After a sixteen-gameweek streak for the Lords at the top of the table, a new name leads the pack. Is the ultimate FPL Nightmare about to become a reality for Lord Geord?
And so, after sixteen gameweeks at the apex of the division, Gameweek 29 ends with my team in second place. From the moment Go Cartin played his Wildcard in Gameweek 25, I knew what his strategy was, and I knew I was in trouble. He had made the decision to attack the known double gameweeks as they stood, gambling that I would not do the same, hoping that could give him the edge in the title race. Five gameweeks later, courtesy of Kane stealing bonus points in stoppage-time after Bentacur was inexplicably deducted a point on the bonus point system, Go Cartin is now the Man Who Would Be King.
It has been a masterful run by the new league leader, who has scored 561 points in just six gameweeks and has entered the Hundred Club twice in the process. In that time, he has outscored me by 46 points, and has done it while leaving his squad with eight players for Blank Gameweek 30. He took top spot in style, smashing in a score ranked 2,060 out of over nine million managers for the gameweek, and he did it while I scored the second-highest points total in the League of Gentlemen. He took a chance on his chips, and he has reaped the rewards for that decision.
And yet, somehow, I emerge from Gameweek 29 more confident than I have felt all season. My closest rival has thrown everything at me, and yet, while he currently has the most points, I feel my position is far stronger. His lead is only two points. I have a Free Hit in hand over the new leader, one that I activated as soon as the Gameweek 29 deadline passed. With only one free transfer to play, Cartin has the choice of either taking transfer hits, which would put me back top as soon as the deadline passes, or going with only nine players, which would mean my two extra players will put me back top as soon as they hit the field. With a big double gameweek announced for Gameweek 33, and with the knowledge that Gameweek 36 will feature the most matches of any gameweek this season, I can use my Wildcard in either Gameweek 32 or 35 and ensure I have fifteen players that play twice, a move unavailable to him due to his having no Wildcard or Bench Boost. While we both will have one Free Hit to use from Gameweek 31 onwards – unless, of course, he uses his in Gameweek 30, which would be a mistake – he will have to use his defensively, to limit the advantage of my Wildcard-Bench Boost combo, whereas I can use mine aggressively. As it stands, I also hold the transfer tiebreaker advantage, meaning that if we have the same amount of points, it is the Lords who will be victorious. I may be in second place on the table, but psychologically, I’m as on top as I have ever felt.
That, of course, is a dangerous mindset to have. I cannot afford to get complacent. Jockin’ Jeeves is in third place, and while he is 57 points behind me and 59 off the top, he also has a Wildcard, a Bench Boost and two Free Hits to play. He also has the pedigree of having won the division twice, and he is notorious for ending seasons strongly. Focusing only on Cartin would be a huge mistake, one that the Townhead Gunner is hoping I make, so that he can capitalise. Nothing emphasises the focus of the Rap Rob Roy more than his detachment from society, refusing to return the messages of Jez Messing and the rest of the media for four months as he focuses solely on becoming the final champion of the FPL Nightmare trilogy. Friendships are out of the window for the next nine gameweeks and social media is deleted; all Jeeves wants is to be immortalised as a champion, and withdrawing from communications and distractions seems to be the strategy he is employing to do it. A wounded Jeeves is a vicious Jeeves, and with the same chips as I have at his disposal, a late comeback simply cannot be ruled out – especially when there are still so many fixture variables in play.
How I use my first Free Hit will be crucial. There’s a big part of me that is considering signing the eight players Go Cartin owns, fleshing out the squad with Toney, Barnes and Jimenez and gambling that he will also sign one of those players, leaving him unable to damage me at all and giving myself two players with which to take back the lead. However, it’s not a move I’m really willing to play at this stage, especially when Cartin has two Aston Villa attackers playing three Arsenal defenders. With those five of his eight players cancelling each other out somewhat, this is an opportunity to be aggressive, rather than defensive, and that’s the mindset I feel will be most beneficial to my team. Of course, there’s the slim possibility that, somehow, all five of those players get returns for Cartin, and he is on a hot streak of fortune – yes, Havertz not getting sent off and then scoring later on is a ten-point swing that rankles! – so I cannot become complacent. However, I feel that there is a higher ceiling out there on the Free Hit than merely getting two or three differentials, and I feel I must attack. I cannot defend this title, I must go out and win it.
