In another gameweek where goals were hard to find, defence proved the best form of attack. With the early high-scorers tailing off, new contenders are coming to the fore, while Carl Hellier moves ever closer to top spot.
The low-scoring nature of recent gameweeks led to an element of caution in the Gentlemen's approach to Gameweek Eight, with fourteen managers opting to make no changes and only six managers risking a transfer hit. With Salah again the only highly-owned attacker to do any damage, there was no movement at the upper end of the division, with defensive stability proving the key to adding points to totals. Clean sheets for Brighton, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea meant most teams had at least three clean sheets, with the one-point cameos of Dias and James proving irritating to some, with Livramento again proving the key substitute, bringing six points off the bench for several managers who saw Alonso or Raphinha unable to contribute.
The undercurrent of tension throughout the division continues to grow, and with every match that passes without a non-Salah return, the Gentlemen are feeling the sense of missed opportunity. The consistent scoring of Vardy remains absent from all but four teams, with the gameweek's top-scorer, Hitman Hodgson, reaping the benefits of bringing him in on a Wildcard. Faith in the underachieving Ronaldo and Lukaku continues to blight the Gentlemen, with neither man scoring any additional points in the last three gameweeks. With Lukaku facing Norwich in Gameweek Nine, it is expected that his ownership will dramatically rise from the sixteen teams he featured in this gameweek. It's the obvious move, but with goals proving hard to come by, there may be opportunities to steal a march for those with the courage to go without him. With only Grinchy Vogt of the current top four holding Lukaku's registration as of now, a tactical gamble could see his lead cut to shreds. Should it backfire, though, then not only would the Grinch's lead be extended, but with seven of the nine managers from fifth down owning the Belgian, we could see big changes at the upper end of the Elite.
It's a dilemma that will rage throughout the minds of managers right up until the deadline, none more so than the Chancellor, who cut the Grinch's lead to 28 points this gameweek. Dismissed by some as an early-season flash-in-the-pan, the Chancellor has delved deep into his red briefcase to find a points economy second only to the Grinch, utilising a fine mix of budget signings and high-expenditure investment to maximise his fantasy profits. His team value of £102.3m is one of the highest in the division at present, and the Chancellor is proving that he can manage the variables and come out ahead. This coming gameweek will be the biggest test of his ability so far, with the prospect of a tactical gamble of going without Lukaku offering huge potential dividends. If it backfires, though, the Chancellor could well see a huge stock market crash. Given his form so far, expect him to get this huge decision correct.
For myself, it was another gameweek of treading water, with nothing gained and little lost. The Chancellor moved slightly further ahead of me, but my eyes are focused solely on first place, the only position that can see me end the King's Quest triumphant. With Ramsdale's bonus save point ensuring I matched the Grinch's score, I am no closer to my goal, and I have one gameweek fewer to reach it, though I do have a Triple Captain in hand. The negligible gains made by Go Cartin and Jockin' Jeeves behind me are irritating, and it's an issue I need to address, especially with Jeeves making these small gains on a gameweekly basis at present.
My aim in pre-season was to still be in contention after ten gameweeks, and I'm 80% of the way there. Given I had destroyed my chances of winning the previous two seasons by this stage, I feel this is huge progress, as is not taking a transfer hit so far. I will maintain this steady approach with the boring signing of Lukaku for Gameweek Nine, barring any injury in midweek. While this defensive transfer may hand the impetus to the Grinch and Jockin' Jeeves, who both already own Lukaku and so can address other issues in their squad, I feel to go without the Chelsea man over the next three gameweeks is too big a risk to take. I would rather get six points from owning him for three blanks than risk getting more from another player and seeing Lukaku catch fire. It means persevering without Raphinha for another gameweek, which I'd rather not do, but I must focus on the greater priority and hope Benrahma, Saint-Maximin, Gray and Mbuemo step up. Given the explosive talents of all four, there is no reason they cannot.
The Cup Chronicles
With the fourth round of fixtures now complete in Stage One of the Gentlemen's Classic, the tables are starting to take shape, and they make grim reading for some big names. The Gentlemen ranked second and third in the league table, the Chancellor and myself, are both four points off qualification for Stage Two with only four points left to play for. We play each other next time out, meaning one of our eliminations will be confirmed, and we will both be eliminated should either Group D match end in a draw. It's a similar story in Group C, with wins for Big Steve and Red Hot Rob leaving them both on the brink of advancing. The only thing that can stop the pair of them going through is Deadly Daz beating them both in his last two games and Flash Funk somehow finding some points in his final two matches, neither of which look likely on current form. In Group A, The Ox has a three-point cushion over third-place Grinchy Vogt, and needs only a win in one of his final two matches to see himself through. It's the same for Ginger Ben, who is only two points ahead of the Grinch, but holds the crucial head-to-head Tiebreaker advantage. Group B remains the most open, and while Jockin' Jeeves holds a two-point advantage over second and third place, a defeat to King Ding in Gameweek Nine would mean each team enters Matchday Six with their destiny in their own hands.
