The value of a strong bench was underlined when Brendan Rodgers decided to rest all his stars, with Vardy missing two matches with an injury that was never disclosed. Given Leicester’s run of form, fixtures against Manchester City and Leicester, followed by a reserves run-out and then another Vardy-less match, led to many teams underperforming. Those with double-Leicester attack, such as the Juggernauts and Geord’s Lords, suffered greatly as a result of this, although Maddison tried to make up for it with his eleven-pointer in Gameweek 21. John Lundstram’s Gameweek 20 omission caused further problems, especially to Boom Xhakalaka, who saw their policy of only investing in the first eleven blow up in their face, with only nine players taking the field. From January onwards, with the FA Cup in full flow, with the resumption of the Champion’s and Europa Leagues and with the accumulation of squad fatigue, injuries and suspensions, it is imperative managers ensure they have three outfield substitutes that can come in and contribute. With the amount of cheap players featuring regularly for their clubs, and with FPL managers having a fresh Wildcard for the second half of the season, there is simply no excuse for ending up with less than eleven players on the field.
Inspired by the sibling rivalry that ran through December, Deadly Daz had topped the Manager of the Month race throughout December. Looking set to secure his first monthly award, he saw success snatched from his grasp via a sensational King Ding Wildcard that led to 130 points over two rotation-heavy gameweeks. Speculation has raged for weeks as to when the King would make his move, and Gameweek 20 was the time. Opting against Vardy proved the masterstroke that gave him the edge over all his rivals, and which led to the King not only taking the trophy of monthly managerial merit, but also usurping Jeeves as the main obstacle to the Butcher’s stroll to the title. With fifty points gained on Dumb and Dummett in just four weeks, tensions are rising in the abattoir, as the King comes to take his pound of flesh. The stakes simply couldn’t be higher, and it isn’t the first time the experience of Manchester United are building momentum in January while chasing down the sensational start of a Newcastle who have never been in that position before. Like Keegan, Big Steve has had all the neutrals purring at his all-out attacking approach to the season, and has stormed into a seemingly-impregnable lead. Like Ferguson, King Ding has been in this position before, he knows how to get the job done, and his team is built around peaking during the run-in. It’s been almost a quarter-century since the Red Devils snatched the Angel of the North from the gates of heaven; should history repeat itself, Big Steve’s FPL Nightmare would surpass any of those that have gone before. Indeed, it has to be noted that, over the three gameweeks in a week, the only team in the top seven that Dumb and Dummett outscored was the Juggernauts; every other team closed the gap on the table-toppers, with the Ringers doing so by 41 points. With the further nine points gained four gameweeks ago, the momentum is well and truly with the King; the break for the FA Cup simply could not have come at a better time for the Butcher.
With all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how the Festive Frenzy caused fortunes to change in the League of Gentlemen.
Above him, Rodallega Bombs and Farcselona continue to be unworthy of discussion, but the second note of import is that, rather than the expected closing of the gap on Lower Mid-Table, Cuthben87 have contrived to be hammered three gameweeks on the bounce by Oxsmorons, extending the points needed to escape the Also-Rans to 62. In the meantime, Wooden Spoon Helling has closed the gap to Ginger Ben by 34 points, leaving Walney Utd just fifteen points off seventeenth place. We all laughed when Helling anointed Ings as the captain in his zombie team, but he is the one laughing now, with the Southampton sharpshooter firing in twelve goals and 26 bonus points in fifteen gameweeks. In his attempts to chase down Lower Mid-Table, Ginger Ben will have to be very wary of suffering the ignominy of being overtaken by Wooden Spoon Helling, the League of Gentlemen’s perennial whipping-boy.
The Tiptoppers emerged from Gameweek 19 one position higher, in thirteenth, largely on the back of the sensational 24-pointer from Alexander-Arnold. In the gameweeks that followed, no further ground was made on Madelaine Milan ahead of them; indeed, the Iceman managed to extend his lead slightly. However, Slick Rick managed to fend of the teams behind him, creating a small cushion against being overtaken next week. Another with a decision to make on how to replace Kane, he needs to find a secret weapon to close the 32-point gap on twelfth position. With Spurs facing a rampant Liverpool next time out, Kane’s injury could prove a blessing in disguise for Slick Rick; the enforced breaking-up of his triple-Spurs attack could lead to greater points coming in from other clubs. Indeed, with no Liverpool attackers at all in his squad, a move for Firmino, albeit risky, could prove a masterstroke. Iceman Newton won’t be fretting too much about Slick Rick’s signings, with his eyes firmly set on getting back into the Chasing Pack. It’s been a festive FPL Nightmare for Madelaine Milan. A few weeks ago, they were knocking on the door of the Title Contenders. Having played their first Wildcard in an attempt to rise further, they now they find themselves stranded in twelfth, despite getting most of their selection decisions correct. The situation is not as bleak as it first appears, being only 21 points off sixth position, but these last three gameweeks will go down as a wasted opportunity for the Iceman, who also needs to secure a replacement for Kane in a week where the fixtures suggested other areas of his squad needed strengthening. As it stands, he can only field five players with a green fixture, and also has an injury to Zaha to contend with. Having only played his first Wildcard three gameweeks ago, the Iceman could yet be forced to play his second in order to rescue his season before it spirals out of control.
