The unpredictable start to the League of Gentlemen continues, with all of last season’s top ten now languishing in the Irrelevants. With this campaign promising to be like no other in history, which of the underdogs will take advantage and lay claim to the King’s throne?
Nobody saw this coming. We all knew this season would be different, that the absence of fans and the truncated fixture list would provide unique challenges for the managers in the League of Gentlemen. We thought the experienced campaigners, the veterans of the game, would be the ones who adapted best to the circumstances surrounding football and the impact they had on FPL. We all were wrong.
Last season, every manager in the top nine of the League of Gentlemen secured a personal best Overall Ranking. Nine managers who had the season of their lives, nine managers who responded to the pandemic and Project Restart by turning it to their advantage, driving their teams to previously-unseen heights and ensuring that last season went down in history for each of them. Those managers, the best nine managers in the League of Gentlemen, the most-fancied managers to navigate through this year’s uncertainty and emerge stronger for it, all of them end Gameweek Five stranded in the Irrelevants.
The worst gameweek of the Fallen Nine was suffered by King Ding, whose struggle for motivation manifested in a woeful 41 points, nineteen below the gameweek average and fifty points off the division’s highest gameweek score. It has been the King’s worst start to a season on record, and while he is expected to recover, he is already 57 points and ten places off the top of the table. While Jockin’ Jeeves and Hitman Hodgson each shifted the momentum of their season with scores in the eighties, their shocking opening month has left them even further off the pace, while All-Star Vogt, the Masterchef, Lord Geord and Big-Time Birkett continue to barely cling to relevance, all of them needing some big scores in the coming weeks to avoid their dreams of success burning out before Bonfire night.
Of the Fallen Nine, only two men will be moderately happy. For Deadly Daz, this was the week he’d been looking forward to. Going head-to-head with his brother in the cup, he saw the combination of captain Kane and Lord Geord’s transfer hits put him in an unassailable position, while also closing the gap on Big Steve and King Ding ahead of him. For Big Steve, this gameweek was the fulfilment of his ambitions this season. Having enlisted the forces of Red Hot Rob and Sirloin Sean in his Appleby Assassins Guild, his aim for the season was clear: if he couldn’t win the title, he was going to make sure King Ding did not. Big Steve declared revolution in pre-season, and so far the King has been unable to fend off the insurgents, dropping behind Big Steve to eleventh and struggling mentally for motivation. Heavy lies the crown, and after four titles in seven years, perhaps the King has passed his prime, perhaps he just doesn’t have the energy and desire to keep coming back to conquer new frontiers, to defend himself from the hungry vultures circling overhead.
Of course, it is still early days. It remains to be seen whether the likes of Slick Rick, Dan the Dragon, Iceman Newton and Ginger Ben can sustain their challenges; it could be that, come Gameweek Ten, the League of Gentlemen more closely resembles the one predicted by the pundits in pre-season. Yet, it must be remembered that Big Steve came from nowhere to dominate right up until last season’s Final Day. Maybe this year will see three or four Big Steve’s emerge. Maybe a change of the guard is coming, and the question we should be asking isn’t can anyone beat King Ding, but how can he possibly fend off so many new challengers. That’s a question only time can answer, one that pervades every narrative of the season unfolding.
The Cup Chronicles
In Group A, it’s Sirloin Sean who has the advantage at the halfway stage. His perfect record was extended to three wins from three with a stunning 85-65 victory over Flash Funk. In the battle of the no-pointers, it was Big Steve who got himself back into contention, with Saiss’ goal being disallowed proving the difference between him and All-Star Vogt. Group B stands on the verge of a major upset, with back-to-back league champion King Ding currently bottom, following his 80-41 thrashing by Hitman Hodgson. He does remain just two points away from qualification, but with league leader Ginger Ben top of the group and with Hitman Hodgson holding the head-to-head advantage, the King needs a big victory on Matchday Four.
Group C featured the first instalment of the Wars of the Lawes, a titanic clash which saw Deadly Daz overcome an early deficit to stun Lord Geord 66-52, with captain Kane proving the big hero. With Jez Messing reporting the older Lawes has secured the signature of the Spurs saviour ahead of Matchday Four, that advantage has disappeared, though the Deadly One now begins Matchday Four with an eight-point advantage by virtue of the hits taken to capture Kane. That result could prove pivotal in the group after Slick Rick’s 83-49 destruction of Private Parvesh; if he repeats the result next week, the Lawes brothers will be going head-to-head for the second qualifying spot. Should Deadly Daz win in Matchday Four, his passage into Round Two will be confirmed.
