The worst buys of the season
Inspired by an email from John Culea, one of the fantasy game's most avid followers, and with the end of the season firmly in sight, it's time to name and shame the players who failed to live up to their hard-earned reputations.
Some players are the hugely expensive ones who have failed to live up to their price tags. And then we have the fantasy sure-fire bets, the players who have produced in previous seasons but have suddenly become deadwood. Differing reasons, but both fantasy frustrations that can ruin your team.
John sent in his own suggestions for the worst fantasy players of the season, and his selections can be found at the foot of the article.
Manuel Almunia - £5.5m - 19 points
Almunia began the season in an uncertain position with Arsenal tracking Mark Schwarzer, but with no new signing he seemed a good buy. He started the season in goal but kept just one clean sheet in the opening six weeks before a series of errors saw him dropped due to injury, we were told. He only reappeared in gameweek 30 due to other injuries, which saw many fantasy managers bring him back in, but within two games, and amid more gaffes, he was back out of the team with Jens Lehmann wearing the gloves. Arsenal's original first choice played eight games, kept two clean sheets and scored only 19 points.
Brad Friedel - Aston Villa - £5.4m - 54 points
Last season Villa were one of the best defensive teams in the Premier League. With 15 clean sheets, only Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool could boast a better record. It's been a very different story for Friedel this time with only six clean sheets and 58 goals conceded. Villa let in only 39 goals in 2009-10 - only just over a goal a game.
Jamie Carragher - £6m - 59 points
One of the fantasy greats: consistent, high-scoring and a certain selection for a top club. Most of that still applies to Carragher this season, except Liverpool have been unable to keep up their usual standards at the back. Carragher has not lost any of his original value, showing a surprising level of loyalty from fantasy managers. Carragher may never have been a goalscorer, but he could always have been relied upon for clean sheets. He missed ten gameweeks through injury and has ten clean sheets, but conceded 27 goals in his other 16 appearances.
Aleksandar Kolarov - Man City - £5.2m - 43 points
Although Kolarov did miss several weeks through injury at the start of the season, he has offered little to fantasy managers. Although he has one goal to his name, he has recorded no assists despite being a regular crosser of the ball when coming up from left back. In 20 starts, Kolarov has five clean sheets and has conceded 21 goals. Man City have 16 clean sheets in total, the most in the Premier League, meaning they have a better defensive record without Kolarov.
Carlos Cuellar - Aston Villa - £5.5m - 9 points
It's remarkable that a player considered to be part of one of the best defences in the Premier League could not even manage double figures this term. Cuellar has only ten starts, with two sub appearances - and is unable to get into the team under Gerard Houllier. He started 36 games last season.
Rio Ferdinand - Man United - £5.9m - 56 points
Injuries have taken their toll on Ferdinand and that's despite Man United having the second most clean sheets in the Premier league, with Ferdinand featuring in half of them with eight. His price tag and United's unpredictable selection policy should have made fantasy managers replace him but he has held on to most of his value.
Sebastien Squillaci - Arsenal - £5.5m - 39 points
One of two new central defenders to be signed by Arsenal last summer, Squillaci has been the most disappointing of the Gunners' defenders in a shaky season at the back. Squillaci has started 19 of Arsenal's games but has only five clean sheets. Anyone bringing in Squillaci following the injury to Thomas Vermaelen hoping to pick up clean sheets will have made a mistake.
Cesc Fabregas - £11m - 87 points
A return of 87 points is not what you would call disastrous, but you have to remember that at £11 million Fabregas is the most expensive midfielder in the game. Then you only have to compare this season to last. In 2009-10 he produced 15 goals and 13 assists, this term it is just three goals to his 11 assists. And he has only featured in two fewer Premier League matches.
Steven Gerrard - £9.6m - 77 points
Gerrard has been a pariah of the fantasy world this season, losing £1.4 million of his original value. A return of four goals is his worst in the Premier League since 2003-04, when he also scored four goals, but he has fewer assists this season with five. That Liverpool have hit their best form of the season without Gerrard may say a lot about a player who turns 31 at the end of the month.