In eleventh are Geord’s Lords, who were well and truly stuffed by Deadly Daz in the sibling rivalry, and who suffered a true FPL Nightmare. It all started so well, with the retention of Mane and Alexander-Arnold leading to a whopping 30 points in GW19, and 63 points total from them over the three weeks. Combined with a Jimenez masterclass, the Lords ended Gameweek 19 in sixth position, just one place and fourteen points off the Title Contenders. Then it all went wrong. Minus-scores in successive weeks from Aurier and Rico. The swoop for Sterling producing only four points in two gameweeks – both of which he had the captaincy – while the man he replaced, Rashford, scored more than twice the points. The gamble on budget defenders producing five points from four players in two weeks. Everything that could have gone wrong for the Lords did so, with the exception of the signing of injury-prone Ings, who has secured 18 points in two gameweeks. As a result, Lord Geord saw his team fall from the brink of the Title Contenders back into the Lower Mid-Table slot he’s worked so long and so hard to escape from. Having made their two free transfers at the immediate conclusion of Gameweek 21, the Lords faced a tense wait through the cup fixtures, but appear to have emerged without injury. Jez Messing of the Weekly Bullshitter tells us that the Lords have brought in a secret weapon for Gameweek 22, though he will not reveal the player on-the-record, leading us to wonder how strong his sources are. The one thing we know for sure is that the Lords need to find something, and fast. While the 32-point gap to the Title Contenders is bridgeable, Iceman Newton, just two points behind, will be working to ensure Lord Geord’s FPL Nightmare is one he cannot wake up from.
Of the top eight, the second-worst festive period was that of Boom Xhakalaka, in large part due to their transfer policy leaving them with only nine players in Gameweek 19. While they rebounded in Gameweeks 20 and 21, they were unable to climb back up the table, and had to settle for maintaining eighth position. Despite their underperformance, they find themselves just eighteen points off the Title Contenders, and would’ve been even closer if not for a sensational Gameweek 21 from Private Parvesh in fifth. All-Star Vogt has £1.6m in the bank and two free transfers, so he has an opportunity to strengthen his bench this week. Swapping Nakamba for Cantwell would leave him with a free transfer, £1.2m to spend and a much stronger squad, but knowing All-Star the way we do, he’s likely to focus all of his attention on his first team, with Aurier and Alli most at risk of leaving Boom Xhakalaka. Conversely, the festive period proved a dream for Hitman Hodgson, who secured the second-highest total for the three gameweeks in the whole division, rocketing up the table in the process. His debut season in the League of Gentlemen, he was hotly-tipped as a dark horse in pre-season. He lived up to the hype early doors, before dropping nine places in one gameweek not so long ago. It has taken time for Does It Mata to re-find their footing, but the Hitman’s navigation of the Festive Frenzy shows why he joined the division so highly-rated. His signings of Traore, Grealish and Evans, coupled with faith in Robertson, have proven his mettle in the heat of battle, and his logic in having two playable goalkeepers looks like paying off in the coming weeks, with Ryan having a dream run of fixtures to cover for the nightmare run of Pope. Only seventeen points off the Title Contenders and with a full set of chips at his disposal, the title may prove out of reach for the Hitman, but he looks certain to have a major say in the upper echelons of the League of Gentlemen in the last few months.
In sixth place, at the apex of the Chasing Pack but very much looking over his shoulder, is Deadly Daz, whose Festive Frenzy is perhaps the hardest to assess. On the one hand, he rose four places in December, well and truly winning the sibling rivalry, and he secured the third-highest team score in the Festive Frenzy with 180 points. On the other, at the end of Gameweek 19, the Dazzlers were in fifth, and their use of their Free Hit in Gameweek 21 left them a chip down and with only 41 points scored. With no chip used, Deadly Daz would have scored 51 points, and would still have his Free Hit available. Heartbreakingly, after leading the Manager of the Month race for most of December, he saw himself get pipped at the post by King Ding. You have to wonder if the Dazzlers meant to Wildcard rather than Free Hit and, if so, what the repercussions of that could be on their momentum. Assuming the Free Hit was intentional, the question now is how they strengthen ahead of Gameweek 22. The return of Vardy will help greatly, but the injury to Kane needs addressing. Get the decision right, and the Dazzlers could continue to shine throughout January. Get it wrong, and the Hitman will be there to assassinate his hopes.
