After two quiet gameweeks, the League of Gentlemen set alight this week, with goals galore and huge volatility in the table. Meanwhile, the Gentlemen's Classic finalists were determined.
It had been a quiet two gameweeks in the League of Gentlemen, especially in Gameweek Thirteen when most of the big guns failed to fire. Gameweek Fourteen lit the burning embers ablaze, with some huge points totals and twenty-one teams switching positions in the table. We saw some of the big guns finally assert themselves in the standings, while others will find their festivities muted as a result of poor performance, anxious to reach Boxing Day so they can try to put things right.
You knew something was brewing when Maverick Mikey made no transfers at all. By gameweek's end, he had outscored Private Parvesh by 48 points to rise from the foot of the table. He still has some way to go to rise another position, but if this new Maverick Mike, the one who has taken just two hits in three gameweeks, can keep this momentum going, he'll be rising through the Irrelevants sooner than anyone could've imagined. Indeed, it was the Irrelevants that saw most of the gameweek's highest scores, with five of the managers who began the week in the basement section scoring in the eighties. For Maverick Mikey, Big-Time Birkett and Wildman Whitfield, they will be hoping this great gameweek is the one that finally gets their season going, while Jockin' Jeeves, simmering away at the top of the Irrelevants for several gameweeks now, hit a division-high 89 points to ensure he spends Christmas Day, at long last, in the Chasing Pack.
Another celebrating in Gameweek Fourteen was King Ding who, while not quite feeling the elation of the eighties, secured an excellent 70 points to get back in the green arrows and rise two places. A dismal start to the season needed a spark and, though the title is 146 points away, the back-to-back Champ is finally at the party. With his first Wildcard still in hand, and with the first double-gameweek of the season just a few weeks away, the King could rise through the rankings quicker than anyone can imagine right now. It was December that launched the King's remarkable comeback success last season, and few Gentlemen above him will feel comfortable now the King's campaign is truly under way.
Gameweek Fourteen also saw two veterans of the game assert their experience to gatecrash the Title Contenders. For Big Steve, this season is about redemption, his chance to right the wrongs of last year when he lost the title at the last. His whopping 84 points saw him leapfrog Slick Rick and Iceman Newton, knocking them back into the Chasing Pack and sounding the alarm to the top three that, this time, it is he who will challenge from behind. The Dragon and Ginger Ben will be nervous of the Butcher's reputation, especially with him having such a point to prove. Flash Funk's rise has long been foretold, with the warning signs apparent even when he was in the Irrelevants. His outstanding form continued this week, and it saw him rise into the bronze medal position, and if he can continue his run of results over the Festive Frenzy, there's an outside chance he could be top of the league by the time of the next review - one which will cover the next three gameweeks.
For the Lords, this was the gameweek we've been waiting for. After our worst start in our FPL history, we found ourselves ranked 4.75m overall after six gameweeks. We've put a good run of form together, including a string of gameweek totals in the sixties, and after our second score in the eighties in seven gameweeks we now find ourselves ninth in the table and just inside the top 1.9m. Our Triple Chelsea defence gambit failed to pay off, with two weeks of no clean sheets followed by this gameweek where James didn't play and Chilwell suffered an early injury. Despite that, we are finally on the right track, and hope that we can use the three-gameweek Festive Frenzy to launch ourselves into the Chasing Pack. We're going to give ourselves the Christmas present of bringing in Alexander-Arnold for Gameweek Fifteen and, while the Double Gameweek will take some planning, we enter Christmas with many reasons to be optimistic for the challenges ahead.
The Cup Chronicles
We knew Group A's winner going into Gameweek Fourteen, with Flash Funk's double victory over Jockin' Jeeves meaning that, even if he lost and Jeeves won in Matchday Twelve, he would be advancing to the Grand Final based on head-to-head record. As it turned out, that didn't even come into play, with Flash's 21-point victory over Slick Rick ensuring that he wins the group outright, and enters the Grand Final on a five-match winning streak. Jockin' Jeeves signed off in style, a huge 32-point win over Deadly Daz condemning the Dazzlers to fourth place, while leaving the Juggernauts bemoaning their underperformance in Matchdays Nine and Ten.
