For the second gameweek running, my captain delivered in the last match of the gameweek. This time, though, his teammate usurped him at the death, cranking the pressure up ever further.
Having entered the final match of the gameweek just six points clear at the top, I needed somebody to produce the goods. Go Cartin had slashed my lead to just six points, and when my gamble signing of Pogba was only named as a substitute, the situation looked bleak. I needed a hero. Cometh the hour, cometh Ronaldo. Just when it looked as though it was curtains for my run at the top of the table, Manchester United’s superstar striker produced a moment of magic to keep my streak running for another gameweek, his goal ensuring my lead remains at the eighteen points I began the gameweek with.
It wasn’t all great news. While Pogba came off the bench to grab an assist, the man he played the key pass for was Ginger Ben’s captain, and that goal in the dying seconds of the gameweek saw the Mackem Messiah move back into second place. My two Manchester City defenders were rotated against Norwich, missing out on an easy clean sheet while the Chancellor’s second Manchester City player, Foden, secured an eight-point return that moved him back into third. Meanwhile, my team outscored all three managers remaining in the Eliminator, making that one-point defeat last week even harder to stomach. What’s more, the form of Pogba and Ronaldo’s goal, coupled with their next fixture being against the woeful Leeds, makes selling them for players doubling-up next time out even trickier. I also saw four players score just a single point, making that seven one-point scores in two gameweeks. Not ideal, especially when one of them was Jota, who Go Cartin had just sold, meaning that advantage went to waste.
Still, in a run of gameweeks where my rivals keep hitting huge scores every other gameweek, I’m doing just enough to keep my nose above water. Every gameweek that goes by without being knocked off the top, I feel a little stronger. My three closest competitors have all used their Wildcard in the last two gameweeks; the two that end Gameweek 24 closest to me have also used a Free Hit, and the Chancellor deployed his Bench Boost in Gameweek One. I may not have been able to put any further distance between those behind me, but the full complement of chips at my disposal gives me a much stronger hand to play when the fixtures turn. All I have to do is get it right, which is notoriously tricky to do.
What is giving me confidence is that, in the last two seasons, the final ten gameweeks are when I have been at my strongest, and that was when I didn’t have all the chips to play. This season, I have a bonus Free Hit, should I choose to use it. Part of me is contemplating holding that until the Final Day, primarily as a safeguard against potential hacks, and also to enable me - should I still have a chance at the title – to hand-pick a perfect squad for what promises to be the most nail-biting day of FPL I will ever experience. I probably won’t do that, given I think the better opportunity may lie when Liverpool play Manchester City in Gameweek 32, given that most managers have five players from that fixture and there are some plum ties elsewhere, but it’s an option I’m considering. I have another couple of strategies in mind, but it’s hard to commit to one in particular when there are still so many unknowns as to what fixtures will be rearranged when.
The only chip I am absolutely sure of is the Triple Captain chip, which will be deployed in Gameweek 26 on the arm of Salah, barring any late injury news. There are definite opportunities in giving it to someone else, or even playing the Bench Boost, given the quality of fixtures my single-gameweek players have. Getting rid of the Bench Boost could conceivably match or surpass Salah’s extra points, especially if he remained my captain anyway, while freeing me up to put all my funds in my starting XI on the Wildcard, rather than having extra funds in the substitutes for the subsequent Bench Boost. Giving the Triple Captain armband to Alexander-Arnold is a tempting proposition, given that, since Gameweek Eleven, Alexander-Arnold has outscored Salah in ten of the twelve gameweeks they have both played in, bringing in 92 points compared to the Egyptian’s 69, but I feel that the risk of not captaining Salah in a gameweek where he will be, perhaps, the most-captained player ever is probably not one worth taking, especially when he could quite easily score a hat-trick in both fixtures. Salah already has two goals and two assists this season against the two teams he plays in Gameweek 26; in his last two home games against his next opponents, he came out with four goals and an assist.
For me, I think the risk is too great to go against Salah. We’ve already seen Grinchy Vogt get massacred earlier in the season when he captained one-point Vardy over 24-point Salah. I refuse to make that same mistake. It does open the door to my rivals to go for an alternative captain or chip and potentially take advantage, but it’s not a risk I would want to be taking. It’s one of them that, if it goes wrong, it could well be a season-ender. If it went right, though, then I would be in big, big trouble, and that’s the question they must consider ahead of the deadline.
