I don’t understand how this season is going so badly. I look at my squad and I think, yeah, this is a quality squad. There are few changes I would make to it. Even those – I wouldn’t mind Aubameyang – would have to be offset by selling players I want to keep, like a Salah or Sterling. So I look at it and think, there’s not really that much I would change in Lawezarus Rising. Yet, here we are. Seven gameweeks in, over a hundred points off Big Steve at the top of the table, and sixteenth in the League of Gentlemen.
All my big talk about being sixth by the international break looks downright foolish now. For that to occur, I’d have to beat the Oxsmorons, and every team behind them, by 36 points in Gameweek 8. I’m struggling to even get 36 points in a gameweek, never mind outscore ten teams by that many. This season has been a true FPL Nightmare. Everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong and, right now, I can’t wait for gameweek 38 so I can slink off and retire in shame, like I should’ve done last season. I’m sick of the game, thoroughly sick of it. I spend far too much time thinking about it and, with writing a weekly review of the League of Gentlemen, I spend far too much time focusing on and analysing all of my failures.
They say the reason right-wing politics and free-market economics are so alluring to those lower down on the income scale, when centre-left and left wing ideologies are designed to help those people, is because those people lower on the income bracket don’t see themselves as poor, but as temporarily-embarrassed millionaires who will one day be rich, that they see themselves as only temporarily in their current predicament when the reality is they’ll likely be there for their entire lives, as the current system is designed to discourage social mobility, whatever the propaganda states. I think this is true of my FPL management too. Bar one year where I came fourth, I’ve always been sixth or lower. This year, sixteenth, is uncharacteristically bad, and is compounded by Big Steve’s remarkable start, but being miles off the title is nothing new. It’s time to accept the truth.
I’m not unlucky at FPL. I, Andrew Lawes, am a piss-poor FPL manager.
The more I reflect upon my performance, the more I realise the year I came fourth was the outlier. My Alan Pardew finishing fifth with Newcastle moment. My David Moyes getting Everton into a Champion’s League qualifier moment. My Sam Allardyce being England manager for one game moment. I picture myself as Kevin Keegan, but I’m Ruud Gullit. I wish to be Bobby Robson, but I’m Graeme Souness. I feel like I can be Alan Shearer, but I’m barely Shola Ameobi.
When it comes to the League of Gentlemen, I am Steve Bruce. An antiquated, seat-of-the-pants, chop-and-change dinosaur in a game that has evolved into one of tactics, of forward planning, of systems, formulas, statistics and numbers. Someone who is eternally one week from getting it right, one hit from the perfect team, one stroke of luck from going on a run.
As much as it hurts to say, I’m simply not good enough.
This truth leaves me with two options. I can give up, resign from the League of Gentlemen, delete my team and retire from Fantasy Premier League, as I intended to do last season. This would be the easiest, perhaps best, thing to do. I’d gain the time I spend on these reviews to work on other, more important projects. I’d lose the stress the game causes me through the weeks, and there’d be no more anguish at the weekends. This is the sensible option to take. The other option is to fight. To stay in the division, to change my approach, and to see where it leads us. This is the hard option, because I’ve already tried to change my strategy, and I’ve failed. In seven weeks, I’ve already taken four hits (including one this week – so far) and used my wildcard. One of my hits was to bring in Wilson for a week, then I used another hit the week after to replace him! Stupid, just stupid. It’s not just my strategy I need to change, it’s my entire mentality around FPL. I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I have the cojones.
But I’m going to go for option two, and I’m going to fight.
There’s a key element of success that I’ve always struggled with, and it comes from the Hitmaster, Jeeves. He says, “You can’t focus on what other people are doing, you just have to concentrate on getting the highest score you can.” I’ve always struggled with this, because I fall into the mindset of, “If they have this player, I need to react to that.” Focusing on the decisions of other players will only be detrimental to my team. Now, how to avoid what everyone else is doing when writing a review of every team in the league will be a challenge, but this entire season will be a challenge anyway, so we’ll see.
Truth be told, after seven gameweeks, the season seems buggered. Time to treat this like a scenario mode in a computer game. Football Manager: FPL Nightmare. With seven gameweeks gone, your team is sixteenth, 115 points off the title, with no Wildcard until January. Your best player is owned by 80% of the people above you, your other two big players aren’t reaching their previous heights, and you’ve invested big in defence in a season where nobody can keep a clean sheet. Can you turn it around and win the League of Gentlemen? Difficulty: Five stars.
