The new contenders look more in control each week, with a new name on the League of Gentlemen trophy looking ever more inevitable. As the old guard fades away, can anyone stop Ginger Ben?
It was all looking so good on Saturday night. The Lords had a barnstormer of a day, flying up the table to eleventh with King Ding right behind on twelfth, both hot on the tail of the now-ninth Jockin' Jeeves. The old guard, after such a troublesome start, were reasserting control, while none of the top three had scored more than 25 points. This is what it's all about. If my eight-year odyssey to become the League of Gentlemen champion is ever going to end, I thought, it's going to be like this. From miles behind, a glorious comeback. It's the only way fitting for this tale to end, and it's happening, we're engaged in it right now. The comeback is on, and how magnificent it shall be.
Then came Sunday and Monday. Then came Ginger Ben rising to 83 points. Then came Flash Funk with 86, Dan the Dragon with 73, Red Hot Rob with 84. All the while, my gameweek fizzled out. Ziyech off injured. A one-point Jota cameo that denied me Soucek's eight points. One point from Lamptey. I couldn't even celebrate Kane's 12-pointer, because so many had him as captain, and so many had thirteen-point Son. Even my glories turned to dust, blown away by the winds of change in the League of Gentlemen. Come the close of play, there we were. Sixteenth. Even Red Hot Rob overtook me, for the first time in weeks.
The gap to the top now is 131 points. My Mackem amigo stands above us all, in only his second season as a manager. My only consolation is he has already used his Free Hit, a sign of inexperience that could, perhaps, be capitalised on, but it's a long road back now. King Ding, eight points behind me, I'd say he has more chance of making up the difference, but this might be a task too tall for even him. Jockin' Jeeves has shown some recovery, but even he is still over a hundred points behind. I would have killed for a new name on the trophy at the start of the season, convinced the next first-time winner would be me. Now, I find myself praying that someone, anyone, can stop that Mackem renegade from having this to hold over me for the rest of time. We need a hero, because I don't think I'm good enough to stop him myself.
FAO: The League of Gentlemen:
Official Statement from the office of Jez Messing
"Last week, it was reported that Martin Bell, known affectionately as 'King Ding', had been quoted as saying, "‘I pissed the League of Gentlemen last season after giving them all a head start. I don’t even need to try this season," while also claiming there was photographic evidence of him outsourcing his managerial knowledge. Following the receipt of a legal letter from King Ding's solicitor, the highly-esteemed Saul Goodman, I must confess this statement, and the alleged evidence, were falsified for the sake of drama. King Ding did NOT say those words.
The truth is, the Weekly Bullshitter is struggling for traction, and in my head I thought generating a story like this could save the paper. In reality, it has served to undermine our future, while upsetting one of our biggest supporters in the process. The Weekly Bullshitter has a long-established reputation, and the actions of myself have served no purpose other than to erode the confidence of our twelve readers. It was a mistake borne of desperation, one which I hope you can forgive. I, Jez Messing, will now embark upon a spiritual journey. If I choose to return to the highly-competitive world of undercover FPL reporting, I shall do so with good faith, and I shall earn back your trust."
FAO: The League of Gentlemen:
From the office of the Masterchef
Hugh G. Rection has been in touch with me, and wishes to get me to facilitate an Award on his behalf for Christmas …
The FPL Managers Manager if the Year Award.
Not only is this esteemed honour coming with a Title, but a rather nifty little Prize to the Winner. It could be based on Achievement, it could be based on Improvement, it could be based on Amusement - it's up to you. Simple as this - Message me with your Manager of the Year, your Runner-Up and your 3rd Place (I can't be included in this, the Shit). When all the Votes are in and counted, I will then declare Your Choice, and arrange to get them their Prize.
Make haste Men.
A very gracious offer from the Masterchef there. Get your votes to him through Facebook, or, if you do not use that forum, fire them in through the Contact page of this website and I will pass them on.
The Cup Chronicles
We're at the halfway point of Stage Two of the Gentlemen's Classic, and it already looks like Group B is settled. Hitman Hodgson was the latest to try and take down Ginger Ben, but his tough start to the season continued as the Ginger One blew him away 83-67, establishing a three-point lead with just three games to go. With Gameweek Twelve seeing a reverse of the Matchday Nine fixtures, what that means is, should Ginger Ben defeat the Hitman again, and should The Ox fail to beat Sirloin Sean, then Ginger Ben would be the first man in the Grand Final with two games to spare. Given The Ox's handy thirteen-point defeat of Sirloin Sean, condemning the Appleby Assassin to his fourth-straight loss in the competition, it looks as though The Ox should be able to keep the group alive. However, should Sirloin Sean enact a measure of revenge, then only the Hitman can prevent the March of the Mackem.
