hughes having scored two points more.

The reason for Bardsley's drop to second is not down to his form on the pitch, but his popularity in the transfer market. Over the course of the last month he has risen in value by £0.5 million, despite not keeping a clean sheet since gameweek 22 as the two goals he has scored in that time have propped up his points total.

Another Fulham player, Brede Hangeland, makes his first appearance after being in the January Squad of the Month. Like Hughes, Hangeland has been on an excellent run of clean sheets and is now the fourth-highest scoring defender in the game. A goal in gameweek 22 helped him up to 15.18 ppm.

The final defender, on 15.37 ppm, is Robert Huth of Stoke City, one of the players to keep his place. His consistent goalscoring - he already has six this season - has earned him 48 of his 83 points to date.

Charlie Adam of Blackpool makes his first appearance of the season - and has shot to the very top to be clear as the best value for money player in the game thanks to the goal he scored against Tottenham on Tuesday.

Adam is now on a run of four goals and two assists in the last four gameweeks: 36 points over that span of games will be among the best in the game. Adam would have been a steal at £5.7 million had he joined Liverpool in the January transfer window, but his form of late does not suggest his performances have been affected and he remains the best bet for consistent scoring from the budget players.

Blackpool have a run of fixtures from which they might expect to take points, despite their recent inconsistent run. Three of their following four games are away from home, which seems to suit manager Ian Holloway better, as Blackpool travel to Wolves, Blackburn and Fulham, with a home match against Chelsea to be considered too.

Then, of Blackpool's remaining seven games, five of them are at home including four in a row. There has to be the fantasy points within those fixtures to make a punt on Adam worthwhile. Even if Blackpool do not get the results they need to stay in the Premier League, they will be expected to score goals, with Adam the creative influence.

However, Adam picked up his tenth booking of the season against Tottenham so will miss their next two fixtures. Fantasy managers must wait until he is available again.

Adam is joined in the team by fellow Blackpool player DJ Campbell, who is now the best value for money striker. That honour had belonged to Bolton's Johan Elmander for the rest of the season but he has suffered a dramatic loss of form and has not scored a goal since gameweek 19, that one being his one goal since gameweek 14. Elmander is quite rightly being dumped by fantasy managers and his price is beginning to fall back down.

Despite Elmander's woeful recent form he remains the fourth highest-scoring striker, which underlines just how good he was at the start of the season, though he is now being caught by Aston Villa's Darren Bent.

DJ Campbell, priced at just £5.6 million and scoring points at 14.29 ppm, had gone three gameweeks without a goal before netting against Spurs but, before that, he had scored five goals in five gameweeks. It would still be a gamble to go with Campbell at this stage of the season, but you would be better off with him than Elmander.

The second striker is West Bromwich Albion's Peter Odemwingie, who just missed out on the team last month. Despite the Baggies being unable to find a win, Odemwingie has been a consistent points scorer with 79 for the season at 13.16 ppm. He has three goals and an assist the last five gameweeks, but with new manager Roy Hodgson likely to adopt a more defensive style, and games against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea on the horizon, now is not the time to go with the Nigeria international.

West Bromwich Albion winger Jerome Thomas has risen from nowhere to be in the team. Last month, Jordan Henderson of Sunderland led the way, but now he has been pushed down to second on 16.17 ppm. Henderson has not earned any points for goals, assists or clean sheets since gameweek 21.

Thomas has hardly been prolific himself but he is one of the cheapest midfielder in the game at £4.5 million, earning a return of 16.22 ppm. A run of two goals and three assists in recent gameweeks may have sent his value soaring, but there's little to suggest Thomas, and West Brom, are a team to be placing your fantasy future on.

To complete the squad we go back to the midfield to find a reappearance from Birmingham's Craig Gardner, who earns a return more because of his falling popularity than form. After initially rising in value following a run of three goals in two games at the start of the season, Gardner has been offloaded by most managers and is now the cheapest midfielder in the game at £4.2 million. He's netted only twice since gameweek three and has not provided an assist all season.

Dropping out of the team are: Joe Hart (Man City), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Ahmed Al Muhammadi (Sunderland), Simon Davies (Fulham), Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa), Matthew Etherington (Stoke), Kevin Nolan (Newcastle) and Johan Elmander (Bolton).

You can now follow me on Twitter: @dalejohnsonESPN


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