Group B, however, had everything on the line. Sirloin Sean needed a huge victory over Ginger Ben with at least nine goals scored to have a chance. Captain Salah's four goals in the opening fixture left Sirloin dreaming of the most unlikely ending to a group stage ever, but none of his other nine outfielders could produce the goods, leaving him eliminated from the competition. In the process of that elimination, however, he smashed Ginger Ben to the tune of 29 points, opening the door for the winner of the Hitman-Ox match while leaving Ginger Ben praying for them to, somehow, produce their second draw of the second stage. It was not to be, with The Ox failing to produce a single goal and ending with just 38 points, leaving the Hitman to gatecrash the Grand Final after his boys brought home a 29-point win. Coincidentally, the Hitman's total of 67 points equalled that of his Grand Final opponent Flash, setting the stage for a tense, dramatic two-legged conclusion to the inaugural Gentlemen's Classic. As a neutral, you just couldn't ask for more.
Gentlemen's Classic, Matchday Twelve results:
Jockin' Jeeves 89 - 57 Deadly Daz
Flash Funk 67 - 46 Slick Rick
Ginger Ben 50 - 79 Sirloin Sean
The Ox 38 - 67 Hitman Hodgson
Gentlemen's Classic, Stage Two tables:
The Eliminator produced its closest gameweek yet, with two teams going head-to-head in a battle of bad scores. The Ox and Iceman Newton both saw match after match go by without returns, both of them praying that someone, anyone, could produce a moment of magic to see them through. The Iceman was only in this position because of his bizarre decision to sell Bruno and bring in Greenwood, and watched in horror as Bruno scored twice while also assisting. Gameweek Fourteen ended with both men in deadlock on 38 points, meaning we moved to the Tiebreaker. For Ox, his lack of a single goal meant he was relying on the Iceman to also blank. While the Iceman watched his beloved Leeds get put to the sword, as he watched Bruno, his old player, rack up so many points, the consolation goal of Dallas barely registered. Yet, from our greatest sorrow our most glorious triumphs can arise, and the goal of Dallas on the darkest of days keeps him alive. Should he go on to win the Eliminator, the Iceman will look back on Manchester United's 6-2 thrashing of Leeds with a fondness he can barely comprehend right now. For The Ox, this was a second devastating cup exit of the gameweek, showing that sentiment and second chances do not exist when it comes to the Eliminator.
Still to be Eliminated: Dan the Dragon, Ginger Ben, Iceman Newton, Slick Rick, Flash Funk, Big Steve, The Masterchef, Jockin' Jeeves, Who Horner, Lord Geord, King Ding, All-Star Vogt, Wildman Whitfield.
The League of Gentlemen:
A nice Christmas present for Mikey P, who showed unusual reserve in making no transfers and outscored Private Parvesh by 42 points to ensure he won't spend Christmas day in the wooden spoon position. His next target is making up the 49 points to Metal Marc, who lies on a devilish 666 points in 22nd. A 38-point gap emerges to Mack Daddy McMahon in 21st, while Big-Time Birkett's 85-pointer sees him rise to 20th on 709 points. It was another gameweek to forget for All-Star Vogt, who dropped a place to 19th, with Wildman Whitfield's 81 points moving him three points ahead in 18th. His next target is Who Horner, whose season has lost all momentum and is now 17th on 748 points.
The FPL Nightmare continues for Deadly Daz, who is struggling badly with second-season syndrome. He'd have taken being level with King Ding at the start of the season, but neither can be happy with only having 757 points after 14 gameweeks. Moving up to 14th is Red Hot Rob, five points ahead of two of last season's top four, after finally starting to put some form together. Thirteenth to ninth are separated by only six points, with the Hitman in 13th on 770, The Ox in 12th on 772, The Masterchef in 11th on 774 and Wooden Spoon Helling in tenth, also on 774 but ahead on transfers made. Top of the Irrelevants on Christmas Day is Lord Geord, who smashed in 80 points to rise seven places in the table and will be hoping to use this gameweek as a launchpad to enter the Chasing Pack during the Festive Frenzy.
