This was the week when the Juggernaut momentum kicked into overdrive, with a shrewd use of the Free Hit chip enabling Jeeves to join the 100 club, delivering a score of 110 and leapfrogging Flash into second place. Investing £12.5m in the non-returning Kane and sticking with the ponderous Pogba was offset by a big 18 points for Laporte and Eden Hazard overcoming being benched in the first match to deliver 15 points after the second. Outscoring Flash by 42 points enabled Jeeves to fly into second, a far cry from the 8th place he languished in just before Christmas. Jeeves has long-followed his hero Alex Ferguson’s management style, ensuring that his team is primed for the home straight, and he has positioned himself almost-perfectly to challenge Dinga at the top. Even if he is ultimately unsuccessful, his current overall ranking of 187,842 would be his highest-ever overall position in FPL, which would have to be seen as progress.
However, Dinga won’t be unduly concerned. Extending his lead over Jeeves by 14 points and his lead at the top of the League of Gentlemen to 24 points, the Ringers will be ready for the challenge. A big score of 124 gave Dinga a gameweek rank of 11,736, and an overall ranking of 120,228. For all Jeeves’ experience of coming from behind to win, Dinga matches it with his knowledge of controlling a lead at the top. Since I joined the League of Gentlemen, they are tied with two victories each, although Jeeves promises he won the League of Gentlemen over Dinga in the precursor for the present format the season before, and that the actual scores are 3-2 in his favour. I couldn’t confirm either way; all I know is they have both beaten me to the title twice. The key in the title race will be chip management. Both appear to be setting-up to Wild Card in GW 34, ahead of a Bench Boost in GW 35, and so player selection will be crucial. Dinga has the lead right now, which gives him the edge, knowing he can pick the ‘safe’ players and it’s not on him to find extra points. Will Jeeves go for differentials in an attempt to make up the gap? If so, his judgement will have to be better than GW 32, where his choices of Knockaert and Kane returned 7 points, in comparison to Dinga’s difference-makers, Milivojevic and van Aanholt, who returned 27 points. It’s no coincidence that the gap at the top is 24 points, which is the same as the difference in those players added to Jeeves’ traditional weekly hit.
Of course, GW 33 could see Jeeves overhauling Dinga at the top, forcing Dinga to chase the points. Both players have very similar squads, but Dinga’s Rondon over Jeeves’ Higuain could prove to be crucial. The betting man would predict Jeeves replacing Pogba, and who he replaces him with will be key, but the studied League of Gentlemen observer won’t be surprised if he hinders himself by taking another hit to replace Higuain or one of his two West Ham defenders. The question is, with a 24-point gap, can he afford to? Especially when Dinga has the advantage of still having his Triple Captain card, and knowing Liverpool play Huddersfield in GW 36?
Exciting times in the race for the title but, while we talk like it’s a two-way fight, Flash won’t have given up hope. 41 points is a big gap to make up, and adding to BolyBogleBong’s problems is only having six players eligible for GW 33. Flash faces a season-defining choice this week: he can Wild Card now, in order to keep challenging for the title, but at the risk of leaving himself with several single-gameweek players in GW 35; or he can go for the Wild Card GW 34, Bench Boost GW 35 strategy. His major problem is that, with such a large (and likely extended) gap to make up and with only 6 weeks to do it in, he’s going to have to look for differentials, because a similar squad to the top two will do him no favours. Flash has had some success with differentials – his choice of Guaita in goal this week brought him 4 more points than Dinga and Jeeves’ choice of Kepa – but it’s asking a lot for him to get enough marginal calls right to overhaul the deficit. Improbable, but not impossible.
Behind him, both Who Horner and Big Steve will be hoping he makes several hits to get a team out, with both believing he is there to be caught. Who Horner narrowed the gap to third to just 18 points, but has only five eligible players for GW 33, and only his Triple Captain chip left to play. Who Horner is an experienced FPL manager, with five seasons under his belt and an overall ranking of 226,527 two seasons ago – higher than two-time (he’d say three) League of Gentlemen winner Jeeves has ever accomplished. He’s finding out, though, that the League of Gentlemen is a whole different level of pressure. What’s remarkable is that Who Horner hasn’t taken a hit all season; whether he changes that approach or stands by his philosophy could determine his final placing. Big Steve lies 35 points off third, with seven eligible players this weekend, although there are injury doubts over Pedro. Big Steve isn’t shy of a hit where necessary, and a -8 wouldn’t be off the cards. While it would extend the gap to third to 43 points, with the right moves that gap could be narrowed, especially given the lack of players both Flash and Who Horner are struggling with. Big Steve is another with only his Triple Captain remaining – will we see either him or Who Horner deploy them this weekend, in an attempt to neutralise their lack of players?
Which brings us to the Last Stand. Despite a dismal second half of DGW 32, with Rashford, Sterling and triple-captain Aguero not playing, a big deflection costing us two clean sheets and Pogba playing like Mourinho was still his manager, we managed to sneak into the 100 club by virtue of Jimenez being awarded the second assist. Now only 11 points off Big Steve and 28 behind Who Horner, we remain in sixth place, but the deficit has been reduced dramatically. We fancy our chances of, at least, overhauling Big Steve this weekend and, if Who Horner refuses to hit, we believe there’s an outside chance of overtaking him too. Preparing for the weekend has been tough, with our lack of a Wild Card meaning any transfers had to be made with DGW 35 in mind, in order to make best use of our Bench Boost. So, after far too little deliberation and in the heat of the moment after Arsenal savaged Newcastle on Monday night, we’ve made a triple swoop for three of Unai Emery’s chief lieutenants. Out go Jimenez, Aguero and Wan-Bissaka, in come Kolasinac, Lacazette and the main man Aubameyang. Aubameyang for Aguero in GW 33 has been the plan for several weeks, but the transfer of Kolasinac for Wan-Bissaka was brought forward due to the fact Palace simply will not keep a clean sheet at St. James’ Park on Saturday. Almiron is too elusive, Rondon is too destructive, and Newcastle have won every match at home – five wins in five – since Florian Lejeune returned from injury.
Bringing in both Aubameyang and Lacazette may be seen as a gamble, especially given Arsenal’s away form and them having four away games from six remaining, but away from home against the bottom 14, both Lacazette and Aubameyang have 8 returns from 8 matches. With that knowledge, Arsenal’s very favourable run-in and their delightful DGW 35 fixtures, we feel they are the men to fire the Last Stand up the table. There is regret over opting to sell Jimenez instead of Rashford, but we feel that Manchester United fighting for fourth will give Rashford the edge. It’s one of them big calls we need to get right. The Last Stand have taken an eight-point hit, but we only need Aubameyang and Lacazette to score eight points between them to cover that, given they are replacing non-playing players. Given their partnership, and Everton being Everton, there’s every chance they both hit double figures. Even if they don’t, they should give us an edge in the crucial double-gameweek in a fortnight.
Given where we were four weeks ago, it’s remarkable we even have a chance of top 4. In the back of our minds, we fancy ourselves to catch Flash and pinch third. Big Steve and Who Horner will both back themselves to do the same. At the top, we look set for an epic war between the two that have split the last four (Jeeves would say five) titles, one that could go right to the death. Flash will fancy himself to overcome all the odds and break up the Dinga-Jeeves duopoly. So much to play for. So much on the line. So many emotions will be experienced. It’s the stuff dreams, and nightmares, are made of.