With that in mind, let’s review the league table as it stands, and see who has had a dream week, and who else has had an FPL Nightmare:
The League of Gentlemen:
A disaster of a week for Wooden Spoon Helling, as Pep rotation and the T-Rex arms of Jordan Pickford saw Mahrez start and fire in a free-kick for three bonus points, Milivojevic score a penalty for three bonus points, captain Ings capitalise on a bizarre Lloris Cruyff turn for a one-yard tap-in, with all three players bringing home double-figure returns. With three of his defensive players also keeping clean sheets, he ended the week with 66 points, extending his gap on Tits-Up Thompson and dealing a huge blow in his quest to retain last place. He’ll be hoping for injuries galore this week to prevent something similar happening next time out. Pointless Parvesh and Metal Marc also maintained their positions, meaning the bottom four was unchanged. The Also-Rans are rounded off by a new entry, Mikey P’s Suicide Squad, who made another five transfers for a sixteen-point hit. One can only assume the Suicide Squad are involved in a gameweek-points only, unlimited transfers cash league somewhere, because their transfer strategy has taken them from second to seventeenth, and is wiping out any hope of a good season for them. At least new signings Aubameyang and McGinn delivered, but the reward was negligible due to the penalties invoked.
Lawezarus Rising reside in sixteenth and, had it not been for Mikey P’s transfer approach, we’d be officially also-rans. Taking a minus-four to bring in Otamendi and Abraham for Zinchenko and Wilson seemed a good idea on paper, though it did not turn out that way in practice. Aurier getting himself stupidly sent off for two yellows in four minutes is par for the course in our season. We’ve taken another hit to bring in Tomori and Robertson for Digne and Aurier ahead of GW8, a gamble given Liverpool’s tough run, but at this stage, we have nothing left to lose.
Above us, two big rises for the Dazzlers and Micky Quinnaj, who finally rise out of the Also-Rans at the seventh time of asking, with the teams separated by Slick Rick and just four points. A bold transfer approach from Deadly Daz saw Alexander-Arnold, Schar and Callum Wilson come in for Digne, Maitland-Niles and Rashford. He’ll be grateful to have benched Schar after Newcastle’s horror show, and will be pleased with returns from his other new signings. After a tricky few weeks, the Dazzlers can start looking up the table again. One place up the table are the Tiptoppers, who had a below-average week and were another team punished by Aurier’s foolishness. Returns from Kane, Son, Sterling and Alexander-Arnold weren’t enough to cover for the underperformance elsewhere in the team. Mickey Quinnaj lie thirteenth by a whisker, a big leap in the table thanks to three defensive returns, assists from Mount and Aguero, a goal from Sterling and another virtuoso performance from captain de Bruyne. Jie will be hoping this marks the end of a difficult start, and that his season can start building some momentum.
With four points separating thirteenth from fifteenth, it’s a strange quirk that the same gap exists between eleventh and twelfth. Indeed, had Flash started Dendoncker instead of Aurier, he would be top of the bottom half right now. Refreshed after their international break jaunt to Bali, Cows Arse Shovel have been building form, which continued this week thanks to two defensive and four attacking returns. The red card to Aurier creates a dilemma for how Flash tackles it, and whether to bench the Spurs man during his one-game ban or look for a replacement. He’ll be banking on James to find his early-season golden boots against Newcastle this weekend, with the Magpies defence offering Flash a tantalising gamble at a differential captain, especially with de Bruyne’s injury and the effect that could have on Manchester City. It was a poor week for Hugh G. Rection XI, with their gamble on Pulisic starting failing to pay off, leaving his team with just ten men. With only one defensive and three attacking returns, one-pointers from Silva and Maupay and a zero from Tarkowski, a big week beckons for the Masterchef, who presently has four injured outfielders and one out-of-favour £7.5m man. He may be intending to hold out until the international break to deploy the first of his two Wildcards, but bringing that plan forward by a week could be the shrewdest move, given his circumstances. At 91 points off the top spot, waiting a week could leave the damage terminal.
The Chasing Pack.
A bad run of form continued for Boom Xhakalaka, who saw only one defensive and three attacking returns this gameweek. The selection of Digne against Manchester City instead of Kelly, who played Norwich, raised some eyebrows, and rightfully so, with All Star Vogt’s substitute outscoring his starter by five points. He’d argue his hand was forced, given his double-Norwich attack, but there are no excuses in this game, and his double-Manchester City attack presented just as much a threat to Digne’s score. There’s still no cause for alarm for Boom Xhakalaka who, despite their position, lie just 39 points off second. However, to close the 86-point gap to first, they will need some big gameweeks – especially as they have already used their Triple Captain chip.
