Gameweek Nine saw Ginger Ben’s differential captain give him a strong position at the top, with those who played it safe being punished for their predictability. Meanwhile, Deadly Daz’s indecision lead to devastation in the Eliminator.
The tendency in FPL is to go with the obvious, especially when the obvious is a player in form. You see a player have a good week or two, you revel in owning them, then you look through your rival’s teams the week after and see that they all own him now, taking that advantage from you. One of the common tendencies of managers is to play it safe with captains, with this year seeing Harry Kane establishing himself as the go-to option, as much a defensive move through fear of missing out as a decision deigned to gain points.
While this is an understandable predilection when it comes to someone as high-profile and consistent as Kane, it also provides an opportunity for the braver, more maverick players to put some distance between themselves and the pack. This was highlighted to great effect in Gameweek Nine, with six of the top fourteen giving the Spurs sharpshooter the armband and only one of those managers securing a rise in the table. The introduction of assists to his game has been a welcome boon for managers, with the England captain securing 27 of his 84 points through the setting-up of others as his assists outnumber his goals for the first time in his career. Kane’s development into a Messi-esque talismanic figure has made him comfortably the FPL forward to own, but it also means in tight games, like the one against City promised and then proved to be, he’s more likely to be pulling the strings from deep, creating chances for others rather than finishing them himself. Thus it proved at the weekend, with just a solitary assist for his captainers, while the yellow card he incurred meant his final score was a meagre four points.
While many predicted this might be the case, two of last week’s top three, Sirloin Sean and Slick Rick, weren’t brave enough to remove the armband from him, and both suffered heavily as a direct result. Outscored by new league leader Ginger Ben to the tune of 41 and 22 points respectively, a huge part of those thrashings was inspired by the choice of the Ginger One to captain Calvert-Lewin over Kane, a result which secured him 26 points from one player. Had Everton played Fulham four weeks ago, half of the League of Gentlemen would’ve had the armband on the Premier League’s top scorer, but the drop-off in form from the Toffees led to a reticence to entrust the Goodison goal-getter with the captaincy. The shrewder observers, like Ginger Ben and Dan the Dragon, noticed the dip came following Richarlison’s red card four games ago. With Big Rich back in the team, they gambled, the goals would flow, and they were proven correct as the double-barrelled shotgun fired two direct hits. Those goals, so predictable in hindsight, showed the value in studying the form, understanding the reasons for fluctuations and, most importantly, having the courage to take chances in the search for success.
While many see FPL as a game where avoidance of error is preferable to chasing glory, where it’s better to play it safe and be steady away rather than take chances and go for broke, it’s only through calculated courage that the elite positions become obtainable. With several strong contenders for the captain’s armband this week, the question is how many managers will follow the example of the top two in the League of Gentlemen and choose a variable captain. Kane remains a viable option, his sixteen goal involvements the highest in the division and facing a Chelsea team that loves to attack and has conceded three goals twice already this season. The other options, however, are tantalising. De Bruyne and Sterling may have underperformed this season, but they face a Pope-less Burnley at the Etihad, and it’s a matter of time until Manchester City put someone to the sword. Salah, Mane and Jota go up against a Brighton team that have conceded fifteen goals already and are missing Lamptey, so crucial to their style of play. Bruno, with 28 points in two weeks, loves to carve through a defence that employs a high-press, and no-one loves a high-press more than Southampton. Leeds play the sort of open football that a scalpel like Rodriguez can cut right through, meaning Calvert-Lewin could repeat this week’s performance and nobody would be surprised. Kane’s own team-mate, Son, could easily outscore him this week, in a match tailor-made to his strengths, while a Vardy party against Fulham seems inevitable.
Choices, choices. This is a gameweek where courage looks set to be rewarded. Yet, with so many options available, all with arguably stronger cases than Kane, perhaps the most courageous choice is keeping the armband on the best player in the league. These are the decisions that define seasons. These are the moments managers find out who they are. These are the choices that create champions. It’ll be fascinating to see how it all plays out.
The Cup Chronicles
Round Two of the Gentlemen's Classic got under way this week, and with only the group winners advancing to the Grand Final, getting an early win was paramount. Jockin' Jeeves and Flash Funk hold the upper hand in Group A, Jeeves brushing aside the goal-shy Deadly Daz by 24 points in a 61-37 victory, and the four goals the Juggernauts scored could yet be crucial if it comes down to a Tiebreaker. It was a tighter affair between Flash Funk and Slick Rick, with the daring captaincy of Calvert-Lewin proving the difference as Flash ran out the winner by a 70-58 scoreline. Calvert-Lewin's brace doubled as a result of his captain's armband, meaning Flash ends Matchday One top of Group A.
