The return of Ronaldo caused chaos through the division, with thirteen managers taking hits and eleven using Wildcards. Amidst the carnage, the Grinch displayed a hint of weakness for the first time.
Cristiano Ronaldo returned to England this gameweek, lighting the spark on the season and blowing the League of Gentlemen apart. His arrival came accompanied by anarchy, with league leader Grinchy Vogt playing his Wildcard the second the deal was announced, then spending considerable time attempting to convince his rivals to do the same, to mitigate any damage should his hastiness prove a mistake.
You'd think people would know by now not to be manipulated by the Maharajah of Mind Games, but once again, Shameless Simon's efforts proved successful. He managed to persuade ten of his fellow competitors to throw away their most powerful chip just four gameweeks in, connived another into using his Free Hit and tricked thirteen of his rivals into taking transfer hits. While most of the hitters stuck to a single four-point deduction, Daredevil Daisy, the youngest player in the competition's history, made the classic blunder of forgetting to activate her Wildcard. The resulting 28-point penalty incurred decimated her league position, taking her from the brink of the Elite to the depths of nineteenth. The young gun will need the support of those closest around her if she is not to lose interest following such a devastating blow, though she remains in a decent position and has time to rebuild.
The other manager to make multiple-hit transfer moves was somewhat more predictable. Having been denied the right to make any transfers by new owner, Robin Johnson, in Gameweek Three, Jockin' Jeeves spent the international break impressing upon the spendthrift businessman the need for improvement in his squad. Afforded untethered access to the market, the Rap Rob Roy took an eight-point penalty, bringing in Jimenez, Calvert-Lewin, Torres and Raphinha. As, one by one, they failed to make any impression upon the gameweek, Johnson got angrier and angrier. By the time Calvert-Lewin's absence from the Everton team was made official, he could take no more. His face as red as Ronaldo's shirt, he strode into the Townhead Gunners' dressing-room, grabbed the Rap Rob Roy by the throat and slapped him in front of his players. Jez Messing, who provides this report, says that only Hot Rod was able to calm his disrespected son down, telling him it's pointless arguing with inexperienced people, and that the best way to deal with it is by getting his players to produce in the coming gameweeks. Whether Jeeves will be patient with his new signings is up for question, especially given Mahrez and Chilwell have proven busted flushes, and he owns neither Ronaldo nor Lukaku.
It was those two strikers, both returning to English football as goalscoring phenoms, which proved pivotal to success in Gameweek Four. Of the sixteen highest-scoring Gentlemen this gameweek, all but one captained either the Chelsea or Manchester United hitmen. Bringing in both on his wildcard gave the struggling Lionheart Lamb the second-highest score of the gameweek, and could well see his season start to catch fire. Whether owning both is wise in the long-term remains to be seen, with Salah in inspired form and receiving an extra point per goal and clean sheet, but this gameweek, the big-name barnstormers proved the most effective premiums to own. It feels like this season will be defined by timing the ownership of the most expensive players, with those three joined by the likes of Kane, de Bruyne, Bruno, Mane and Son in the discussion for which players are worth the most outlay. Being proactive in reacting to fixture runs, injuries and form will be key to gaining an advantage, and only the courage to change will lead to success this season. It's a tricky yet tantalising prospect, and it promises to keep the title race wide open throughout the campaign, with huge point swings possible in short timeframes.
