It was a true FPL Nightmare for ten of the top fifteen, who were left gnashing their teeth after their captain was sent off. Could the rest of the Gentlemen take advantage?
It’s rare that a double gameweek is dismissed as a bust before the end of the first fixture of the round. With so many Gentlemen opting to captain Dennis, his soft red card meant that Gameweek 23 was one of those rare occasions. Years down the line, they still talk of the madness of the movement to Triple Captain Duffy in a double gameweek, a gameweek where he produced one point from two fixtures. Double Gameweek Dennis has now entered the FPL Hall of Shame, with his performance resulting in a score of minus two from two fixtures, the second of which he didn’t feature in after his dismissal in the first.
It left us with the remarkable situation of eleven of the top twelve managers ending the first day of Gameweek 23 with negative points, while also giving Ginger Ben – the only one of that top twelve not to own Dennis – a massive opportunity to make up some ground at the top. While his captain, King, failed to produce the goods in the first match, he had a second fixture to come. For everyone else, it meant an agonising wait of almost two full weeks knowing that they could only lose ground to the Ginger One. For Ginger Ben, it was almost two full weeks of feeling smugly confident, before the torturous conclusion of seeing King pick up a soft yellow card, do nothing in attack and bring in just two extra points. Like a man who spends a day talking filth to his partner only to blow his load in ten seconds, the anticipation far exceeded the climax, leaving nothing but frustration and embarrassment in its wake.
Ultimately, it turned out to be another damp squib of a gameweek, with a worldwide average of just 35 points, one exceeded by only four Gentlemen in the top ten. Unfortunately for the chasing pack, it was the top three of Ginger Ben, Jockin’ Jeeves and myself who comprised three-quarters of that number, moving us marginally further away from those behind us as we became the first three Gentlemen to break the 1400-point barrier. The fourth manager to exceed the average was Terminator Tris, who has been quietly climbing the ranks in recent gameweeks and who finally broke into the Elite, leapfrogging the last two champions and last season’s Gentlemen’s Classic winner in the process. Though he did own Dennis, he had the foresight to give his captaincy to de Bruyne, a move which saw him receive sixteen captaincy points instead of losing two. It is a just reward for the Terminator’s consistency in his debut League of Gentlemen season, and his challenge now is to reel in Mighty Mouse and Big Steve, who both lie within 28 points.
There will be ample opportunity for him to do so in the coming gameweeks, with Gameweeks 25 and 26 both double gameweeks and with blank gameweeks aplenty ahead. This is arguably the toughest spell of the season for the Gentlemen, even more so than the Festive Frenzy, as plans get torn apart by domestic cup competitions ruling whole teams out of gameweeks. As it tends to be the better teams that progress in the cups, their players are normally highly-owned, often leaving the Gentlemen short of a full team. With Chelsea blanking three times in the next five gameweeks, Arsenal blanking in Gameweeks 25 and 27 and Brighton and Liverpool both blanking once in the next three gameweeks too, decisions will have to be made as to whether to sell or retain absent players. The choices managers make are full of risk, and where there is risk, there also lies opportunity. With the bonus Free Hit added to the arsenal of managers this season, the door is ajar for those managers willing to deploy their weapons to barge right through. With only four managers within a hundred points of my table-topping squad, gambles will have to be taken for the further-adrift Gentlemen to get back into the title picture, and this could well be the time to roll the dice, as I have no intention of using a chip at this stage.
While that plan obviously could change with one or two injuries or suspensions, I’m pretty happy with how the Lords are shaping up at present. I have a masterplan to get me to Gameweek 29 without taking any hits, though it does mean sticking with the underwhelming Ronaldo and not signing the masterful de Bruyne throughout that time. While I may be playing it safe with my chips, this is a huge gamble in itself, with Ronaldo blanking in four of his last five appearances and being outscored by de Bruyne to the tune of seventeen points in that time. Still, sacrifices must be made, and it’s a solid plan, though injuries, suspensions and price fluctuations mean I must remain flexible. Having seen my advantage over Jeeves reduced by just a point in a double gameweek where my captain scored negative points, I feel like I have got away with one somewhat, though there was great pleasure in seeing Laporte score a debut goal for a ten-point haul. When you are so rigid in sticking to transfer limits, they need to come off. My one big gamble of taking two hits and signing Ronaldo and Gray has not yet bore fruit, but my single-transfer strategy has done me well this season, and Laporte adding to those statistics was very pleasing.
The big challenge is getting the transfers right over the next six gameweeks. It was this stage of the season which saw an end to Ginger Ben’s title chances last season, and as someone similarly-inexperienced at the upper end of the table, I must work to avoid suffering a similar pitfall. With Jockin’ Jeeves desperate to claim his third title and having de Bruyne as his driving force and Ginger Ben clawing his way into the mix, it will be the greatest of challenges.
The Cup Chronicles
As expected, Maverick Mikey took advantage of being unhindered by league title concerns to take a minus-twelve, something his Eliminator rivals are simply unable to do. It meant he finished comfortably ahead of his four opponents as he reached the quarter-finals of the endurance competition. With the four remaining combatants all captaining Dennis and owning no other Watford or Burnley players, the situation was determined well before the end of the gameweek. Jockin’ Jeeves and I were never under any threat, making it through safely, leaving the Chancellor and Go Cartin fighting for the final place in the quarter-finals. In the end, the Chancellor’s Red Devil succumbed to Go Cartin’s angel Gabriel, with the Arsenal defender outscoring Ronaldo by the four points Cartin needed to complete the Final Four. It’s been a spirited run from the Chancellor in his League of Gentlemen debut, but he falls just short in this competition, as he becomes the 37th victim of this season’s Eliminator.