The streak is over, but the dream lives on. The King’s Quest has taken me on a detour I did not want, yet my revised ambition ten gameweeks ago was to be in contention come Gameweek 30, and I’m two points off top with a three-chip advantage. I may have gone backwards, but I feel I am closer to ending my FPL Nightmare than ever. After so many gameweeks where it’s felt like I’m just defending my position, it’s time for the Lords to go out and win this bastard league.
The Cup Chronicles
Compounding the blow of losing top spot is the likely eventuality of losing out in the Gentlemen’s Trophy in the early stages for the third season running. What’s most infuriating is that, had I been drawn against anybody else in the competition, I would be the comfortable favourite to progress. Yet, I was drawn against Go Cartin, who now holds a 28-point lead heading into the second leg. Even without using his Triple Captain chip he would hold the advantage, but the extra fourteen points gained makes it an even greater challenge ahead of me. To overturn a seven-return deficit is a huge task, but with a Free Hit chip, some bonus point fortune and a bit of luck, anything is possible. The only other tie that features a sure-fire favourite is Brad the Lad vs Sirloin Sean, where Sirloin’s twenty-point hit gave him a deficit too great to overcome. Sirloin has lost his composure in the transfer market recently, with 72 points sacrificed in just five gameweeks, and with no end in sight to his wheeling and dealing, the task ahead is a daunting one.
There is nothing in the other six ties, with the biggest advantage being the six points Private Parvesh holds over Lionheart Lamb. Every other match features a lead that can be overcome by a midfielder’s goal, with Terminator Tris and The Ox the hardest match-up to call as they enter the second leg dead-level. We could also see a huge shock, with the defending league champion Dan the Dragon only four points ahead of the basement-dwelling Wooden Spoon Helling, who somehow has eight players available in the blank gameweek despite not having managed his team since Gameweek Six. With places in the quarter-finals on the line, the Gentlemen must weigh up the risk of taking transfer hits or going without full squads, a situation which offers great potential for drama in the concluding chapter of Round Two.
Gentlemen’s Trophy, Round Two, First Leg scores:
There wasn’t much going on in the Irrelevants this gameweek, with only nine of 31 teams climbing in the table. At the bottom, Wooden Spoon Helling found his natural home in last place, with Lethal Lee’s set-forget captain, Ronaldo, firing home a hat-trick to lift him up to second-last. Despite being seemingly cut adrift not so long ago, both men are making up ground, with Metal Marc and Glorious Gaz doing their best to get sucked into the mire, which is actually incredible given Metal Marc is more engaged in the game than he has ever been, actively managing his team in four of the last five gameweeks. Daredevil Daisy climbed two places to 31st, overtaking Maverick Mikey and Grinchy Vogt, while Dodger Rodgers and Professor Storey also climbed several places and Rough Rider swapped places with The Ox. Inside the top twenty, Mack Daddy McMahon, Gladiator Glen and Big Steve all climbed a single place, while in the race to become Elite, Red Hot Rob remained in eleventh, but closed the gap after scoring 93 points, while Hitman Hodgson is now only behind Ash the Bash on transfers made, with both men just two points behind eighth place and four points away from seventh.
