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Thursday, January 27, 2011
January Squad of the Month

Dale Johnson

Arsenal prove to be the dominant force in the Premier League fantasy Squad of the Month for the first time this season with no less than five players eligible for selection - and two of their players being the top points scorer for their position. Robin van Persie, who missed much of the first half of the season through injury, finally shrugged off the long-held tag of being a fantasy liability by being the Striker of the Month for January. He bagged six goals in the month - his first goals in the Premier League all season - along with an assist to score 31 points. Van Persie would have been the Player of the Month but for his missed penalty against Wigan Athletic at the weekend. The Gunners had three defensive candidates - the top-scoring defenders - but only two can be included due to the players-per-team rule. The Defender of the Month award is shared between two Gunners - Gael Clichy and Laurent Koscielny. They scored 24 points for the month, with four clean sheets from the four fixtures played. Johan Djourou has to be left out of the squad, with a yellow card picked up in gameweek 21 meaning he scored one point less than his two team-mates. Theo Walcott is the fifth Arsenal player who would have been eligible having scored 22 points from midfield in January, with one goal and two assists. Arsenal look a key investment over the remaining weeks of the fantasy season. They appear to be primed for a serious title challenge and their fixtures over the next couple of months are full of potential points. After entertaining an inconsistent Everton side at the Emirates next week, they then have a run of home games against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Stoke City, Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers. With the defence looking far more solid with Wojciech Szczesny - who would have been the Goalkeeper of the Month had he played in either gameweek 21 or 22 - between the sticks, those home games have a high chance of clean sheets. And at 3.5 million Szczesny is worth the gamble that he will keep his place. During that same period, Arsenal must go to Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion and Blackpool. The run-in looks slightly trickier but for now all fantasy managers should be looking to load up on Gunners. With Szczesny only playing half the games this month, the Goalkeeper of the Month gong is shared between Manchester City's Joe Hart, Steve Harper of Newcastle United and Fulham's David Stockdale - who all scored 17 points. We've had to include three goalkeepers in the squad as they are joint winners of the monthly award. Hart makes a return to the squad after being ousted by Heurelho Gomes of Tottenham Hotspur last month. His price keeps on rising and despite now being up to 5.7 million there's no sign of it stopping. This week he was still sixth in the list of net transfers for the most recent period. Harper makes his first appearance after being out injured for months, while Stockdale has been deputising for Mark Schwarzer as the Australia goalkeeper is at the Asian Cup. Alongside Clichy and Koscielny in the defence is Sunderland's Phil Bardsley, who was last week revealed as the best value for money player in the game. That has led to his price rising by 0.1 million this week but he remains a bargain signing. Bardsley is in the squad for the second consecutive month with 23 points and is now the sixth highest-scoring defender. Fulham's Brede Hangeland has hovered around the Squad of the Month for some time, consistently scoring well. He now he qualifies on 23 points and is up to fourth best of the season among defenders. Another Fulham player takes the Player of the Month award, with Clint Dempsey just edging in front of Van Persie with his appearance points against Liverpool on Wednesday night. Dempsey is now the third highest scorer in the game, contributing three goals - two coming against Stoke City last weekend - and an assist in January. Fulham have games against Newcastle and Aston Villa in the next two gameweeks, but must then take on Chelsea and Manchester City back-to-back which means investing in Dempsey has its risks. He's now priced at 7.1 million and is likely to rise further next week. Liverpool's Raul Meireles comes in second for the month in midfield with 25 points, scoring in each of the last two gameweeks and also getting an assist against Wolves. At 6.5 million, could he be a midfield bargain in the second half of the season under Kenny Dalglish? Completing the midfield with 24 points we have Nani of Manchester United plus Newcastle United captain Kevin Nolan. Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov has continued his rich vein of form throughout January, though he fell one point shy of Van Persie to be the top striker in January. That said, he had not scored any attacking points in the month until the final gameweek, when he plundered five goals in two games to put him ahead of Florent Malouda as the fantasy game's leading points scorer. Blackpool duo DJ Campbell and Gary Taylor Fletcher make up the 15 on 22 points, with Fernando Torres being omitted to keep within the 100 million budget. Other players left out either because of the budget or to accommodate the three goalkeepers are Ashley Young, Branislav Ivanovic and Fabricio Coloccini.

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