What’s incredible about the rest of the chasing pack, positions six to nine, is that the only thing that separates them is the amount of transfers made, with four teams tied on 390 points. Cuthben87 lie in ninth, with twelve transfers made, and will be very happy with their start to their debut season. Manager Ginger Ben will be thrilled at the 13 points secured by Pereira, given they came at Newcastle’s expense. A further three defensive returns show that you can build from the back this season, even if you have to go for less obvious candidates. An assist from Aguero was very handy, and the 12-point haul from King was just rewards for sticking with the Bournemouth man when everyone else flocked to Pukki. He may be inexperienced, but Ginger Ben is adapting fast. If he can strengthen his midfield, he could become a real problem for his competitors. The question is whether his lack of team value will become an issue as the weeks go by.
In eighth lie the Juggernauts, following a fifth red arrow in six weeks, and a fourth in five since the deployment of the Wildcard. Despite having only made seven transfers, these have been made over two gameweeks, which suggests to the outsider that Jeeves is struggling to find the right blend in his squad. Our insider inside the Juggernauts dressing-room said the big man was apoplectic with his squad’s performance. New signing Diop was apparently told he’s “deluded” if he thinks he can get away with zero-pointers at the Juggernauts, Pope was eviscerated for only keeping one clean sheet in 6 matches, while the Norwich duo of Cantwell and Pukki were allegedly told to “fuck off back to the Championship with these piss-taking efforts.” Our sources say that the most venom was reserved for Sterling, despite his goal. As Jeeves was ripping into Alexander-Arnold for “not even being able to outscore a £4m man,” Sterling stood up and told his gaffer he was out of order. In response, Jeeves squared up to the attacker, before twisting his ear and frogmarching him out of the dressing room, closely followed by a very flustered Hot Rod, who was trying to diffuse the situation. The players in the dressing room heard raised voices and banging, before Jeeves was heard screaming about Aguero like a forlorn lover. When he returned to the dressing room, Sterling did not follow, which only fuels speculation that Saturday was his last game for the Juggernauts. While the players kept quiet, Hot Rod told Jeeves “you need to get real, seriously get real, before you end up in Whitehaven mental hospital like that prancing gobshite did a few years back.” Troubling times at Casa Taliesin, and we can only hope Jeeves can regain his equilibrium. After all, had he started Kelly over Diop, he’d be fourth right now.
Rounding off the Chasing Pack are The Ox and Iceman Newton, with Oxsmorons ahead by just one transfer. It was a story of the substitutes for Madelaine Milan, with all three outfield reserves making an appearance. While this meant they benefitted from Kelly’s six points, they also suffered from Schar recording a minus-one. Additional returns from Patricio, Van Dijk, Sterling, Mount and captain Kane meant that Schar’s underperformance was covered, and the Iceman climbed the table. Ox’s score was hindered by leaving Ake on the bench, and he watched in horror as three players scored a fifth of the Bournemouth Beckenbauer’s total. With five returns in total on the pitch, including captain de Bruyne, Ox was able to rise the table, but is another who could’ve been fourth with different choices. His issue this week is that he has several underperforming or not-playing players; how he addresses the situation will determine whether he rises or falls.
The Title Contenders.
In fifth and fourth, Dinga’s Ringers and Birkett’s Really both scored exactly the same, to maintain the exact same position. Birkett will be pleased with defending his fourth spot, with returns from van Dijk, Chilwell, de Bruyne and Aubameyang enabling him to hold onto his lofty position after a tricky start. With two free transfers heading into Gameweek Eight, you have to wonder how Birkett will strengthen his squad. His bench is looking weak, especially with the injury to Aarons, but can he really afford to keep carrying Ceballos? Bernardo Silva’s FA charge for his provocative tweets creates another issue, as a possible suspension could cause havoc to his team.