All I know is, Grinchy Vogt played his Triple Captain chip on Salah in Gameweek One, and got an extra seventeen points from it, and even he is now unsure whether that was the right decision. They say fortune favours the brave, and some may use that expression to justify a huge, huge risk. They should remember that they also say that a fool and his money are soon parted, and there is no greater currency in this world than FPL points.
The Cup Chronicles
In the Eliminator semi-final, Maverick Mikey took full advantage of being out of the title race to take another huge hit, knowing that it would not hinder his shot at immortality. It proved a shrewd move, with a thirteen-point gain from those transfers seeing him comfortably through to the final, with the astute signing of goalscoring defender Trippier providing nine of those extra points. It left title contenders Go Cartin and Jockin’ Jeeves battling it out for the second slot, and it went all the way to the final game. Both men ended up a defender short, with neither man having any cover for the rotated Cancelo, and it was Go Cartin who entered the final match of the gameweek with a twelve-point advantage, but no players to play. Jockin’ Jeeves suffered the devastating blow of captain de Bruyne missing out against Norwich, leaving him with only nine players and needing a de Gea masterclass to save him, with either six saves or a penalty save required on top of a clean sheet and three bonus points. With Brighton profligate in front of goal, de Gea was in fine form, picking up a save point early in the second half and never looking like conceding. Jeeves had a real chance, but then Dunk got himself sent off, continuing the curse of Brighton defenders in double gameweeks. Down to ten men, Brighton’s attacking threat faded, leaving de Gea with no opportunity to add to his tally and Go Cartin to squeak through to the final despite a poor score of just 46 points.
With it being a double gameweek and with Go Cartin still in the title picture, Maverick Mikey enters the Eliminator final as the strong favourite. He could, and most likely will, take as many hits as required to ensure as many players as possible play twice, a strategy Go Cartin cannot afford to emulate because of his league title aspirations. However, Go Cartin still has his Bench Boost and Triple Captain to play, whereas the Maverick used all his chips long, long ago. Should Cartin Triple Captain the right player, or see his Bench Boost perform to a good standard, then he could end the Maverick’s only shot at glory right at the last. It promises to be a true clash of the titans.
It was a big gameweek for Lethal Lee, who finally reached the thousand-point mark, leaving only Wooden Spoon Helling remaining with a three-figure score. Who Horner returned with a Wildcard, trying to recover from the hacking heartbreak of Gameweek 24, but still fell another place after Lionheart Lamb Bench Boosted his way to 69 points. Daredevil Daisy played her Wildcard and made some interesting choices, with differential picks Tielemans and Trippier both scoring nine points and securing a two-place rise. Maverick Mikey remains in 29th place, and has little prospect of climbing higher while Eliminator glory is on the cards. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him drop in the table while claiming the trophy in Gameweek 26; after that, his prospects for league progression seem brighter. Iceman Newton and Professor Storey both drop a place, with a two-place rise for Dodger Rodgers secured after using his Triple Captain on Ronaldo; a brave move, given the appeal of Salah next time out. The Masterchef took a gamble on signing and captaining Sancho this gameweek, a result which paid off to the tune of 24 points and saw a two-place rise to 23rd, with his other new signing, Dalot, also producing the goods.
Gladiator Glen moved back into the top twenty at the expense of Deadly Daz, tying the scores with Big-Time Birkett but a place behind based on transfers made. Killer Kev secured a three-place rise to seventeenth with a 79-point score, the division’s highest this gameweek, and he closed the gap on Brad the Lad and Sirloin Sean considerably. A score of 39 points saw Ash the Bash drop three places, with the Hitman, King Ding and Grinchy Vogt all rising as a result. The Grinch is now in tenth place, and is only behind Big Steve on transfers made. Falling into the Irrelevants is the culmination of a poor run of form for the Butcher, and his score of just twenty points means that he faces a tough challenge to climb back into the Elite in the gameweeks ahead. In a game of 8.98m players, his gameweek rank was a shocking 8.6m – by far the worst of his entire FPL career.
