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May 7, 2011

April Squad of the Month

The final squad of the month is out, and after a barren month in March, April has brought five gameweeks and the highest-scoring month of the season.

It was a close fight to the Player of the Month award between the two leading midfielders, but it is Dirk Kuyt who just edges in front of Florent Malouda by a single point.

Kuyt has won the last two POTM awards, scoring a massive 71 points in the process - almost half his total for the entire campaign. Kuyt has long been a valuable fantasy selection, especially after being reclassified as a midfielder last season, but he began this term slowly.

Since gameweek 29, Kuyt has scored eight goals in seven weeks, contributing three assists along with four clean sheets. Throughout the rest of the campaign only he had four goals, four assists and eight clean sheets. He now has 154 points for the season.

Since we released the last squad of the month towards the end of March, Kuyt has now risen to a price of £9.1 million and is the number one transfer target for the remaining three weeks of the season. With only Chelsea showing better form since the turn of the year, fantasy managers are looking to Kuyt for that final push.

He has now moved above long-term consistent performers Nani and Clint Dempsey to be the second top scorer in the fantasy game.

But Kuyt will have to go some to take the Player of the Season award, as a late return to form has kept Malouda clear on 166 points, scoring just one point fewer than Kuyt this month on 40.

There are three Liverpool players in this squad, with Pepe Reina picking up the Goalkeeper of the Month award with 23 points. But he still remains behind Petr Cech, Joe Hart and Edwin van der Sar for total points. And Martin Skrtel picks up 26 points in defence.

Such has been Liverpool's upturn in fortunes that five of their players could have qualified for the squad, with Maxi Rodriguez (30) and Jamie Carragher (20) left out due to the three players from one team rule.

As discussed in last week's bargain basement feature, Malouda has struggled to keep much support in the transfer market despite never being out of the top few pointscoring players. This is largely due to Malouda's form coming in pockets at the start of the season, and now when we reach the climax of the campaign.

Malouda scored six goals in the first five gameweeks, and then managed just three more goals through to gameweek 31. Now he's found his scoring boots again, with four goals in April. That period where he failed to find the back of the net saw his value drop back down as fantasy managers sold, so some managers with transfers in hand have picked up a bargain recently. Malouda is the top scoring player yet there are still ten midfielders alone who are more costly - including a £9.7 million Steven Gerrard with less than half the points.

Despite Chelsea's good run only Malouda is in the squad. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard both had to be omitted as they were too expensive to fit within the £100 million budget.

It has definitely been a month for midfielders, with eight of the 15 players in the squad coming from that position.

Birmingham's Sebastian Larsson has been among the goals with three goals and an assist taking him up to 100 points for the campaign, but he is still short of the six Premier League goals he netted with Blues in 2007-08.

Tottenham's Rafael van der Vaart and Wigan's Charles N'Zogbia both scored 27 points, though it is the Latics player who brings the better value costing £3.3 million less. Everton's Leon Osman scored two fewer on 25. And completing the mammoth midfield we have another Birmingham player, Craig Gardner, and Fulham's Simon Davies who both scored 21 points.

The Defender of the Month award goes to Leighton Baines of Everton. It's his performance in attack as well as defence which has seen him become hot fantasy property. And with 37 points for April he was very close to being a rare defensive winner of Player of the Month.

Baines' form has seen him climb above the traditional defensive powerhouses of Nemanja Vidic and John Terry to be the top-scoring defender, quite an achievement for a player who hadn't kept a single clean sheet until gameweek six. He picked up three goals and two clean sheets in April.

Blackburn's Martin Olsson (21 points) and Ryan Shawcross of Stoke City (20 points) are the other two defenders.

The Striker of the Month is Arsenal's Robin van Persie. The Dutch forward scored four goals and contributed two assists for a total of 31 points. And the second striker is the best value striker in the game who has found his form once more under Roy Hodgson. Peter Odemwingie has outscored Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres this season, banged in four goals with two assists in April and is the fifth top-scoring striker.

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