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Aug 26, 2011

A Mata of ability

Chelsea have completed the signing Juan Mata from Valencia, a Spanish international winger proven as both a creator and scorer of goals.

Despite being part of Spain's World Cup-winning squad and also a key figure in this summer's European Under-21 Championship success, many will be unaware of what he offers fantasy managers.

Mata has reached double figures for assists twice in the last three seasons; in 2010-11 he notched 12 and in 2008-09 he achieved 13. His total over the three seasons is 29. Not many players would be able to match such a return.

Aside from Barcelona and Real Madrid players, who were involved in considerably more goals than other La Liga clubs, only Xabi Prieto of Real Sociedad had more assists last season. And in 2008-09, Mata came second overall in the assist chart, bettered only by Barca star Xavi.

Mata's assist record compares favourably with Premier League stats. Three seasons ago he would have had three more assists than any Premier League player - Frank Lampard and Robin van Persie both had ten. Last season, only Nani (14) and Didier Drogba (13) fared better.

Mata regularly gets among the goals too. With 28 goals in the last three seasons from a wide position - which breaks down as most recently eight goals, then nine and 11 - it's another significant string to his fantasy bow.

Mata will not be available on the cheap in the fantasy game and due to his previous record with Valencia has been added in at £8.5 million. That will mean Florent Malouda, Frank Lampard and Mata will all be among the most expensive midfielders in the game - but will they all play?

The other question concerns the player's match fitness, with the Spanish season having not yet started, and just how quickly he will be introduced into the starting line-up. He is available for the home game against Norwich City this weekend but it might be that he is used as a sub. Spain play Liechtenstein in a European Championship qualifier next weekend which could also help with his fitness.

Waiting for the player to be fully integrated by gameweek six could be the optimum tactic, but you don't want to miss out like many did with Rafael van der Vaart last season.

A Long story

After facing both Manchester United and Chelsea in their opening two gameweeks, most of West Brom's players have been fantasy lepers. That is, of course, apart from Shane Long, who scored in both of those games against last season's top two.

But now is the time to invest in the Baggies as they embark on a series of far more favourable fixtures.

In the next six gameweeks they host Stoke City, Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers, while they also travel to Norwich City, Swansea City and Sunderland.

West Brom can't be relied upon for defensive points but in the other half of the pitch there should be the chance for cheap points.

Long, a summer signing from Reading, is the only West Brom player to see a rise in value so far, which is matched by a rise in popularity. He's scored from both his shots on target so far against two of the best teams in the league, so there's every reason to suggest he can add to his tally.

He's already risen in price by £0.4 million, and that will surely rise again this weekend after his goal at Chelsea. Definitely one to invest in sooner rather than later.

A goalkeeper in Vorm

Few would have predicted unknown Swansea City player Michel Vorm would top the goalkeeper scoring charts after two weeks of the season - especially after he let in four goals in the first game.

However, against Manchester City he made 12 saves, a record number for the Premier League, earning him four points. Add to that the penalty save and clean sheet against Wigan Athletic and you have to say that Vorm's start to the season has been out of the ordinary.

That said, Swansea do have home games against Sunderland, West Brom and Stoke City coming up. But even at a price of £4.8 million he is unlikely to provide a long-term return.

Early gameweeks often see less fashionable clubs' players towards the top of the points table, but this is a situation which rarely holds. The top three goalkeepers are Vorm, Norwich's John Ruddy and Tim Krul of Newcastle.

If you are looking for a goalkeeper who is not at the top end of the cost scale then Aston Villa's Shay Given may be the answer. He has already risen by £0.3 million since the start of the season but at £6.5 million, and games to come against Wolves, Everton, Newcastle, QPR and Wigan, he may well be the value keeper of the season.

• Follow me on Twitter: @dalejohnsonESPN

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