Even with such a hideous gameweek score, the Butcher only dropped out of the Elite due to the Dragon hitting a strong 70-point total. His captaincy of Salah did not work out, but he was one of the few people to benefit from the Cancelo benching, with thirteen-point Keane coming into the team. It’s the sort of fortune that led to his title success last season, and though he seems too far away to defend his crown this season, those behind him will be looking over their shoulder, especially when he has all but one chip to play. Fifteen points ahead in seventh is Terminator Tris, whose great run of form came to an end with a 47-point score, but one that was still enough to climb the table and close the gap on two of the six teams in front of him. In a period of few mistakes, it was an unusual move for the Terminator to captain Varane, and the error turned into horror when the Manchester United defender fell ill in the warm-up to his second match. It was a misstep the Gentleman directly ahead, Mighty Mouse, took full advantage of, securing 73 points and establishing a forty-point difference between the two managers.
He is now just 34 points off fifth-place Jockin’ Jeeves, who fell another place in the table after scoring just 42 points, and now finds himself closer to sixth place than first. It’s now five red arrows in six gameweeks for the Rap Rob Roy, who will need to take full advantage of his two free transfers next time out to shift the momentum of his season. Also falling was Go Cartin, who somehow Wildcarded his way to having just ten men on the pitch and scoring only 46 points. Given the make-up of his squad, it can only be assumed he is planning a Bench Boost next time out. If that isn’t his plan, his Wildcard makes no sense, but declining this Triple Captain opportunity would be his biggest gamble of the season. A point ahead in third is the Chancellor, with Ginger Ben another sixteen clear in second. Both men played their Wildcards in Gameweek 24, and both chose to follow that up by taking transfer hits. Ginger Ben outscored the Chancellor by four points, but having taken an extra four-point penalty, it meant they both emerged with 76 points for the gameweek. It meant they both closed their personal gaps to top spot by thirteen points, with captain Bruno’s goal in the gameweek’s dying seconds pivotal for both men.
The Man Who Would Be King
Though my gamble to bring in Pogba instead of Coutinho ultimately proved successful, quite frankly, I’d much rather he’d punted his assist out of the stadium. Yes, he brought me home three extra points, but in setting up Bruno, he boosted the scores of the Chancellor and Ginger Ben by sixteen points, given the three bonus points the goal secured for their captain, while also costing me two further points by ensuring Ronaldo only received two bonus points, rather than the three he was on for. It did take a point of Ginger Ben’s Veltman, which is something to be grateful for, and Pogba would have got that assist whether he was in my team or not, so at least I got his extra three points, but they could well prove my worst return of the season. Beyond that, there was little to celebrate. Bowen, who is owned by everyone, got an utterly irrelevant thirteen points, Alexander-Arnold, who is owned by everyone, got an assist, and de Gea, who is owned by everyone but Go Cartin, got a ten-point haul. Beyond that, my gameweek was another missed opportunity, with four single-pointers, two defenders nailed-on for clean sheets being benched and Broja continuing his fine run of blanking whenever he starts. If I want to get points off that lad, I need to bench him and hope one of my starters doesn’t play. He’s one of those players, much like John Lundstram two seasons ago. Too cheap to start, too good to bench, gets the points but inconsistently and often in games you wouldn’t want to start him in. My big gamble was pinning my trust in the misfiring Ronaldo to come good, and come good he did, his captaincy securing twenty points that really should have been closer to forty, given the goal opportunities and key passes wasted by him and his teammates. Still, though I am frustrated at my team’s inability to reach the higher points totals, they are doing just enough for now, and that’s all I need. People will draw parallels with Ginger Ben’s performance in the same period last season, when his team seemed to be barely scraping through each gameweek before ultimately succumbing as the grind of the blanks and doubles became too much. The key difference is, he had used most of his chips before that period, and I have all of mine remaining, two in hand over Ginger Ben in second and three in hand over the third-place Chancellor. Obviously, they don’t guarantee extra points, as Go Cartin proved this gameweek, but they are a huge advantage, especially that Wildcard chip. I just need to get my chip strategy right, and then the fairytale ending to this saga would become a real possibility. That ending is still thirteen gameweeks away. For me, I must continue to take things one gameweek at a time, and that’s what I’ll do.
That concludes our round up of Gameweek 25, which saw Go Cartin veer off the title track, which saw Big Steve butcher his hopes of being in the Elite, and which saw the Chancellor and Ginger Ben ramp up the pressure at the top. Ahead of Double Gameweek 26, 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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All Lawes wants is to win The League of Gentlemen, yet the FPL Gods are bastards that conspire against him.
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