In Group A, things are a lot tighter, with all four teams still in the mix. Slick Rick picking up his first win of the stage couldn't have come at a worse time for Deadly Daz, with even a goal from Vestergaard not enough to prevent defeat. That result leaves both teams two points off top spot, a position now held by Flash Funk after his sensational 86-79 victory over Jockin' Jeeves. The Funkmaster's decision to go with Zouma and Son, rather than Jeeves' James and Bruno, proved the difference this week, giving Flash not just top spot but, potentially crucially, the head-to-head advantage. With the rematch between the two this week, Jeeves simply must win to keep his destiny in his own hands, while the loser of Slick Rick and Deadly Daz will be virtually eliminated.
Gentlemen's Classic, Matchday Nine results:
Deadly Daz 69 - 79 Slick Rick
Jockin’ Jeeves 79 - 86 Flash Funk
Sirloin Sean 60 - 73 The Ox
Ginger Ben 83 - 67 Hitman Hodgson
Gentlemen's Classic, Stage Two tables:
In the Eliminator, disaster loomed for the Free-Hitting Iceman Newton, whose blank canvas team produced his second-lowest overall gameweek rank of the season, in the mid-five millions. Luckily for him, the FPL Gods intervened, cursing the Wildcarding Big-Time Birkett to having two non-playing Manchester City midfielders, leaving him with only 45 points for the gameweek and making him the latest victim of the unforgiving Eliminator.
Currently Eliminated: Metal Marc, Mack Daddy McMahon, Red Hot Rob, Maverick Mikey, Private Parvesh, Deadly Daz, Sirloin Sean, Big-Time Birkett.
The League of Gentlemen:
Maverick Mikey ends Gameweek Eleven a point further adrift at the bottom, with his points total advantage over his rivals again eradicated by his transfer policy, leaving him rock-bottom on 446 points. Both Private Parvesh and Metal Marc lie 41 points ahead, with Metal Marc a position higher based on making fewer transfers so far. A massive 65-point gap then emerges to 21st place, which is currently held by the Big-Time Birkett. His Wildcard usage failed to pay off this week, with many observers wondering why he went for Foden and Silva when neither are regulars for Manchester City and both cannot be relied upon for points. Making it even harder to understand is the retention of £1m in his transfer kitty, funds that could've upgraded Silva to Mahrez who, though he didn't get returns this week, is far more likely to get goals and assists going forward. Birkett's divisional-low 45 points adds further evidence to the claim Wildcards can be as damaging as they can be helpful, though, given the state of his season so far, things cannot get much worse. Rising five points ahead of him into 20th is Wildman Whitfield, who has had a disappointing debut campaign, and will be hoping his total of 557 points improves vastly in the coming weeks. A point ahead are All-Star Vogt and Mack Daddy McMahon, with the Mack Daddy holding the transfer advantage which makes him eighteenth.
There's a gap of 31 points up to seventeenth, where defending champion King Ding currently finds himself. A tough season looked like it would improve on Saturday night, before the remainder of the gameweek condemned the King to his lowest position of the season. It was a similar story for sixteenth-placed Lord Geord, eight points ahead, with both men overtaken by a resurgent Red Hot Rob, whose 84-point gameweek moves him a point ahead of the Lord into fifteenth, with Who Horner a further point ahead on 599. Remaining thirteenth on 610 points is Hitman Hodgson, with Deadly Daz dropping to twelfth on 613, who was upended by the Masterchef rattling off an eighty-point week to move to eleventh, five points ahead. An eight-point gap emerges to the tenth-placed Jockin' Jeeves, who has taken 36 points worth of hits in the last four weeks, but has risen by a million in the overall rankings during that time, showing that, sometimes, a big-hitting approach can reap dividends. The Irrelevants are rounded off by Wooden Spoon Helling on 634 points. Wooden Spoon made a rare foray into his team selection this week and gave Jordan Henderson the captain's armband, a prescient decision which reaped 22 points. One has to wonder, however, about the long-term ramifications of making Kane his second substitute, given his largely set-and-forget style.
The Chasing Pack
Dropping to eighth place, just three points clear of the Irrelevants, is the struggling Sirloin Sean. His great start has given way to a rapid fall, although that was slowed somewhat by his sixty points this week. The signing of Ederson was rewarded with six points, with Mane, Zouma and all three strikers adding further returns. While it was a solid enough gameweek, it wasn't enough to prevent Sirloin from sliding out of the top-1m overall for the first time since Gameweek Four, and he needs a response fast. Moving into seventh is The Ox, who is quietly putting together his best season for several years. His four-point hit to bring in Justin, Foden and Jota failed to pay off, with the combined score of the three new signings just three points. However, the 25 points of Son and Kane, Bamford's goal against his old club, assists from Werner and Walker-Peters and a virtuoso 28-point haul from captain de Bruyne gave him a final score of 73 points and an overall total of 646. With £0.7m in the bank, The Ox really needs to upgrade Kilman or Branthwaite to a playing defender this week, especially given the inconsistency of Foden's appearances. That move, while somewhat boring, would set him up nicely for the challenges to come.