Jez Messing, while not revealing the secret weapon of Geord’s Lords, did come out with a big scoop this week – the revelations that, once again, all is not well within the Juggernauts dressing room. A furious blow-up in the kitchen between Jeeves and Hot Rod erupted over Jeeves’ determination to replace Alexander-Arnold and Mane in Gameweek 18 as a result of their blank gameweek. Hot Rod tried to counsel against it, telling Jeeves it was short-sighted madness, especially when hearing the plan to bring in Rico and the hit-and-miss Heung-Min Son as their replacements. “It’s only one gameweek, you daft bugger,” the elder Ayers was quoted as saying. “You always do these panic transfers, just trust your bloody subs!” Needless to say, Jeeves did not trust his subs, and watched Rico score just one point, while Son got sent off for a minus-two, to compound the four-point hit taken to remove the Liverpool stars. Things got worse for the Juggernauts in Gameweek 19. Bringing in Salah to replace Son, they watched as Mane outscored him, while Alexander-Arnold, sold due to a blank gameweek, returned to action with a goal, three assists and a clean sheet. The cycle continued in Gameweek 20, with Salah and Rico scoring four points between them, while Alexander-Arnold and Mane scored nineteen. Jeeves eventually brought Alexander-Arnold back in for Gameweek 21, and saw Salah outscore Mane by just two points, but by then the damage was done. In a three-gameweek period where everyone made gains on the Butcher, one where King Ding outscored him by sixty points and took second place, Jeeves still could not concede his error to Hot Rod. Jez Messing reports that the Juggernauts manager screamed at Hot Rod that “FPL economics isn’t the same as household economics, you thick bastard. Tell you what, stop wasting your life away telling me who to sign. You should be earning millions of pounds a year revealing your secrets to the world’s finest economic minds. I could be your agent. In fact, fuck that, I'd even be your arse-wiper if it meant I could learn your magic formulas. Except, the only problem is, you’re a fuckin liar!” Hot Rod refused to take this lying down. “Here, Jamie, for such an intelligent bloke, you don’t half miss the point a lot. If you had just listened and kept Trent and Mane, you’d have got 63 points off them in four weeks. All your smart-arse transfers meant you got 17 points instead – you cost yourself 46 points! If you’d just listened for once, you’d only be 31 points off the top, now you’re in third!” Despite this, Messing reports that Jeeves continued to insist he made the right decision, leaving Hot Rod to declare he isn’t “living in the real world.” After overcoming such dressing-room tension in October, it’s sad to see emotions flare up again in the land of the Juggernauts, but Christmas is a time where families fall out, and Casa del Jeeves proved to be no different. How Jeeves bounces back from the biggest FPL Nightmare at the worst possible time is sure to be one of the big talking-points from the coming gameweek, especially as, by virtue of drawing one of the weakest teams left in the FPL Cup in Gameweek 21, he has somehow made it to the LoG Cup Final, against his former bandmate, The Ox. There will be no thrills in this encounter, just two men desperate to win the first team silverware of the season.
The Ringers, however, spent their Christmas in a Winter Wonderland. Emerging from Boxing Day with a massive 75 points, the King chose not to rest on his laurels, but to finally play his Wildcard from a position of strength, for maximum impact. Both headline signings, Aguero and Mane, produced on their debuts, giving the Wildcarded Ringers a second successive 75-point gameweek and the Manager of the Month title. Fifty-five points in Gameweek 21 launched the Ringers into second place in the table, and also gave the King a fourth-successive weekly triumph over the Butcher. Over the Festive Frenzy, King Ding was the only manager to score over 200 points, bringing in 205 in total – 41 more points than Big Steve. With the advantage of having Wildcarded so recently, with the ability to close the gap to the top even with Aguero rested and with two free transfers in the bank, it’s safe to say the formerly-uninterested King Ding is now fully-focused, which spells disaster for the rest of the division. Should this form continue, his dream of being the first man to defend the League of Gentlemen Championship could very well become reality.
Thus concludes our round-up of the League of Gentlemen’s Festive Frenzy, three gameweeks which saw King Ding make his move, which saw Big Steve falter, which saw the Lords rise and fall, the Hitman fire up the table and which saw the Juggernauts derailed amid delusion over their decisions. Gameweek Twenty-Two promises to bring even more drama, with the pressure well and truly on the Butcher and with Jeeves and The Ox contesting the League of Gentlemen Cup final. May all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green and, as ever, may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.
Dumb and Dummett 52-68 Har er Fario FC
The Juggernauts 40-40 kicap masin - JEEVES QUALIFIES ON GOALS SCORED
Dazzlers 79-26 ELCOACH TEAM
Geord's Lords 74-64 Tallifornia Rovers
White Warriors 33-27 6Times6Times
Micky Quinnaj 47-38 Herschel's Hurricane
Oxsmorons 61-51 MKT Araz
The Juggernauts 54-31 Clarkieboii
Dazzlers 60-62 JT Throne Home
Geord's Lords 51-70 World Wide Wes
White Warriors 52-67 khadooz FC
Micky Quinnaj 60-46 Sarkodie FC
Oxsmorons 67-40 Amir FC
The Juggernauts 51-50 FC Sukiz Yamug
Micky Quinnaj 34-56 Brownie
Oxsmorons 57-49 Ruffians