The real story, though, was King Ding’s remarkable interview in the Weekly Bullshitter. Speaking to renowned FPL journalist Jez Messing, the reigning champion gave a series of astonishing quotes. When asked how he’s enjoying the football this season, the King replied, “I don’t really care about football any more. The older I get, the less important it seems to me. I don’t get why people get so worked up about it.” Messing pried further, trying to get a transfer exclusive, to which Dinga replied, “Honestly chief, I was going to use my Wildcard this week, because this squad isn’t really firing. But then, I opened up the transfer page, and I thought, ‘I just can’t be arsed with this.’ I mean, what’s the point?” When Messing pointed out that Dinga’s Ringers, the only three-time champs in League of Gentlemen history, had yet to defend their title, the King countered with, “The thing is, Jez, every time I win the league, I get bored. It’s like I need to lose it the following season, just to give myself a challenge. Hell, I even triple-captained Duffy last season to give Jeeves a chance, and he couldn’t get anywhere near me, he’s not good enough. I might as well let someone else have it this year. If I’m really honest, I’d rather Big Steve win it than me. It’s tedious winning it every year.” Jez Messing wanted to continue the interview, but he was thrown out of the Grey Goat, as Dinga’s pool opponent was angry that the King decided to conduct a full-length interview in the middle of a match, without taking a shot in the meantime. Their manager’s attitude seeped through to his players, who approached the weekend as if it was a friendly and returned zero double-figure hauls. At 77 points off the top, King Ding could still achieve his first title retention. The question is, does he want it enough?
Third place is occupied by Hitman Hodgson, who drops a place despite an above-average week. Three defensive and three attacking returns were enough for Does It Mata? to close the gap on Big Steve at the top of the table, even with the loss of a position. It could have been better for the Hitman, had he started Ryan and Kelly over Pope and Cantwell, though the extra seven points would not have been enough to retain second spot. With a well-balanced squad, the Hitman has no cause for alarm, though will face a tough weekend as his flying winger, James, squares up against his beloved Newcastle. Always the hardest situation in FPL, but with neither team above him owning the Manchester United man, a few returns against his own team could make a massive difference in the title race.
Referred to as Who Horner because nobody knew who he was, after Gameweek Seven, nobody will ever forget his name. A great week for the White Warriors saw them fly into second position, reducing their own deficit to Big Steve by 32 points in the process, even after Rico returned a zero. Seven players returned for Who Horner, with goalkeeper Ederson adding to the total with both a save and bonus point, leaving only Pukki, Salah and the aforementioned Rico as the only players failing to assist their total. Double-Liverpool defence finally paid off for the mystery man, with van Dijk and Matip scoring a combined 17 points, and captain Kane got in on the act to reel in a further 16. His one signing, McGinn, fired in eight points to justify his transfer, marking Who Horner as a man with keen foresight when it comes to form. Injury doubts surrounding Matip and de Bruyne will be cause for concern, yet we know for a fact the White Warriors will not make more than their allotted free transfer. Perhaps the calmest man in the game, Who Horner will not be flustered by any situation, and will be hoping to repeat his hammering of Big Steve next time out. He’s still 47 points behind, but when he’s taken out 32 of the 79 he was behind last week in one go, he’ll be confident that he can carve up the Butcher’s lead and take top spot in the next few weeks.
The Man Who Would Be King.
After the incredible high of being 516 in the world following Gameweek 6, Big Steve was brought crashing down to earth this time out, with only one team in the League of Gentlemen scoring lower than Dumb and Dummett. The nightmare began in defence, where Aurier’s red card led to a minus-two, Pope only managed one point, and Diop’s woeful performance resulted in a zero. Even Alexander-Arnold did his best to throw away a clean sheet with a shocking individual performance, though the Butcher was relieved the Liverpool youngster’s teammates were able to cover for him to ensure a barely-deserved six points. Dumb and Dummett’s attack fared little better, with Salah, Cantwell, Pukki, Aguero and captain Firmino returning just 15 points between them. Were it not for de Bruyne scoring 9 and a Chelsea penalty giving Jorginho 11 points, Big Steve’s week would have been even worse. The only positive is that Alexander-Arnold wasn’t rested; if he had been, Schar would have come in for a minus-one instead of a six. A really tough week for the big man, but he should retain confidence. Any title-winning season will have quiet weeks, and Dumb and Dummett have put themselves in a position where they can afford the odd FPL Nightmare.
With £0.7m in the bank, Big Steve has flexibility, and he also retains every one of his chips. He also ends the week with an overall rank of 2,991, which is the second-highest in League of Gentlemen history, behind only his own ranking of last week. He is also only 30 points off being the top FPL-playing Newcastle fan in the world and, from Who Horner’s performance this week, he knows the man at the top can be overhauled by 30+ points in a week. A bad gameweek for Big Steve, yes, but he’s still a remarkable position of strength, and it will still take an awful lot to displace him at the top.
This concludes this week’s instalment of the League of Gentlemen, one that featured an FPL Nervous Breakdown, dressing room chaos at the Juggernauts, a self-destructive interview with the King and the dominating Big Steve finally showing a hint of weakness. Who knows what next weekend will bring, what tales of woe, what songs of joy. May all your transfers be successful, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.