For myself, it was a successful gameweek. I used my free transfers to swap Bruno and Toney for Demarai Gray and Ronaldo, and was rewarded with a vastly-improved score of 33 points from the pair, as opposed to the eighteen I would've received without the transfers. I secured the third-highest gameweek score despite being the only one of the top nine Gentlemen in Gameweek Four not to use a Wildcard or take a hit, and I closed the gap on the Grinch to 23 points, with my Wildcard and Triple Captain chips in hand. It's the sort of start I could only have dreamt of, but it is proving stressful. My team value is the lowest it's ever been at this stage, a full million below some of my rivals. I still have the likes of Tsimikas, Barnes and Wilson in my squad, all of whom I'd like to replace, yet I only have one transfer available. With three players out and one unlikely to play, I have to get it right to ensure a full team, which adds so much pressure to the decision. Despite my predicament, I'm less tempted to take a hit than ever. My overall ranking of 52,048 is the highest I’ve ever ranked, and the sheer relief of seeing how many of my rivals had taken hits as the Gameweek Four deadline passed was intoxicating, and it took so much pressure off to know keeping Barnes had already given me a return's advantage over my rivals. I keep looking at the Wildcard, but I just can't justify it to swap a bunch of inconsistent budget players for another load of inconsistent budget players. It will be a late call on who I bring in, but whomever it is, I don't think it will damage my team the way taking hits has in the past, and that's the main thing. It's been an exciting start, and the dream of conquering the King's Quest seems possible, but I need to keep my feet on the ground – the season has barely begun, and there are many twists and turns to come.
The Cup Chronicles
The final four entrants to the Gentlemen's Classic were determined this gameweek, with drama and heartbreak the order of the day. In Qualifier One, Big-Time Birkett's failure to manage his team saw him take the field with a terrible captaincy choice and no goalkeeper. Had he done the sensible thing and captained Salah, he'd have overcome the handicap of being a man down to qualify, but his error was pounced upon by the Iceman, with his own captaincy of Salah seeing him through. Deadly Daz had a tough challenge to catch the Wildman in Qualifier Two, starting the second leg seven points behind. The deficit shrunk when the Wildman's captain, Antonio, saw his negative score doubled, and the Dazzler took full advantage, obliterating his rival by eighteen points this gameweek to secure a comfortable eleven-point victory.
Luck of the draw is always a factor in cup competitions, and the Masterchef highlighted that point in Qualifier Three. While he emerged victorious from his contest, his total of 95 points was exceeded by every team in the first two qualifiers. He can count himself somewhat fortunate to make it through, and a big improvement will be necessary to have any impact in the group stages. The real heartbreak came in Qualifier Four, as Daredevil Daisy, the League of Gentlemen's youngest-ever competitor, failed to play her Wildcard as she intended. Had she played the chip she meant to, she would've won the qualifier, but that rookie mistake left her with a 28-point penalty which eradicated her chances of progression. Calvert-Lewin's injury meant it came down to who had the better substitute option out of Go Cartin and the Chancellor as to who obtained that final qualifying spot, and the Chancellor say Gray step off the bench to fire him into the competition proper. He needed some huge elements of luck to get there, with Rough Rider only missing out because of Tanganga's red card and Daredevil Daisy's blunder so pivotal, but he has come through the seventeen-person field, and takes his place in the group stages next gameweek.
Gentlemen's Classic, Final Qualifying Round results:
Qualifier One: Iceman Newton, 118; Big-Time Birkett, 114 points; the Mack Daddy, 111; Private Parvesh, 105.
Qualifier Two: Deadly Daz, 137; The Wildman, 126; Who Horner, 118; Maverick Mikey, 117.
Qualifier Three: The Masterchef, 95; Slick Rick, 86; Wooden Spoon Helling, 82; Metal Marc, 81.
Qualifier Four: The Chancellor, 141; Go Cartin, 138; Rough Rider, 136; Lionheart Lamb, 134; Mighty Mouse, 125; Professor Storey, 123; Terminator Tris, 120; Stone Cold, 117; Daredevil Daisy, 116; Ash the Bash, 113; Glorious Gary, 113; Uncaged Bage, 98; Brad the Lad, 98; Gladiator Glen, 98; Killer Kev, 98; Dodger Rogers, 88; Lethal Lee, 79.
Gentlemen's Classic, Stage One groups
In the Eliminator, there was no repeat of last season's sustained run for Wooden Spoon Helling, with the division's mascot racking up a woeful 28 points to ensure his exit. He is joined by Lethal Lee, who fell just one point short of his nearest rival, while suffering the agony of seeing two seven-point players wasting away on his bench. His 42 points would've been enough to survive in many gameweeks, but this time out he becomes yet another victim of FPL's biggest endurance test.
