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Friday, April 20, 2012
Crock of gold

Dale Johnson

Thursday was disastrous for fantasy managers as a player who was until this week the top-scoring defender was reportedly ruled out of the remaining fixtures with a hamstring injury. Everton's Leighton Baines was rested for the 4-0 home win over Sunderland in Gameweek 33, and suffered the injury in the FA Cup semi-final reverse to Liverpool last weekend. Meanwhile, Manchester United were defeating Aston Villa 4-0 which enabled Patrice Evra to pick up the clean sheet which took him to the top of the scoring charts ahead of Baines. Baines is no one-season wonder, hence his high ownership level of 29.1% before this week's news. Only Tottenham full-backs Benoit Assou-Ekotto (33.5%) and Kyle Walker (31.8%) - both of whom are enjoying their finest fantasy seasons - are owned by more managers. So far Everton have only confirmed that Baines will miss this weekend's match against Manchester United, a game many fantasy managers may not have picked Baines for. But the Liverpool Echo says his Premier League season is over due to a grade-two tear which usually leads to a four-week lay-off. The England international's performances for Everton had seen his price top 9.0 million recently after a run of five clean sheets in nine gameweeks. He also recorded a goal and an assist during this period. He now sits at 8.6 million - the most expensive defender in the game - meaning many managers are going to be caught with an expensive player they cannot get rid of if transfers have run dry. At the time of writing, only the two of the top ten managers have Baines in their squad. That is an indicator of tactics over points rather than a player's fantasy popularity and worth. He has dropped in ownership by 0.3% since the news; that is sure to rise but many managers may hold on to him for the next week in case he recovers. That may be wise with no official word from Everton and an negative fixture at Old Trafford. One player who is definitely out for the rest of the campaign is Arsenal's Mikel Arteta, with manager Arsene Wenger stating that the midfielder has "very serious" ankle ligament damage. Arteta has been both useful and frustrating throughout the fantasy campaign. He began the season at Everton, which meant he moved to Arsenal on transfer deadline day at a bargain price compared to midfielders at other top clubs. The former Everton's midfielder's season comes to an end while he is ranked 10th with a total of 142 points. He has scored seven goals and provided two assists, with his late winner at home to Manchester City providing his final attacking points of the campaign. Arsenal have only one other productive midfielder, with Theo Walcott ranked third with 177 points. His price has risen to 10.0 million - and the only other player who is in double figures is fellow Gunner Robin van Perise. One of the players to have enjoyed good form in recent weeks is the previously forgotten Yossi Benayoun. The Israel international has started the last three games, scoring against Wolves, and could have been a fantasy option. But this weekend he is barred from facing his parent club, being on loan from Chelsea. Perhaps now Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, brought in by many during his fine February performances, will get more football having not started a game since facing Newcastle on March 12. He has not scored an attacking point since February 4, scoring twice at home to Blackburn in a 7-1 win. There are also concerns over Chelsea's David Luiz, who went off in the FA Cup win over Spurs with a hamstring problem. He is definitely out of the Arsenal game this weekend, but it remains unknown how serious his injury is. So we go back to a player this column has suggested several times, Gary Cahill. Due to his price (6.0 million), and John Terry's injury problems, Cahill is now Chelsea's most popular defender in 14.7% of teams (Terry 10.3%, Luiz 5.6%). Those fantasy managers who have not yet turned to Cahill surely will now, with his performance against Barcelona on Wednesday showing he may yet turn out to be good enough for a top club. The final stop in the injury round-up is Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, who is also out of the final four gameweeks. Hennessey had been a value option, but over the last three months the Midlands club have shipped so many goals he is now ranked as the ninth-best goalkeeper. As a measure of his season before this, Hennessey still has more points than Liverpool's Pepe Reina, Manchester United's David de Gea and Chelsea's Petr Cech.

Double gameweek

Two teams have dual fixtures this week, but sadly for fantasy bosses neither team is likely to attract a scramble for their players. Aston Villa and Bolton play each other next Tuesday at Villa Park, in addition to their weekend games: Villa at home to Sunderland and Bolton entertaining Swansea. Unless you have kept back a basket full of transfers for the last few weeks, and have the capability to switch back again for the following gameweek when there will be a bumper 14 fixtures, don't go changing. • Follow me on Twitter: @dalejohnsonESPN

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