Group D is another one proving to be a close contest, with Who Horner and Jockin’ Jeeves gaining the advantage by virtue of their victories over The Ox and The Masterchef respectively. With the Matchweek Three fixtures repeated next time out, however, it could well end up a situation where all four teams have four points from four games. The Masterchef is the man with the most worries; while all three of his group rivals scored 80+ points, his team struggled to reach a half-century; his transfer dealings this week could determine the trajectory of the rest of his season.
Gentlemen’s Classic, Matchday Three results:
Big Steve 64 – 62 All Star Vogt
Flash Funk 65 – 85 Sirloin Sean
King Ding 41 – 80 Hitman Hodgson
Big-Time Birkett 57 – 71 Ginger Ben
Deadly Daz 66 – 52 Lord Geord
Private Parvesh 49 – 83 Slick Rick
Jockin’ Jeeves 82 – 50 The Masterchef
Who Horner 85 – 80 The Ox
Gentlemen’s Classic Group Tables:
The person defeated in The Eliminator this week is Mack Daddy McMahon, who ended up with a final gameweek score of 28 points.
The League of Gentlemen:
A fall to the bottom for Metal Marc, whose total of 182 points from five gameweeks looks like setting the tone for his season. Private Parvesh also drops a place, and remains a point off breaking the two hundred point barrier. Moving ahead of both is Mad Mikey, whose twenty-point hit resulted in a gameweek score of eighty points, showing that sometimes big hits do pay off. 24 points ahead of him is Wildman Whitfield, who remains in 21st as his tough introduction to the League of Gentlemen shows no signs of abating. He did close the gap on Big-Time Birkett to just a single point, with Red Hot Rob a further six points away. Dropping to eighteenth is Lord Geord, whose journey down the King’s Road took a severe detour with a twelve-point hit. Now 96 points off top spot, the Lord needs a change in fortunes quickly if he is to prove a threat in the upper reaches of the table. Level with him on 240 points but ahead on transfers made is All-Star Vogt, whose gameweek was saved by Saiss and captain Jimenez in the final match. Ahead of Geord and Vogt are the Masterchef and Mack Daddy McMahon, who both hold a one-point advantage. It’s very tight in that part of the table, and all four men will be looking to Gameweek Six to kick-start their seasons.
A twenty-four point gap then emerges to fourteenth, presently occupied by Jockin’ Jeeves on 265 points. It’s been a poor start to the campaign for the two-time champ, who will be hoping his highest total of the season is the launchpad for a rise in the league. His first targets are Hitman Hodgson, five points ahead, and Deadly Daz, who finishes the gameweek with a seven-point advantage. All three of those managers will have their targets locked on King Ding, whose apathetic start to the season has seen him drop to eleventh, with only 279 points secured. The King won’t be panicking too much, however, with his 116-point comeback to win last season’s competition still fresh in the memory. Three points ahead is last season’s runner-up, Big Steve, while Who Horner rounds off the Irrelevants, seventeen points off the Chasing Pack.
The Chasing Pack
Two teams are separated by transfers made as we enter the Chasing Pack, with Flash Funk and The Ox both tied on 305 points. The Funkmaster lies in eighth, and will have a slight regret over switching Werner to Kane for a four-point hit. While the Spurs hitman struck big with 32 captaincy points, Chelsea’s new striker equalled Kane’s total, meaning that transfer had a net result of minus four points – four points which would have seen Flash Funk level with Wooden Spoon Helling in sixth. The signings of Chilwell and Son for Bernardo and de Bruyne did pay off, however, and Flash can’t be too disappointed with his three new signings contributing nine of his team’s twelve returns this week. For The Ox, there is a sense of quiet momentum building following a second green arrow in a row. Despite only five players securing returns and Dunk scoring minus-one, three of those players were Kane, Werner and captain Son, three players who provided 58 of his eighty points between them. The Ox seems more focused than ever this season and, though there are some problems in his defence, his frontline are threatening to turn this into the Oxsmorons most successful season yet.
Both men are hot on the heels of Wooden Spoon Helling, just four points ahead in sixth and dropping like a stone. Indeed, it is only the set-and-forget captaincy of Kane that is keeping him in the hunt, with the England striker single-handedly dragging a poor squad to respectability. Helling’s refusal to manage his team most gameweeks will punish him going forward, with van Dijk’s injury ruling him out for the season and Azpilicueta his last sub. Helling does retain some dangerous players in his squad, but the mounting injury crisis will leave it impossible for him to compete in the upper reaches long-term. Moving ahead of him into fifth is Sirloin Sean, who ends a torrid run of form with a huge score of 85 points, gained on the back of his Wildcard. It could’ve been even better, had Martinez and Saiss started ahead of Patricio and Castagne, but the Appleby Assassins Guild member will be pleased to have stopped the rot. His squad looks strong for the weeks ahead, packed with in-form players and great options on his bench. With some tasty fixtures for his players this weekend, Sirloin will expect to finish Gameweek Six back in the Title Contenders.