The Chasing Pack
To do that, he'll need to make up 26 points on eighth-placed Jockin' Jeeves, who is finally making his presence felt this season. Fifty points from Salah and captain Bruno provided the platform for the gameweek-high 89 points, with Dias, Grealish, Dallas, de Bruyne and Calvert-Lewin adding further returns. The only real frustration will be his decision to replace Martinez with Meslier in Gameweek Eleven, a choice that has cost him seventeen points in four weeks so far despite Martinez only playing three games. With two free transfers to attack the first gameweek of the Festive Frenzy, the Rap Rob Roy will surely replace Chilwell and James who, even if they recover from their injuries, face a tough run of fixtures. The next target for Jeeves is Sirloin Sean, who lies seven points ahead in seventh. It was a strong gameweek for Sirloin, who saw captain Salah smash home 32 points in 33 minutes before six other players added some sizzle to the steak, for a final score of 79 points. The £6m invested in a substitute keeper continues to prove wasted, and Sirloin really needs to make a decision as to which keeper he wants, before replacing the other with a budget option so he can strengthen his first team. With some good fixtures for his team on Boxing Day, now is the perfect time to do that, as he continues to push to return to the upper echelons of the table.
A strong showing from the bottom two managers in the Chasing Pack, which was in sharp contrast to the two Pack members at the top. For Iceman Newton, his score was the second-lowest of the gameweek, with only bottom-placed Parvesh scoring fewer points. His decision to sell Bruno proved disastrous, meaning not only did he miss out on a captaincy total of 34 points - just four less than his whole team - but the Manchester United attacker he's manoeuvred to replace him with, Greenwood, didn't play a single minute. The Iceman's 38 points was his joint-lowest of the campaign so far, and means that, since becoming November's Manager of the Month and being just one point off top, he has fallen seventy points adrift of the title in just four gameweeks. Things aren't much better for Slick Rick, who saw only Grealish, Vardy, Calvert-Lewin and Zouma secure returns for a total of 46 points. Another competitor who kissed top spot before falling away, the Slickster is now 63 points off the pace. He, more than anyone, has suffered from Tottenham's form dropping off these last three games, given Spurs stars form the spine of his team. While Vardy has made up some of the deficit, his avoidance of the big guns from Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United will continue to cost him over the coming weeks. However he does it, the signing of Bruno or Salah is an absolute must if he wishes to launch a sustained run at the title.
The Title Contenders
It's been a slow burn for the Butcher this season, taking his time to get up and running, but he ensures he spends Christmas in the Title Contenders with a resounding 84-point gameweek. Captain Salah, Bruno and Grealish were the heroes, providing 59 points between them, with Calvert-Lewin, Dallas and Justin enhancing the score with smaller returns. One of the most intriguing stories at the start of the season was how Big Steve would respond to his Final Day failure; bringing the Appleby Assassins Guild of Sirloin Sean and Red Hot Rob to the division was the perfect move. While everyone was focused on what the Butcher's guns-for-hire would do - and, given the struggles of King Ding, it would appear they've served their primary purpose of vengeance - the Butcher quietly worked away in the background, slowly building momentum and showing that last season was no fluke. The signing of Mendy in GW11 has proven a masterstroke, with 27 points now secured as a direct result of that transfer. Critics will say that 19 of those 27 points were from Justin, who subbed-in the two gameweeks Mendy didn't play, but the genius use of the squad to enable a high-risk, high-reward signing like Mendy is the sort of cutting-edge decision that shows the Butcher at his best. With Mendy fully-rested ahead of a game against the woeful Newcastle this weekend, expect the Butcher's bravery to be rewarded yet again. Up to 844 points, he's still 59 off the top spot, yet with three gameweeks until our next review, that gap could be eroded completely.
