After a sensational gameweek which saw Liverpool and Manchester United get thrashed, the League of Gentlemen league table is starting to take shape. Could this be the year of the underdog?
As we enter the first international break of the season, the League of Gentlemen is set up to be the most unpredictable in the competition's history. The top four spots are occupied by four managers who finished in the bottom seven last year. Ginger Ben, in his second season as a manager, has topped the table every week so far, with Iceman Newton, Slick Rick and Wooden Spoon Helling proving his closest rivals so far. Meanwhile, some big names and veterans are languishing miles off the pace, with Hitman Hodgson, Lord Geord, Jockin' Jeeves, All-Star Vogt and Big-Time Birkett yet to break the 200-point barrier.
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.
The Cup Chronicles
A stunning start to Group A has seen the two lowest seeds, Flash Funk and Sirloin Sean, race away with four points each, leaving All-Star Vogt and Big Steve scrambling to stay in. With Vogt and the Butcher playing each other over the next two gameweeks, one of them is guaranteed to get points on the board; should Sirloin Sean and Flash Funk split their double-header, it may well all be in vain. Group B is separated by goals scored and conceded, with every team having claimed two points so far. The big news was Big-Time Birkett producing the shock of the competition so far with a stunning 69-56 win over King Ding. His problem is he has a double-header against league leader Ginger Ben; these next two gameweeks will prove pivotal in the story of Birkett this season.
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
Gentlemen's Classic Group Tables
The person eliminated from The Eliminator this week is Metal Marc, who only scored 19 points. 23 teams advance to the next round.
The League of Gentlemen:
The recovery begins for Mad Mikey, who limited himself to just four transfer hits and saw him move within three points of Private Parvesh and within six of Metal Marc, who had three players score minus points. Wildman Whitfield rises to 21st, with 39 points from captain Salah and Saint-Maximin proving crucial. Big-Time Birkett saw double-figure hauls from Bellerin, Rodriguez and Wilson lift him to 20th, with Red Hot Rob and All-Star Vogt both within two points. Jockin' Jeeves falls to 17th, five points behind Lord Geord and seven behind Hitman Hodgson, who played his Wildcard then left 23 points on his bench. The decision not to play Saiss was particularly baffling; if you won't start a defender at home to Fulham, they simply shouldn't be in your squad.
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.
The Chasing Pack
The fall continues for Sirloin Sean, who saw just two players secure returns this week. Thankfully for him, captain Salah scored 26 points, keeping him just out of the Irrelevants. It's been three red arrows since finishing Gameweek One joint-top, and a gameweek like this could cause panic to set in for the Appleby Assassins Guild's leading light. Sirloin Sean needs to use the international break as a breather and to regain his composure. Three successive falls can cause managers to lose their heads in the League of Gentlemen, but eighth in the league and 39 points off top is a solid start to the campaign. If Sirloin can regroup, he can start building momentum upon the division's resumption and start turning them red arrows into green.
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.
The Title Contenders
A two-place drop for Wooden Spoon Helling this week, with only Azpilicueta, Calvert-Lewin and captain Kane registering returns. Luckily for Mr. Set-Forget, captain Kane secured 32 points to ensure a remarkable start to the season continued for the perennial basement-dweller. You have to wonder how long Helling will be able to remain in such a lofty position when he refuses to make transfers; only ten players took to the field this week, and if injuries, suspensions or players falling out-of-favour continue to impact his squad, his lack of flexibility will see a sharp drop in the standings. Captaining Kane each week should mitigate a lot of the damage, but with Flash Funk just three points behind and King Ding five, it's hard to see him remaining in the Title Contenders at the end of Gameweek Five.
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.
The Man Who Would Be King
Heading into the international break on the back of a perfect start is Ginger Ben, who has come from nowhere to head the division every week this season. The pattern is developing that a new contender to his perch emerges each week before he fends them off in the final game, and this gameweek was no different, with Salah the saviour this time out. With his gap at the top eleven points, Ginger Ben looks comfortable, but there are signs he's feeling the pressure; his use of the Wildcard this week left him twelve points worse off, and without the most important chip of them all. We've seen lots of unlikely teams start well and fade away in sport; with his chasers having the Wildcard advantage, now we will find out just how good he really is. It will take nerves of steel, courage and a little bit of luck to keep this run going, but that is something to think about in eleven days. For now, Ginger Ben can kick back, pour himself his favourite white wine spritzer and reflect on a job well done. An outstanding start to the season for the unlikely leader.
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
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