Gentlemen's Classic results, Matchday Four:
Ginger Ben 53 - 53 Grinchy Vogt
The Masterchef 35 - 55 The Ox
Hitman Hodgson 70 - 57 Jockin' Jeeves
Iceman Newton 50 - 47 King Ding
Flash Funk 34 - 57 Big Steve
Deadly Daz 37 - 66 Red Hot Rob
Lord Geord 53 - 60 Dan the Dragon
The Chancellor 57 - 62 Sirloin Sean
It was a close contest in the Eliminator this gameweek, with Deadly Daz Wildcarding his way to disaster. His failure to captain Salah left him with just 37 points, but he escaped catastrophe after Mack Daddy McMahon scored two points fewer. The Dazzler still needed to outscore one other person to survive, and he managed to do so, scraping through by a single point. In a heartbreaking twist, it was his own eleven-year-old daughter, Daredevil Daisy, who paid the price for her father's survival. There is no room for sentiment in the greatest endurance test in FPL, and the ruthlessness of Deadly Daz keeps him alive, while condemning his first-born and the Mack Daddy to Elimination.
It was a tale of three Wildcards in the Irrelevants, with Deadly Daz, Big Steve and Hitman Hodgson showcasing the range of results that can arise from a mass overhaul. It was a disaster for Deadly Daz, who captained Ronaldo over Salah for a loss of eleven points, who saw two players score one point and another two players score nothing at all. While he barely survived in the Eliminator, he is now down to 22nd place, 122 points off the title. For Big Steve, his score was a little higher than it would've been without using the chip, without any real progress being made up the table. The Hitman showcased the power of the Wildcard to its full effect, ending the gameweek with a division-high seventy points and a 600k rise in the overall rankings. Other noteworthy performances came from Stone Cold Stephen Levins, who is in a fine run of form after a poor start and is second in October's Manager of the Month race, and Gladiator Glen, whose Triple Captaincy of Salah gained him an extra thirteen points and moved him up to sixteenth. Still at the top of the Irrelevants is King Ding, who dropped four points further away from the Elite and now has Ash the Bash, Wildman Whitfield and the Hitman hot on his tail.
Gameweek Eight saw only one positional change in the Elite, with Ginger Ben's hit to switch Ronaldo to Lukaku costing him four points and seeing him displaced in sixth by the Dragon. Mighty Mouse may have gained four points on the Irrelevants, but he dropped further behind everyone ahead of him in the table, while the Dragon, Jockin' Jeeves and Go Cartin all cut the gaps to both my team in third and the top of the table. The big winner was the Chancellor, who remains in second place at the top of the Elite, and who has moved four points closer to the Grinch. With the gap now down to 28 points, it could feasibly be eradicated with one astute captaincy call. Gameweek Nine may not be the right time to take such a risk, but with confidence rising in the Chancellor's chambers and the Grinch being unable to utilise his infamous mind games, all the momentum is with the man doing the chasing.
The Man Who Would Be King
Another gameweek of clinging on for Grinchy Vogt, whose runaway train has ground to a halt and who is now starting to understand the unique stresses of life at the top. The folly of working Lukaku into his team alongside Ronaldo has been exposed, with neither man offering a single return since the Grinch paired them together, and with twin budget midfielders Rice and Allan offering little. Saka's injury and Alonso falling out-of-favour leaves him with only Amartey as a viable substitute, though his ownership of Lukaku enables him to address that squad issue with a free transfer. Given the paucity of points in recent weeks, the Grinch could well opt for a transfer hit ahead of Gameweek Nine, in an attempt to arrest a slide which has seen him fall from 578 in the world to 8,377 in just two gameweeks. He is still the kingpin of the division, but the margin for error is narrowing, and the contenders are closing in behind him. Right now, everyone would swap places with Grinchy Vogt; in a gameweek or two, someone may well have done just that. The pressure is officially on.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Eight in the League of Gentlemen, which saw the Hitman use his Wildcard to take out his rivals, which saw Grinchy Vogt's grasp on top spot weaken, and which saw more questions raised than answers as to how the Gentlemen stop the attacking rot. Ahead of Gameweek Nine, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods be in your favour.
Gentlemen's Classic fixtures, Gameweek Nine:
The Ox vs Grinchy Vogt
The Masterchef vs Ginger Ben
King Ding vs Jockin' Jeeves
Iceman Newton vs Hitman Hodgson
Red Hot Rob vs Big Steve
Deadly Daz vs Flash Funk
Sirloin Sean vs Dan the Dragon
The Chancellor vs Lord Geord
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