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Friday, June 3, 2011
ESPNsoccernet: June 2, 10:12 PM UK
Fantasy Squad of the Season

Dale Johnson

Manchester United may have walked away with the Premier League title, but it's a Chelsea player who is the fantasy league Player of the Season. He may have only excelled at the very start and end of the campaign, but Florent Malouda managed to hold off a late surge from Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt to top score with 171 points. Malouda scored 13 goals this season, six of them coming in the opening five gameweeks and a further four in gameweeks 32 to 34. While the midfielder may have scored the most points, he certainly was not a fantasy favourite. The France international's finishing price of 8.5 million shows no difference from the start of the season, with his price fluctuating wildly to reflect his excellent start and disappointing middle section of the campaign. Players such as Malouda are incredibly frustrating. It's consistency which is truly key to fantasy success; while a player who starts the season scoring six goals in five games is a valuable asset, if they do not continue to score regularly they then hog a place in the squad. Malouda certainly falls into the category, hence why many managers sold him towards the end of 2010 and forced his price into negative equity. For Kuyt it's a different story. While many managers may have opted for the Liverpool midfielder in their original selection, the Reds' malaise under Roy Hodgson would soon have led to him being dumped. So Kuyt may not have provided that key consistency but, by coming into form at the end of the season, many fantasy bosses will have taken advantage of his form at the right time. Kuyt has been a key fantasy performer for many years, always finishing towards the top of the scoring charts. Only four goals and four assists by gameweek 28 went completely against his past form, and while some will have been caught out by his hat-trick in gameweek 29, those with transfers remaining will surely have brought Kuyt in to enjoy the six goals he scored - most importantly in six separate gameweeks - and three assists to almost catch Malouda. Consistency is often more important than "glut" scoring because such players only get the bare appearance points most weeks, keeping out another player who may be scoring goals or providing assists. The net return from that "glut" could be higher with more regular scorers. As usual, the midfield has proven vital with a total of five midfielders scoring more points than the best player from any other position. Nani was the top-scoring Manchester United player, but another player who was unable to sustain a consistent level of performance. The return to fitness of Antonio Valencia saw him marginalised for much of the run-in and though Nani scored nine goals this season, he did not get a single one after gameweek 27. A popular selection was Fulham's Clint Dempsey, with managers in the United States backing their countryman. Dempsey enjoyed his best ever season - scoring 12 goals - which has led to speculation over a move to Serie A. A final price of 8.3 million for a player who started the season at 6 million is testimony to his consistent popularity. His goals came spread across the campaign and kept him towards the top of the midfield scorers throughout. One of the signings of the season in the real world also turned out to be a fantasy success. When Rafael van der Vaart was fit to play, he did not go two consecutive gameweeks without scoring a goal until week 21 - and even then he scored in his next match. With 13 goals from midfield, and eight assists, he had one of the best points-per-game returns. His injuries were frustrating and more often than not he would not make it through a whole game, Bbt a return of 149 points when he made 28 starts is outstanding. Completing the midfield is a Scotland international who seems certain to be back in the Premier League next season: Blackpool's Charlie Adam. Priced at 6.6 million, only one player in this squad is cheaper than him, showing great value for his 146 points, which came via 12 goals and eight assists. It was a close run thing for Striker of the Season, with Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov both scoring 21 Premier League goals (the goals reassigned to own goals do not affect fantasy). Both players found themselves out of the Manchester City and United teams respectively towards the end of the season for differing reasons but Tevez's two additional assists proved crucial as he scored 148 points to Berbatov's 147. Darren Bent, with 141 points, scored his 17 goals for Sunderland and Aston Villa and continues to be a valuable fantasy striker, though the possible sales of Stewart Downing and Ashley Young could affect his supply line for 2011-12. The cheapest player in the squad is also the Defender of the Season, with Fulham's Brede Hangeland edging in front. Hangeland's success came down to the two goals he scored against Birmingham City in the penultimate game of the season, as well as a clean sheet, which earned him 22 points in that match alone. In total, he scored six goals and kept 13 clean sheets for 126 points. Hangeland's end of season performances put him one point ahead of Leighton Baines. The Everton left-back's five goals and 11 assists combined are very rare for a defender but that was offset by only nine clean sheets. The defence is completed by Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic (122 points) and Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic (119 points). The Goalkeeper of the Year, by a healthy margin of 11 points on 140, was Manchester City's Joe Hart. He effectively doubled in price across the course of the season as he proved to be one of the most popular signings. With 18 clean sheets and 23 save points there was no contest between the sticks. Petr Cech was the only stopper close to Hart, on 129 points with 15 clean sheets.


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