Aaron Lennon - Tottenham - £7.9m - 83 points
Spurs' flying winger has provided only two Premier League assists all season despite the club's all-attacking style. After providing nine assists last season it was not beyond the realms of possibility that he would push on this term. Without a goal since scoring in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle in January or an assist since a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Boxing Day, it has been a 2011 to forget so far.
Joe Cole - Liverpool - £7.8m - 38 points
The appearance of this third Liverpool player will come as little surprise to most. Emerging from the wreckage of England's World Cup campaign to much fanfare at Anfield, he promptly got sent off against Arsenal and managed just two goals and one assist. With only eight starts and ten appearances from the bench Cole has been, in terms of potential, the worst fantasy player of the season. He lost £0.7m of his value.
James Milner - Man City - £6.2m - 75 points
Milner started the season in fine form, picking up nine points in a 3-0 win for Aston Villa against West Ham. Shortly after he got an assist on his Man City debut. Since then he has mustered four assists and has not managed a single goal for the Eastlands club. That is on the back of seven goals and 12 assists for Villa last term. No wonder he dropped from an opening price of £8 million down to £6.2 million.
Mario Balotelli - £9.5m - 46 points
Everyone was aware that madcap striker Balotelli was injured when he arrived at City, but even since returning he has not played enough games to justify the price. He has a return of a goal every other game from his 12 starts, which is up there with the best, but too often has he not been in the team or even the squad.
Jermain Defoe - £6.9m - 49 points
Defoe has endured one of his most disappointing campaigns of recent seasons with a measly four Premier League goals and two assists. Granted, he spent time on the sidelines injured and has been limited to 20 Premier League appearances, but he has rarely looked like getting into form. Compare this to 2009-10 when he plundered 18 goals. It is the first time since 2005-06 (nine goals) that he has not made double figures and is his worst ever top-fight campaign.
Gabriel Agbonlahor - Aston Villa - £7.9m - 53 points
Another victim of Villa's reversal in fortunes, Agbonlahor has scored just three goals this season with one additional assist. His stock has fallen to such an extent that he can no longer get a place in the Villa side. Agbonlahor netted 45 goals in his previous four seasons, and 13 in 2009-10. He will not be on the fantasy wanted list at the start of the next campaign.
John Culea's Selections:
Scott Carson - 24 fantasy points, 52 goals conceded and six missed games.
Brad Friedel - 53 points, 57 conceded goals and one missed game.
William Gallas - 26 points, 35 conceded goals, no goals.
Richard Dunne - 32 points, 43 conceded goals, no goals scored. Once a rock.
Gonzalo Jara - 11 points, 43 conceded goals, no goals scored and 8 missed matches.
Nicky Shorey - 6 points, 40 goals against, no goals scored and 11 missed matches.
James Milner - 71 points, one goal scored with six missed matches. Anonymous
Steed Malbranque - 61 points, zero goals scored with three missed games.
Nigel Reo-Coker - 48 points, no goals scored and nine missed matches.
Danny Murphy - 83 points, no goals with three missed games.
Lucas - 64 points, zero goals with six missed games.
Gabriel Agbonlahor - 53 points, three goals scored and 11 missed games.
Mourane Chamakh - 72 points, seven goals and nine missed games.
Victor Obinna - 56 points, three goals and 11 missed matches.
David Hoilett - 51 points, four goals and 14 missed matches.
• The only positive thing about the above 15 is that their total salaries come to only £82.7 million; confirmation of ESPN's accurate devaluation of their talents. There are several dishonourable mentions, including Michael Essien, once an explosive attacking force for Chelsea who has only netted three goals this season. Joleon Lescott was also a goalscorer before he went to Man City and has only one this season with 51 points, but has missed 17 matches. And then there is Fernando Torres, 77 points to Week 25 and in the last 12 weeks, a total of just 25.