Moving into third is the dark horse for the title, Flash Funk. Tipped as one-to-watch weeks ago when still in the Irrelevants, Flash has put a sensational run together to rise through the ranks and will now spend Christmas not only in the bronze medal position, but as the frontrunner for December's Manager of the Month trophy. Yet, the hardest-working manager in the game will exit Gameweek Fourteen disappointed with his performance. He bottled his gamble on Welbeck as a differential, relegating him to the bench and seeing him pick up 8 points while Bamford and Neto failed to return. He kept faith with de Bruyne, only to see potential new signing Bruno outscore him by twelve points. He benched eight-point Justin, only to see starter Chilwell go off injured after nine minutes. He listened to the pre-match rumours of Salah's benching and, while they proved correct, the decision to switch the captaincy to Calvert-Lewin cost another twelve points. With those 38 points gained, Flash Funk would've entered the Hundred Club and been second right now, though it's perhaps harsh to be so critical of a man doing so much right, when so many of those decisions come down to luck. Nobody will be harder on him than he will be on himself, and he'll be beavering away to ensure this great form continues over the Festive Frenzy. As of now, in my eyes at least, Flash is the favourite to win the League of Gentlemen this season. Still 51 points off the top, the question is whether the two teams above him can hold him off over the Festive Frenzy. I would suspect the answer to that will be 'No.'
Still, they aren't going to go down without a fight. During a gameweek of intense volatility of positional changes, the top two in the division were two of the only three able to maintain their places. Ginger Ben will not be happy with that, however, as he had designs on an immediate return to the top spot. Having moved the armband to Son after hearing the Salah rumours, that was never going to happen. Indeed, it proved to be a desperately disappointing gameweek for the Ginger One, who saw only Salah, Robertson and Cancelo secure returns, who saw two players go off injured and who fell 21 points further away from top spot as a result. Following on from last week's 41 points, people are starting to wonder if the pressure is getting to someone still in just their second season. Gingers are never good in the heat, and there's nothing hotter than the pressure-cooker of the League of Gentlemen with the Dragon's fire at your feet. If he can keep cool, Ginger Ben can turn this narrative around. The one thing he absolutely must not do is waste his second Wildcard when it is awarded in Gameweek Seventeen. If he wants to be the Champion, he has to stay strong.
The Man Who Would Be King
This year's Christmas Number One is Dan the Dragon. It was last week that he saw his position Two Become One, and this week couldn't have gone more Perfect for him as he looked to cement top spot by doing some competition Killing In The Name of success. Standing like a Skyscraper over the rest of the Gentlemen, who will be looking at his performance so far and saying "That's My Goal," the Dragon ensured it'll be Lonely This Christmas at the top, as he is the only man to break the 900-point barrier so far. He should've marked the Salah rumours Return To Sender, which would've left him fourteen points better off, but it's maybe asking Too Much to leave a substitute as captain. While, like the Iceman, he brought in Greenwood last week, at least he didn't do Somethin' Stupid like sell Bruno this time out. He's left the rest of the division asking, "Can We Fix It?" and they'll each be saying, "While Something I Need is a Perfect few gameweeks, I Have A Dream that, with a good run, I too can have A Moment Like This." Anything can happen When You Believe, but it'll be a Mad World if the Dragon isn't there or thereabouts for the rest of the season. His 71-point final score was Another Brick In The Wall of an outstanding debut season in the League of Gentlemen, and he can celebrate with some Mistletoe and Wine over Christmas while plotting to Stay Another Day at the top. With a 29-point cushion over his nearest rival, he'll be fully relaxed on Saviour's Day, though he won't want to relax Too Much ahead of the Festive Frenzy. An outstanding performance from the Dragon. Merry Christmas Everybody.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Fourteen, which saw Lord Geord leap seven places, which saw Jockin' Jeeves enter the Chasing Pack, which saw Flash Funk and Big Steve become Title Contenders and which saw Dan the Dragon finish as Christmas Number One. Ahead of the Festive Frenzy, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green and, as always, may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.
'The FPL Nightmare: How to Lose the World's Greatest Mini-League in 38 Simple Steps'
Available now on Kindle and the Kindle app on smartphones, only £1.99: