In a season with more premium options than ever before, it has been critical to get these choices correct. Those who have gone for the likes of Bruno, Aubameyang, de Bruyne and Sterling are way off the pace, torn between knowing they will come good eventually and sacrificing them for the players banging in the points. The managers who went for the old stalwarts of Kane and Salah have the edge right now, with Son and Rodriguez emerging as the mid-priced midfielders to own. Those who gambled on Everton's new maestro to hit the ground running are laughing, with the Colombian averaging 8.75 points per game. Those who listened to King Ding's advice of avoiding Spurs players like the plague are regretting that now, with Kane the highest-scoring striker and Son the highest-scoring midfielder. The King's quote of, 'Anyone having a Mourinho player in their squad is asking for trouble,' looks set to haunt him for months to come.
The October international break often proves a turning point in the season, with many managers preferring to use their Wildcards during this period to prepare for the challenges ahead. Premier League teams are normally settled by now, with a good amount of data surrounding form, line-ups and key players to work from. This year provides a unique challenge in that the season started a month late, meaning we only have four matches - and in four cases, just three - worth of information to make decisions from. With the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United yet to hit their stride, and with all three being thrashed in the last two gameweeks, it may be advisable for managers to wait until the November break to deploy such a crucial chip.
Of course, some managers have Wildcarded in the opening four weeks, including league leader Ginger Ben and last-place Mad Mikey. The Juggernauts deployed their Wildcard this week in a fit of panic, the last-minute absence of Mane leading to burning the midnight oil as Jockin' Jeeves and Hot Rod worked to save the gameweek. Jez Messing of the Weekly Bullshitter reports that their original plan for Gameweek Four was to take an eight-point hit, bringing in Dunne, Mane, Robertson and Delap for Davies, Werner, Reese James and Havertz. The Mane illness led to that plan being abandoned and an eight-man overhaul of the squad, though not under the approval of Hot Rod, who ranted at Jeeves that he was 'blowing the season with this madness' and saying 'it's better to just take the hit and prepare properly.' When Jeeves retorted that he couldn't afford to fall any further behind 'lucky' King Ding, Hot Rod exploded. 'It's not luck that he's won the last two titles and he's beating you again, he's better than you. He picks the right players and he doesn't panic. You need to live in the real world.' Messing claims more than one cafetiere got smashed as the duo worked through the night to craft the perfect squad, but the chaos meant not only did they miss out on any price rises, but the Juggernauts ended up with the third-lowest score of the gameweek, a miserly 26 points. The opening four weeks has been a true FPL Nightmare for Jeeves, one that shows no sign of ending.
For the Lords, we reacted to the early Son injury news by replacing him with Bruno, a transfer which forced a four-point hit of Havertz to Klich to generate the funds. Even when Son started, it looked like it would pay off when Bruno scored inside two minutes, but we all know Son shines, Ole flops and Kane glows, and thus it proved with Son securing 18 points and Kane sixteen, condemning Solskjaer to a 6-1 home defeat. The only saving grace for our weekend was the heaven-sent Saint-Maximin bewitching Burnley, securing twelve points and teasing us into another transfer hit, a full thirteen days before the next fixture. This time, we've brought in the Saint's partner-in-crime Wilson for Wood, the prospect of that Manchester United defence proving just too appealing. We also brought in James Rodriguez, a risky move ahead of a game against Liverpool when he'll be in South America until two days beforehand, but we simply cannot allow the Colombia's finest blend to roast us any further, and we could not risk another price rise meaning we were unable to make the move. It's been a rough start to the season, and two hits in two weeks following a Gameweek Three Wildcard means we have strayed from the King's Road very early on. We can only hope this move gets us back on track, though even if Rodriguez produces the goods, it will damage our double-Liverpool defence. Not an ideal start to the season by any means, but we remain just fifty points off King Ding, and we fully expect the top five to fall away in the coming weeks. Voicing that assumption, however, risks leaving us looking very foolish, especially with Flash Funk looking like him is finally actualising his massive potential.
Group C is being dominated by Slick Rick who, having defeated Deadly Daz last week, put Lord Geord to the sword this time out. With a double-header against Private Parvesh to come, Slick Rick is the strong favourite to secure eight points from eight and seal his passage into the second group stage. As if the pressure for the Lawes Brothers wasn't high enough, their double-header now looks like a straight fight for the second qualifying spot, ensuring big drama to come. Group D is another split only by goals scored and conceded, a situation which leaves Jockin' Jeeves in last place. With back-to-back ties against the Masterchef, the Rap Rob Roy simply cannot allow his woeful start to continue, especially with the drunk punks, Who Horner and the Ox, providing strong competition in the group.
