With three weeks to go, the gap at the top has been slashed from 119 points to just thirteen. With the Butcher playing his Free Hit, would King Ding be able to stay in the hunt?
In unprecedented scenes for FPL, the Butcher faced a minor uprising from his fans. Jez Messing was at the scene, and he reports that the bone of contention for Dumb and Dummett supporters was their manager opting to use his Free Hit in Gameweek 36. The supporters bemoaned this decision, accusing the manager of naivety, saying that, had he been in the lead going into Gameweek 38, he could have used the Free Hit on the Final Day, matched King Ding’s team player-for-player and effectively secured the title before a ball was kicked.
Messing reports that, in a remarkable turn of events, the Butcher eschewed the opportunity to release a press statement, instead taking to the steps of the Abattoir Arena to talk to the fans directly. They vented their concerns about returning to the days of being a selling club, of throwing away opportunities for success with poor transfer choices, of rash market decisions leaving the club further away from glory than ever. They felt this call, with the title so close, opened the door for the King to pip them at the post. The Butcher spoke to individual fans, before climbing to the top of the steps to give this quote.
“If you look back two years, when we had Arnautovic and Lukaku, a lot of you, a lot of the fans said the same thing. No, you did. And, to be honest, with justification. But I thought we could take it on, and you’ve got to allow me to do that. If it doesn’t work, I know what the implications are. On my head be it.”
By the end of the Butcher’s unheard-of intervention, the fans were chanting his name. They know nobody else could have brought Dumb and Dummett to the verge of such glory. Whatever fears they have, they know they have the right man for the job. After the fans left the area, the Butcher returned inside the Abattoir Arena and gave Messing a direct quote, for those fans who were unable to be there in person.
“My message to the fans this week is, everything they’ve said, whether it be real harsh criticism or support, has been accepted. They’ve got every right to have an opinion, it’s their club, but only one person can really make the football decisions. I’ve made that decision, and there’s two ways it can go from here. If I get it wrong, well, you know, I know what the consequences are. And if we can turn the club and keep going upwards, then you know we’re bound to win something. We finished outside of the medals last year, and from our point of view, it’s really strategy. I’m looking to improve the club, and I think the Free Hit in Gameweek 36 was an opportunity we couldn’t refuse, bearing in mind where we need to go.”
As it turns out, the Butcher was proven correct in his assessment. His Free Hit squad secured 59 points in Gameweek 36, twenty points more than his team would have scored without the Free Hit. Despite the King closing the gap to just four points, those twenty extra points for the Butcher ensured that they remained at the top of the table they have headed since Gameweek Four. The challenge now is ensuring they finish Gameweek 37 top of the table, to avoid the King using his own Free Hit on the Final Day to negate any chance of the Butcher outscoring him. With a cushion of just four points, and with King Ding having outscored the Butcher in six of the seven gameweeks since the restart, that is by no means assured. All we know for certain is that, entering Gameweek 37, the Butcher is still the man to beat.
With that in mind, let’s look at how the rest of the League of Gentlemen fared in Gameweek 36.
The League of Gentlemen:
For the second successive week, Mad Mikey shocked the world by making zero transfers. Trusting Bruno with the armband paid off well, with the Manchester United talisman bringing in twelve points for the Suicide Squad. The only further returns came from Martial and Azpilicueta in a low-scoring week, but enough points were secured to cut the gap to Metal Marc to just six points. A season-long odyssey to avoid the wooden spoon is on the verge of paying off; should further transfers be avoided this week, it seems like there is nothing stopping Mad Mikey from finally catching the man he has chased for so many months. No further changes in this section of the division, with Rodallega Bombs and Wooden Spoon Helling trailing Jie, who lost ground on Lower Mid-Table with a score of just 36 points. The Scotsman has two weeks to make up 32 points and escape the Also-Rans; a tall order, but not impossible.