While seventh place remains the domain of Terminator Tris, eighth is now held by Dan the Dragon, following a strong 88-point gameweek from King Ding which saw him climb two places in the table, establishing an eight-point cushion in the process. The Dragon’s poor score of 69 points saw him lose ground on every team above him, while also opening the door for the Irrelevants to overtake him in the forthcoming blank gameweek. It has not been a strong title defence from the Dragon, whose outstanding debut League of Gentlemen season has given way to a situation where he is almost two hundred points away from defending his title. For King Ding, it has been another quiet season since his phenomenal back-to-back title successes, but he has quietly climbed the table in recent gameweeks and now finds himself only nineteen points away from the top five. Though the title is most likely out of reach, he will want to defeat the man who took his title, and with the Dragon ten points behind him and with the King still in possession of three chips and with a Wildcard advantage over his successor, he has every chance of doing just that. Clawing back Mighty Mouse might prove more taxing, with the veteran of nine top-100k finishes still in possession of four of his chips.
Those chips are the only thing that can save his season, with Ginger Ben now a hundred points clear of Mighty Mouse in fourth place. Yet, that battle still remains on a knife-edge, as despite the massive points advantage, the Mackem Messiah has only a Free Hit chip remaining. You would have to think that would be enough to hold off Mighty Mouse with only nine gameweeks remaining, but strange things can happen during title run-ins, and the Ginger One will have to be aware of the threat behind him while deliberating the risks to take as he chases the medal positions. And, for all he is just eight points off the bronze, he will have to take some risks, as he has a three-chip deficit to Jockin’ Jeeves, the notorious run-in master. Jeeves will not be spending too much time looking over his shoulder, with a title triumph his only ambition, yet he has a challenge on his hands to get back in the race. He finds himself 59 points off the top entering Gameweek 30, but with a Wildcard and Bench Boost in hand over Go Cartin, two chips he will combine over two gameweeks for maximum impact. Having seen Cartin outscore my team by 46 points in six gameweeks, he’ll know the opportunity is there to claim top spot before the season’s end. However, he will also know that my team are 57 points ahead of him, and we have an extra Free Hit to play, so the task ahead is a tricky one indeed. He can only hope I get my Free Hit wrong in Gameweek 30, and that the distance to cover does not grow too much, because both he and Cartin will know that the circumstances mean I am the favourite to end Gameweek 30 back on top. Any other outcome, and not only will I be in deep trouble, but my confidence to address the situation will be shattered.
The Man Who Would Be King
Only the fourth Gentleman to feature in this slot so far this season, Go Cartin will have to rely on fortune and my incompetence in order to remain here in one gameweek’s time. Still, he is the man in possession, and until he is displaced, he is the man in charge. To overcome a 26-point deficit in a gameweek where I achieved the second-highest gameweek score is an incredible result, one that may have featured elements of luck but one that is also a fitting reward for a courageous series of chip gambles to get back into the hunt. Six players brought home double-figure hauls, with Triple Captain Kane smashing home 42 points and Doherty, Gabriel and Havertz all securing returns as well. Selling Son and Cancelo as part of an eight-point hit was a brave move, and while he was in deficit for those transfers, the funds they generated enabled the huge upgrade of Dennis to Kane and the 42 points that followed. The challenge ahead will be great, with very little margin for error in the transfer market with no Wildcard to rectify the situation if it turns sour, but it is one Cartin is proving himself capable of tackling. He has never finished in the top-100k before; now, the pressure of the League of Gentlemen has raised his standards to the point he is ranked 40,575 in the world, just 435 points away from his highest-ever points total with nine gameweeks to go. Of course, these statistics are mere trinkets, and the only position that matters to any of the Gentlemen is that of first place in the World’s Greatest Mini-League. That position is held for the first time by Go Cartin. Now, the challenge is to stay there, because the Lords and the Townhead Gunners are coming for him, and we are armed with the chips he has already deployed. What a tantalising situation for the neutral, what a terrifying prospect for all involved, and what a trilogy finale awaits us all.
That concludes the round-up of Gameweek 29 of the League of Gentlemen, one which saw the Gentlemen’s Trophy poised on a knife-edge, which saw the Lords’ sixteen-gameweek streak at the top of the table ended, and which saw Go Cartin become the man with the target on his back. Ahead of Blank Gameweek 30, 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
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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.