The Title Contenders
To do so, he’ll need to overcome a ten-point deficit to Dan the Dragon, who also played his Wildcard but decided to start Martinez and Saiss, giving him the edge over Sirloin. Only three players failed to secure returns for the Dragon, and the captaincy of Kane provided the platform for a massive 91-point total, the division’s highest score of Gameweek Five. It could have been even better for the Dragon, had he started Jorginho over Wilson and had Saiss’ goal stood; in that eventuality, the highest-ranked newcomer to the League of Gentlemen would have entered this season’s Hundred Club. Alas, it was not to be, but the Dragon will be very pleased with his team. What’s more, he’ll know that, should his team produce the goods again next week, he has a very good chance of closing the fifteen-point gap and ending Gameweek Six top of the table.
Directly ahead of him in the bronze medal position is Iceman Newton, who was furious not to end this gameweek in first place. Speaking exclusively to Jez Messing, he said Jimenez was ‘lucky not to be off’ and his ‘spawny deflection shouldn’t count as a goal.’ He went on to decry the FPL Gods, insisting they were out to get him and that Jimenez himself was a ‘lucky wanker.’ The depth of his unhappiness was twofold; not only did Jimenez’s goal consign his beloved Leeds to defeat, it also gave the two teams ahead of him an extra six points, while denying him an extra four points. That ten-point swing would’ve seen the Iceman top of the table, but this week he has to settle for third. Fuelled by his outrage, the Iceman is coming out swinging, revealing to Messing that his Wildcard has already been played, and that Bamford and Werner are out, while Watkins and Kane are in. Interestingly, he has also replaced Zaha with Grealish, meaning that he is backing Leeds to concede several goals on Friday. How ironic it would prove if they deliver, and his joy at climbing to the top of the league was at the expense of his team’s destruction by a club he despises. Ironic, yet the sort of twist of fate the FPL Gods love to deliver.
Rising into second place is Slick Rick, following an 87-point week that leaves him just two points off the top spot. Often criticised for his triple-Spurs approach, the form of Kane and Son – the highest scoring striker and midfielder – have fired the Trickstars into second, and had they started the in-form Robertson over Alexander-Arnold or Walker-Peters, they’d be looking down on everyone right now. 49 points from captain Kane, Son and Reguilon provided the foundation the rest of his team built on, with Zaha, Ings, Patricio and Jimenez adding further returns to take the Trickstars just two points off the summit. In terms of potential problems looming, Onomah’s omission from Fulham’s squad and Douglas leaving Leeds on loan leave Slick Rick with just one outfield substitute; he would be well-served to spend some of the £2.8m left in his transfer kitty to upgrade at least one of those players and give himself some options, especially as neither Trezeguet or Dendoncker are likely to add many additional points. Still, a great start to the season for Slick Rick, who will be looking to Mourinho’s marvels to take him one place higher next time out.
The Man Who Would Be King
By hook or by crook, the Ginger One is finding a way to cling to top spot. Having dropped places in the live rankings all weekend, Ginger Ben saw Saiss and Jimenez combine for fifteen points in the last match of the gameweek to steal back top spot for another week. However, Gameweek Five could yet prove the week his title dream died. Having used his Wildcard last week, Ginger Ben took the inexplicable decision to waste his Free Hit on making just two changes to his squad – Alexander-Arnold to Chilwell and de Bruyne to Son. While many panicked once de Bruyne was ruled out at the last moment, few have sabotaged their season as badly as the league leader. In the weeks to come, there is a strong possibility that the staggered winter break will see one gameweek of five matches and the next with fifteen, and once the cups get under way, there is a strong possibility there will be another gameweek with even fewer matches taking place. Ginger Ben has thrown away one of the finest tools for navigating those situations to make one transfer, to bring in a new captain to replace an injured player. In those situations, it is always better to take a hit; while it would have cost him four points this week and seen him drop to second, in the blank-and-double gameweeks to come, it could cost him dozens of points. That Free Hit is the clearest indication yet that the pressure is getting to Ginger Ben; with the sharks swirling below, Gameweek Six could well see him getting his legs bitten off.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Five, which saw the Dragon start to roar, which saw King Ding hit the floor, which saw defeat for the Lord in the Wars of the Lawes, and which saw Ginger Ben’s inexperience and flaws fling wide open the door for his rivals to outscore him in the weeks that matter more. As always, 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 Six:
All-Star Vogt vs Big Steve
Sirloin Sean vs Flash Funk
Hitman Hodgson vs King Ding
Ginger Ben vs Big-Time Birkett
Lord Geord vs Deadly Daz
Slick Rick vs Private Parvesh
The Masterchef vs Jockin' Jeeves
The Ox vs Who Horner
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