Another week at the foot of Lower Mid-Table for the Iceman, who saw every team he has a chance of catching pull further away. His dismal gameweek was only saved by the non-appearance of captain de Bruyne, his absence meaning Ings’ points doubled-up to fourteen. With only a single goal and assist from the rest of his team, Madelaine Milan’s season has ended in a damp squib, though Ginger Ben will not feel confident his ten-point cushion in fifteenth is enough. Two clean sheets and two goals ensured Cuthben87 pulled three points further away, but a points total of just 41 in a forty-point average week represents a real missed opportunity and, most likely, the end of their ambitions to end up in the twelfth position that guarantees entry to next season’s Gentlemen’s Classic. Slick Rick, who replaced Ginger Ben in fourteenth, retains a better chance of twelfth. The Tiptoppers are 28 points off the White Warriors having beaten them by eighteen points this week; should they repeat that feat over the final two gameweeks, they will catch Who Horner with ease.
A more likely candidate to catch Who Horner, and secure qualification in the Gentlemen’s Classic, is The Ox. Having beaten the White Warriors by fourteen points this week, they saw Slick Rick draw closer from behind but, more importantly, they have cut the gap to twelfth to just eight points. Oxsmorons frontline were the heroes, with four goals and an assist between the three players. Should they keep up their fine form, Who Horner is in real trouble. Despite his team finding two goals and three assists, five of his players scoring one point or less left the White Warriors holding twelfth by a slim margin. Heading Lower Mid-Table is Private Parvesh, who will not finish any lower than the eleventh place he presently occupies. A clean sheet, four assists and two goals give him a 62-point cushion on those behind him; had his captain not scored zero points, the ten-point gap to the Chasing Pack would be far smaller. His aim for the last two gameweeks is to ensure a top-ten finish, one which is well within his reach.
The Chasing Pack
Flash will not give up his top-ten position without a fight. Though four points were lost to Parvesh, two goals, two assists and a clean sheet ensured the damage was not maximised. Injuries and tough fixtures leave Cows Arse Shovel with a real problem in defence this week; how Flash navigates the market with his two free transfers will be critical in cementing his position and closing the 25-point gap to Big Time Birkett in ninth. It was a respectable week for Big Time, with four assists and three goals giving a 54-point total to add to last week’s stunning 97 points. The signings of Dunk and Digne for Chilwell and Tomori produced no immediate benefits, though should strengthen the squad considerably in the last two weeks. With 32 points to make up to catch the Masterchef, it’s a big challenge for Big Time to improve his position, though he has outscored the Masterchef by seventy points over the last two weeks. Masterchef tried to improve his position by playing his Bench Boost this week, only to see it backfire horribly. With Mount and de Bruyne not playing and his two Sheffield United subs conceding twice, it left Hugh G. Rection with a three-point Bench Boost. With his team providing only two goals and one assist, it was a true FPL Nightmare for the Masterchef, who must now regroup ahead of the final two weeks as he hunts down Lord Geord.
It was a solid, if unspectacular, week for the Lord, who did make one huge call – starting Ritchie over Gomez – and saw it pay off in stunning fashion, with Magic Matt lashing in one of the thunderbastards of the season to finish the gameweek as the Lords’ highest-scoring player. A further three goals and one assist gave the Lords’ a gameweek score of fifty points, though the decision to sign and captain Sterling proved a disaster, with Manchester City man earning just two points while the transferred-out Mane became the fourth-consecutive player to be sold by the Lords and immediately score. These sorts of decisions have cost Lord Geord over the season, and go to highlight the folly of switching big players. Predicting hauls is so difficult; performing the ol’ switcheroo just increases the chances of missing out on all the hauls, as opposed to catching them. The Lord has been very impressive in raising his Overall Ranking from 4.1m to 375k; to achieve a higher finish next season, more faith in his choices is required. With Mane retained, the Lords would have been seven points off Boom Xhakalaka. Because of their choices, All Star Vogt is eighteen points ahead. Given the two squads share so many players, it’s going to be difficult for the Lord to ascend in the table; the likelihood of taunting messages from the All Star throughout the next week has increased dramatically. One clean sheet, four assists and three goals gave Boom Xhakalaka a gameweek score of 59 points, extending their cushion over the Lords by nine points and closing the gap to the Title Contenders to just fifteen points. Should the All Star get these last two weeks right, he still has an outside chance of finishing in the medals, which would be a fantastic end to his debut League of Gentlemen season.