The big news in the Irrelevants was the fall of Daredevil Daisy, whose Wildcard blunder saw her drop nine places to nineteenth. Lethal Lee's failure in the Eliminator had a further cost, as his team sank to the bottom of the table, though perennial basement-dwellers Metal Marc and Wooden Spoon Helling remain within six points. That thirteen of the bottom twenty-two in the table are newcomers to the division testifies to the need for experience in the League of Gentlemen, though Rough Rider bucked the trend and rose six places to eleventh, and looks to be one to watch in the coming gameweeks. Also rising through the Irrelevants are big-hitters Hitman Hodgson, King Ding, Red Hot Rob and Ginger Ben, while Maverick Mikey, Flash Funk and Big Steve all fell further off the pace.
Despite much volatility throughout the division, the Elite ends Gameweek Four comprised of the same seven names, although the order has changed. Big-Time Birkett's failure to manage his squad saw him fall a place to eighth, replaced in seventh by Deadly Daz, who is quietly putting together a very good start. The Dazzler was one of the nine managers to end the gameweek with a score of seventy or more points, and one of the only two to achieve that without using a chip or taking a transfer hit. Even more impressively, he did so with only ten players taking the field, and slashed the gap to Jockin' Jeeves, who fell four places to sixth, by 26 points. It was a disaster of Jeeves' own making, with his eight-point hit blowing up spectacularly and only six points procured from his four new players. These big transfer hits have become increasingly costly to the Rap Rob Roy in recent years, and his first gamble of the season has backfired, leaving him 53 points off the top already.
Another Gentlemen taking a hit was Mighty Mouse, who also suffered from a poor score after electing to bring in Kane rather than Ronaldo. It was a high-risk move that could've given him a real edge, but did not pay off and saw him lose ground to his rivals. While the lower four members of the Elite are all clustered together, a gap is emerging between them and the top four, with fourth-place Go Cartin now seventeen points clear of fifth spot. He used his Wildcard to good effect, securing 71 points, though two of his strikers are unavailable for Gameweek Five, leaving him in the unfavourable position of needing to make reactive transfers coming out of a Wildcard gameweek. My team remains in third place, and though the Chancellor moved six points ahead of me, there is comfort in knowing I have a two-chip advantage over both him and Grinchy Vogt. Indeed, I am the only manager in the top six not to have used a chip or taken a hit, and the only Gentleman to have over three hundred points and every chip intact, which is a nice position to be in. The Chancellor's Wildcard gave him the highest gameweek score in the division and lifted him to second place, though he too has to contend with being two strikers down and the prospect of reactive transfers post-Wildcard. While a small gap is emerging between the top four and the rest of the division, it is still early days and staying calm will be critical to turning a good start into a real title challenge.
The Man Who Would Be King
Still clear at the top is Grinchy Vogt, though Gameweek Four saw the first chink in his armour. His lead was cut to seventeen points after being comprehensively outscored by the Chancellor, while Go Cartin and I also made up ground. Had he not used his Triple Captain chip in Gameweek One, the Chancellor would be level with him now, showing just how vulnerable an advantage it is. With two chips used inside four gameweeks, the Grinch could be at a disadvantage to his rivals, especially with fifteen gameweeks until his second Wildcard becomes active. He also faces a tough decision on whether to replace one of his two absent strikers or to start Livramento against Manchester City, a situation that gives just a hint of things getting out of the Grinch's control. Nevertheless, he is still in a fantastic position; 347 points from four gameweeks, seventeen points clear at the top and 1,847th in the world. With the right decisions in the market, Gameweek Five could easily see him reassert control of a season he is desperate to dominate.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Four, which saw Ronaldo reign on his return, which saw the Wildcards and hits rain down through the division, and which saw Grinchy Vogt reined in by his rivals for the first time this season. Ahead of Gameweek Five, 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, Matchday One:
Grinchy Vogt vs The Masterchef
Ginger Ben vs The Ox
Jockin' Jeeves vs Iceman Newton
Hitman Hodgson vs King Ding
Big Steve vs Deadly Daz
Flash Funk vs Red Hot Rob
Dan the Dragon vs The Chancellor
Lord Geord vs Sirloin Sean
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