Gentlemen's Classic, Matchday Two scores:
Big Steve 64 - 79 Flash Funk
All-Star Vogt 40 - 41 Sirloin Sean
King Ding 56 - 69 Big-Time Birkett
Hitman Hodgson 42 - 62 Ginger Ben
Deadly Daz 58 - 24 Private Parvesh
Lord Geord 39 - 60 Slick Rick
Jockin’ Jeeves 26 - 47 Who Horner
The Masterchef 47 - 67 The Ox
The Masterchef rises to 14th after his transfer hit to bring in McCarthy and Calvert-Lewin secured an additional ten points, leaving him twelve points behind Who Horner, whose gameweek was saved by captain Salah. The Dazzlers and Mack Daddy McMahon both secured 58 points, despite Mack Daddy's five-man backline scoring -2 between them. Positive green arrows for both as they look to break into the top ten, a task that became a little harder after Big Steve's 64-point week increased his cushion. Jorginho has long been the Butcher's preferred budget midfielder, and he reaped the rewards with two penalties meaning the Chelsea man scored fifteen points. Ahead of him is The Ox, whose 67-point score could have been so much better, with the decision to start Traore over Saint-Maximin and to captain de Bruyne over in-form Kane costing him 26 points. That decision leaves him in ninth place rather than third, though the gap to the Chasing Pack is now just a single point.
Remaining in seventh place is Dan the Dragon, who saw McCarthy, Rodriguez and Salah guide him to a solid 54 points. Another who was let down by de Bruyne in the captaincy stakes, the Dragon had the strength in depth to carry him through the disappointment and stay hot on the heels of King Ding. You have to feel that Werner will be gone from his team when play recommences, the Chelsea man consistently letting his manager down while far cheaper alternatives bring in big points. There will be a temptation for a Wildcard but, in the Dragon's case, this may be a touch hasty. Having had a very solid start and with Lamptey an option at first sub, retaining the Wildcard and replacing Werner with Calvert-Lewin seems the shrewd play, especially with Mitrovic up against a disappointing Sheffield United next. That money in the bank, however, has a tendency to lead to an itchy trigger-finger. It'll be interesting to see how the debutante Dragon lines up on his return.
Maintaining sixth position, eight points ahead, is the back-to-back champion King Ding. Despite only four players returning, the hauls of McCarthy, Saint-Maximin and Salah ensured the King remains firmly in the hunt, even with the disappointing performance of captain Aubameyang, who you can't imagine being in the Ringers line-up come Gameweek Five. What the rest of the division need to be concerned about is how the King is just 27 points off the top without having really got going yet. His dominant performance from December last year - including four Manager of the Month awards in six months - show that the King is almost impossible to stop when he gains his momentum. So far, he hasn't even needed to put in much effort to be in contention, with a last-minute squad selection and a week of not looking at his team already. He traditionally is at his weakest in the opening two months; his rivals need to be exerting more pressure at this stage if they have any aspirations of stealing his crown.
Two points ahead in fifth is the highest-scoring manager of the gameweek, Flash Funk. Long touted as a potential break-out star of FPL, it appears the Funkmaster is finally about to achieve his potential. Huge hauls from McCarthy, Jorginho, Rodriguez, Salah and Wilson saw him fly up the table into fifth position, following a gameweek score of 79 points. What makes you really take stock is he achieved that despite having Mahrez captain and Werner vice-captain, and having sold Son following the news of his apparent injury. If he'd kept the Korean Killer and captained any of his big-scorers, he would be in the Hundred Club right now; the rest of the division owe a huge thanks to the mind-games of Mourinho. A year ago, Flash took his team off to Bali during the international break amid an early-season crisis; this time out, he can watch the national teams play knowing everything is going according to his Masterplan. A great effort, and now the Title Contenders are well within his sights.
Maintaining third place is Slick Rick, who scored 60 points despite replacing Son with Zaha. It was a cruel twist of fate for the Trickstars, who generally maintain a triple-Spurs presence yet were hoodwinked by Mourinho's mindgames; without that transfer, they would be entering the international break top of the league. There is a lesson we can all learn there: when a big player, who is in-form, has a minor injury, it's sometimes worth just trusting the autosub and waiting for his return instead of making a panic transfer. Had Son been retained and not played, Slick Rick would've had the assist-securing Trezeguet rise off the bench anyway. The selection of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson severely hindered Slick Rick this week, but four other returns supporting 32-point captain Kane ensured third place was retained. A very good start to the season for Slick Rick.
Three points ahead in second is Iceman Newton, whose brash claims that people would be envious of his team are looking prescient right now. A 67-point gameweek saw his team rise two places in the table, with captain Salah, Rodriguez and McCarthy the heroes, and the sideways transfer of Richarlison to Calvert-Lewin securing an extra five points. It's hard to predict how Iceman Newton's season will unfold; his loss of interest last time out suggests that the international break brings with it a risk of losing focus. With Leeds capturing the imagination in the league and HIV Eindhoven flying high, however, we expect the Iceman to remain engaged for the foreseeable future. Should he keep this great run going, his proud boasts will likely become unbearable.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Four, which saw Flash Funk emerge as a serious contender, which sae Ginger Ben maintain his grip on the top spot and which saw the Juggernauts fall back into trouble after a promising Gameweek Three. A lot can happen over the international break; who knows what trials and tribulations will present themselves ahead of Gameweek Five. Until then, 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 Five:
Big Steve vs All-Star Vogt
Flash Funk vs Sirloin Sean
King Ding vs Hitman Hodgson
Big-Time Birkett vs Ginger Ben
Deadly Daz vs Lord Geord
Private Parvesh vs Slick Rick
Jockin’ Jeeves vs The Masterchef
Who Horner vs The Ox