The Title Contenders
Another disaster of a week for Jockin’ Jeeves, who was another who brought in Sterling for Mane and suffered a drop in the table as a result. The clean sheet, three assists and two goals secured, including one goal from his other new signing Ings, mitigated the damage somewhat, but there’s very little consolation for the Juggernauts from this campaign. The season has petered out horribly for the two-time champion, with their success in the LoG Cup being all but forgotten in the face of an early second Wildcard that destroyed any chance of challenging for the title. It’s easy to forget that, at the time of their second Wildcard, they weren’t much further off The Butcher than King Ding; nine weeks on, they are clinging to their place in the Title Contenders, and may not even be in the top seeds in next year’s Gentlemen’s Classic. With work on their new base well under way, however, the rest of the division will need to watch out for a Juggernaut backlash next time out. Moving ahead of him into fourth is Deadly Daz, who really is having a remarkable campaign. In only his second FPL campaign ever, having abandoned his first one in mid-November three years ago, the Dazzlers have come into the League of Gentlemen and acquitted themselves sensationally, finding themselves in fourth position, on the verge of the top-200k and just 24 points off the bronze medal, while still retaining a Bench Boost to close that gap. Five goals, four assists and a clean sheet gave them a division-high gameweek score of 68 points, moving them ahead of the Juggernauts by four points. The remarkable thing is they’ve achieved this with no managerial input from Deadly Daz since his heart-breaking Gentlemen’s Trophy semi-final exit. If he can re-engage for just one week, make his two free transfers and activate his Bench Boost, that bronze medal is very achievable.
The man hoping the Dazzler stays away is Hitman Hodgson, who has had a remarkable debut season of his own. Poor performances in the cups worked to his advantage in the league, with the pre-season predictions of him being the dark horse proving correct. His use of the Free Hit paid off well, with his one-off squad outscoring his regular team by fourteen crucial points. Two clean sheets, two assists and four goals gave him a gameweek score of 62 points and moved Does It Mata inside the top 150k in the Overall Rankings. Four injuries, including three in defence, make the coming gameweek a real challenge for the Hitman; the prospect of the Dazzler playing his Bench Boost while the Hitman can’t field a full team makes that 24-point cushion look very vulnerable. Should he ride the wave and finish third, it will set Does It Mata up very nicely for next season, and the challenge faced in closing the hundred-plus point gap to the top two.
What an effort it has been from King Ding this season. From 119 points behind, the gap is now just four points. One clean sheet, four assists and four goals saw him equal the division-high gameweek total of 68 points, while moving the Ringers to just outside the top 10k in the Overall Rankings. Since Gameweek Four, the Butcher has looked unstoppable; only the determination, skill, experience and courage of the King has prevented this season being a procession. With some favourable fixtures in Gameweek 37 and a Free Hit remaining, the King is the favourite to enter the Final Day on top of the table; even if he doesn’t, the title race is going right down to the wire. If the King can somehow become the first man to retain the League of Gentlemen title, in these circumstances, it will be his greatest achievement in the history of FPL, if not his entire life.
The Man Who Would Be King
He will not have it all his own way, however. By hook or by crook, the Butcher has held onto his position at the apex of the division since September. This is the most vulnerable he has looked and, despite the Free Hit squad producing a greater score than his regular team, he will be anxious that it did not secure more points. The captaincy of Sterling proved a disaster, with seven of his team outscoring the Manchester City man. The seven points lost by opting for the winger over his team-mate Jesus or the in-form Martial could prove critical in eight days’ time; likewise, the extra transfers made this season could see the Butcher lose out on transfers made, which would be the cruellest conclusion imaginable. Two clean sheets, one assist and four goals gave Dumb and Dummett a gameweek score of 59 points; good in the wider context of the overall game, but disastrous for the title race. The Butcher enters Gameweek 37 desperate for a win over the King. Only time will tell if he gets it.
That concludes another dramatic week in the League of Gentlemen, one that saw few positional changes, but huge strides made for several teams homing in on their rivals – not least Mad Mikey P and King Ding. Gameweek 37 promises to up the ante to boiling point. As always, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.
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