Pulling a point further away in sixth is the head of the Appleby Assassin's Guild, Big Steve. With the cause of last season's heartbreak, King Ding, out of the picture and his first goal completed, the Butcher has turned his sights to the top of the table, with 276 points in four gameweeks seeing him rise into a prominent position. Another who benefitted from captain de Bruyne, he saw new signing Mendy bring in a clean sheet, with his three strikers and Bruno enhancing the score further. The only real issue facing the Butcher this week is Ziyech's injury; with no funds in reserve, expect a sensible switch to Grealish. The only real disappointment for the Butcher was that his closest rival, Flash Funk, smashed home a divisional-high 86 points to establish a 21-point gap. Four players secured single returns, while Salah, Son and captain de Bruyne added the stardust with 55 points from midfield. Stung by criticism of his performance last week, the Funkmaster's team took the field with real purpose, producing a performance that will have all the Title Contenders looking over their shoulders. Brewster playing so often remains an issue that needs addressing, but overall Flash is setting himself up as the dark horse for the title. Now just 55 points off the top on 673, a good December could yet see him enter the New Year top of the pile.
The Title Contenders
Of course, there are four managers who will be working their hardest to ensure that doesn't happen, the first of whom, Slick Rick, got his campaign back on track. A dream gameweek where only three players failed to return, he will be most pleased with the ongoing form of his triple-Spurs spine, who produced 43 points for the Trickstars this week. The injury to Koch produces an unwanted headache, and with Kilman out-of-favour, Slick Rick must address the issue or face the prospect of having no defensive substitutes. A switch to the £4.4m Balbuena seems the most sensible solution, though with two free transfers, we could see James Rodriguez replaced by a cheaper midfielder to secure a higher class of defensive option. Now on 696 points, Slick Rick needs to get these transfers right to keep the pressure on the teams above him.
No-one, right now, is feeling that pressure more than Iceman Newton. Ending last week Manager of the Month for November and just one point off the top, he looked take that final step to the apex by playing his Free Hit. That decision proved disastrous. He brought in Laporte, only to see him not play. He brought in Mahrez, only to see Sterling and de Bruyne get the points. He brought in Fofana for Reguilon, only to see the Spurs man get his fifth return on the bounce while Fofana did nothing. He brought in Adams, only to see Ings return and get the goal. He brought in Vardy for Kane, only to see the Spurs man score four more points. He captained Bruno, only to see him start on the bench and score less than half what Son did. Every decision the Iceman made was wrong, with the end result being he has gone from one point off top to thirty away, and is now just two points ahead of Slick Rick, a man he thought he was well clear of. With no Free Hit to navigate the blank and double gameweeks to come, the long-term effects of Gameweek Eleven on the Iceman could yet prove fatal to his hopes of success.
Moving fifteen points ahead into second is Dan the Dragon, whose 73-point week leaves him with a total of 713 points. The dependable Calvert-Lewin, Zouma and Robertson got single returns, while Son, Salah and Kane all brought in double-figures. A very solid gameweek for the Dragon, yet it all could have been so much better. Jota's one-point cameo prevented Soucek's eight points from being added to the total, while none of his double-figures players were given the captaincy. Instead, Mahrez was entrusted with the responsibility, and he let his manager down, securing just a bonus point and a clean sheet point this week. With the armband on Salah and with Jota not playing, the Dragon would be top right now; as it stands, he must settle for re-establishing himself in second place, equidistant between the Iceman in third and Ginger Ben at the top. At 59,010 in the world, this season is already exceeding all expectations; it surely is just a matter of time before the Dragon soars to the top.
The Man Who Would Be King
Yet, you just can't rule out Ginger Ben maintaining his hold over the division in the weeks to come. When all the pressure was on, with two contenders breathing down his neck and with one of the highest-scoring gameweeks of the season, the Mackem Marvel found a way to extend his lead at the top to fifteen points. He refused to be sucked into the Manchester City hype, starting Soucek and trusting the captaincy to Son, and was rewarded with a stunning 83-point score that established real daylight from his rivals. His only real error was having the eight-point Bamford as third sub, but even that was a logical decision given he had two Chelsea defenders. His only real concern is having both Foden and Jota, given both are subject to starting as substitutes; given Jota's impact off the bench so far this season, replacing Foden appears the priority, with Ward-Prowse and Bowen both real options with good runs and low ownership. Either one would free up further funds for future transfers, strengthen the Ginger One's squad while tightening his grip at the top and giving greater reliability. Given the return of Ings and his ownership of Soucek, one would suspect Ward-Prowse would be the better option, though Ginger Ben needs no advice from anyone. Now up to 25,026 in the world, it's going to take something special to stop the League of Gentlemen trophy being adorned with red and white banners come May.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Eleven, one which saw Flash bounce back in style, which saw the Iceman's Free Hit prove costly, and which saw Ginger Ben move one step closer to glory. Ahead of Gameweek Twelve, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.
Gentlemen's Classic Fixtures, Gameweek Twelve:
Slick Rick vs Deadly Daz
Flash Funk vs Jockin' Jeeves
The Ox vs Sirloin Sean
Hitman Hodgson vs Ginger Ben
'The FPL Nightmare: How to Lose the World's Greatest Mini-League in 38 Simple Steps'
Available now on Amazon.