Nothing sums up the gameweek more than the second-highest score in the division coming from Lethal Lee, the bottom-two mainstay still yet to reach a thousand points. Big scores from Neves, van Dijk and Thiago Silva contributed to a 53-point score that establishes some daylight between himself and rock-bottom Wooden Spoon Helling. Slick Rick used a Free Hit for a miserable score of 36, which resulted in him closing the gap to the falling Flash Funk, even if he did not climb the table. Maverick Mikey’s Eliminator-leading score of 44 points translated to just 32 in the league, but it was enough to climb above Wildman Whitfield, who scored just twenty points. Mack Daddy McMahon deployed his Bench Boost but scored just six extra points, a miserly result but one which was enough to climb to 27th. Iceman Newton and Dodger Rodgers were leapfrogged by The Ox, whose captaincy of de Bruyne was the platform for a solid 48-point score. Another huge hit saw Deadly Daz drop to 22nd, though had he started Rudiger over Saint-Maximin, he would’ve actually climbed a place, despite the deficit he imposed on himself. Instead, it was the Masterchef who climbed the table, rising three places to 21st and finishing the gameweek just two points outside the top twenty.
The rise of Stone Cold Stephen Levins continues, with returns from Tierney, Dalot and Mount supporting captain de Bruyne’s haul and enabling his team to break into the top twenty for the first time this season, finishing the round in eighteenth position. Ahead of him, three managers displaced the one directly ahead of them, and all three of those managers used their Wildcard. Though the 45 points of Sirloin Sean and the 48 of Grinchy Vogt were well above average, it was Ash the Bash who profited most, hitting a division-high 56 points that could’ve been so much better if just one of his three benched returners had started ahead of zero-point Jansson. Rounding off the Irrelevants are Hitman Hodgson, King Ding and Dan the Dragon, none of whom scored higher than thirty points and who all fell a place in the table.
Terminator Tris climbs into the Elite with a 47-point score that was comfortably the highest in the top ten. In addition to captaining de Bruyne, he also saw returns from Foster, Jota and Rudiger, and while new signings Coutinho and Saka were unable to get attacking returns, they both added a solitary clean sheet point to their totals. The Terminator has cut the gap to seventh-place Mighty Mouse to 21 points, which is notable because of how he outscored him by 23 points this gameweek; a repeat in Gameweek 24 would see the Terminator climb even higher. Mighty Mouse’s ability is undeniable, but his inconsistency has been his curse in his debut League of Gentlemen season. This was the fourth gameweek in five that he failed to break a half-century of points, and his second in that spell where he failed to even reach thirty points. It’s a run that has given him five red arrows in his last six gameweeks and one that has severely damaged his chances of success this season. It leaves the man with nine top-100k finishes outside of the top-500k, and is perhaps an indicator of how the increased pressure of the World’s Greatest Mini-League can be detrimental to performance. The Butcher moved back into sixth this gameweek despite scoring just 35 points, but it’s another gameweek with no ground made up on the top five, with Go Cartin in fifth still 63 points ahead and first place a huge 107 points away.
It’s still very tight from second to fifth, with just fourteen points between Go Cartin and second-place Jockin’ Jeeves. However, this was a gameweek where a little gap is beginning to form. With Go Cartin’s average score and just 32 points from the Chancellor in fourth, both Ginger Ben and Jockin’ Jeeves were able to pull a few points away. The divide perhaps looks greater due to the Ginger One and Jeeves being on the better side of the 1400-point barrier, but psychological hurdles are often more difficult to overcome than tangible ones. Not only did Ginger Ben and Jeeves pull slightly away from the two rivals chasing them, they also made up some ground on my team at the top. It may just have been a point each, but in a title race as close as this, every point matters.
The Man Who Would Be King
Still, I refuse to get too downhearted. To emerge from the gameweek still thirty points clear despite my captain scoring minus-two points is a great relief. My defensive differentials were my heroes this gameweek, with Laporte and Coufal’s combined seventeen points so crucial. Coufal’s points in particular had an element of fortuity, given he had been substituted before Manchester United scored, but I will take whatever breaks I can get at this stage. My squad looks well-set for the next few gameweeks, and while it could be seen as a disappointment that Gallagher can only play in one of his team’s double gameweek fixtures, I prefer to be grateful that he has had a fixture against Watford added to his schedule. Gray and Ronaldo have been disappointing signings so far, especially given they have essentially scored zero points in two gameweeks when the hits to sign them are factored in, but they both have good fixtures and I can only hope they produce the goods in the next few gameweeks. I only scored four points above the average, but it was enough to climb seven thousand places in the overall rankings, leaving me at 52,478 in the world. It’s another gameweek at the top. Fifteen gameweeks to go. One gameweek at a time.
That concludes the round-up of Gameweek 23, one which saw Dennis prove a menace to his captainers, which saw Maverick Mikey take control of the Eliminator, and which left Ginger Ben ruing King’s missed opportunity to capitalise on the misfortune of his rivals. Ahead of a midweek Gameweek 24 which sees Chelsea and Brighton blank, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods be in your favour.
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The FPL Nightmare: How to Lose the World's Greatest Mini-League in 38 Simple Steps
The FPL Nightmare II:
The Crying, the Hits and the VAR Probe
The FPL Nightmare III:
The Lawes Rank Redemption
The Complete FPL Nightmare Trilogy:
The Epic Quest From A 4.8m Rank To A Top 0.1% Finish
on Kindle: £3.99
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All Lawes wants is to win The League of Gentlemen, yet the FPL Gods are bastards that conspire against him.
This column provides weekly updates of Lawes' dismal attempts to best his rivals.