Group B looks like being harder to call, with the 60-60 draw between The Ox and Hitman Hodgson an early curveball in the prediction game. The three extra goals he scored took the Hitman into second place, but it's Ginger Ben who tops Group B after an 80-39 annihilation of Sirloin Sean, largely because of his own decision to captain Calvert-Lewin. With the goals and the points advantage over rest of the group, the pressure is now on Ginger Ben to maintain his position, while the Ox and the Hitman can only hope they don't regret their failure to convert one point into two.
Gentlemen's Classic, Matchday Seven scores:
Deadly Daz 37 - 61 Jockin' Jeeves
Slick Rick 58 - 70 Flash Funk
Sirloin Sean 39 - 80 Ginger Ben
Hitman Hodgson 60 - 60 The Ox
Gentlemen's Classic, Stage Two Group Tables:
In the Eliminator, it was a true FPL Nightmare for Deadly Daz, who brought Walker into his team before deciding Werner was a must-have and selling Walker for a four-point hit to raise the funds without having played a game. Without that, he would've scraped through with a gameweek total of 41 points, but that second, unnecessary hit took his score to 37 points, two less than Sirloin Sean, and means he is the biggest name to fall victim to the Eliminator. As the field narrows, expect more big names to tumble in the weeks to come.
Currently Eliminated: Metal Marc, Mack Daddy McMahon, Red Hot Rob, Mad Mikey P, Private Parvesh, Deadly Daz.
The League of Gentlemen:
Another week on the bottom for Maverick Mikey on 360 points, though he reined in his transfer tendencies to just a minus-twelve and cut the gap to Metal Marc to twenty points. A strong 69 points takes Private Parvesh to 399 in 22nd, but it's a huge 41-point gap to Wildman Whitfield, whose 81-point score was the division's highest in Gameweek Nine. Dropping to 20th is All-Star Vogt, just four points ahead after his ten men secured just 46 points. Mack Daddy McMahon also drops a place to nineteenth, with Red Hot Rob outscoring him by 19 points to move just a point ahead on 454 points.
Big-Time Birkett drops a place to seventeenth, overtaken by Lord Geord, who seems to be turning his season around in November for the second-successive year, though his eight-point hit only just paid off with a net gain of one point. 24 points ahead of the Lord is King Ding on 486 points, with his gameweek total of 71 points a warning to the other Gentlemen that the King is starting to warm up. His comeback to win the league from a similar position last season has gone down in legend, and this small hint that he is gaining momentum will have those at the top looking over their shoulders. A point ahead in fourteenth is The Masterchef, while Jockin' Jeeves, Deadly Daz and Who Horner are all within four points of the tenth-placed Hitman Hodgson, who has 496 points. With the notorious non-manager Wooden Spoon Helling in the highest Irrelevant spot of ninth, all three of those men - last year's third, fourth and fifth-place finishers respectively - will fancy their chances of rising further, though Helling's 64-point score gives him a seventeen-point advantage over the Hitman at the end of the gameweek.
The Chasing Pack
Frustration in the transfer market for Big Steve, as he brought in Ziyech and Soucek with aspirations of big scores against weak opponents, only to see Son, one of the players he sold, secure four more points alone than their combined score. With Son looking dangerous on the counter as Spurs put Manchester City to the sword, there will be fear in the Butcher's camp that his sale will come back to haunt them, despite the tough fixtures the top-scoring midfielder faces in the coming weeks. Despite that misstep, his 71 points establishes a nine-point cushion over the Irrelevants, while closing the gap to The Ox to just six points. The Ox played his Wildcard and kept faith with Son and Kane, while seeing Leno, Konsa and Chilwell secure strong defensive returns to go with the Spurs duo's goal and assist. The real frustration came from Werner, who was given the armband and spurned a hat-trick's worth of chances that should've given The Ox a real advantage. He will be expected to atone for his profligacy this coming weekend, though his chances of remaining captain seem doubtful. Nevertheless, The Ox will be pleased to be on 528 points at this stage, and will expect his revamped team to kick on in the coming weeks.
One man who ends the week with a spring in his step is Flash Funk, who remains in sixth position on 547 points, but who slashed the gap to Sirloin Sean in fifth by a huge 31 points. New signing Calvert-Lewin was the hero, scoring twice while wearing the captain's armband on his debut to secure 26 of Flash's 70 points. Son, Robertson, Chilwell and Zouma were the other heroes, while remarkably Flash saw four players score just three points between them. Had Salah been fit, who knows how much smaller the gap would've been, and his return this coming weekend will have Sirloin Sean feeling the heat. Gameweek Nine was the first FPL Nightmare Sirloin Sean has experienced, with five absent players meaning he lined up with only nine men, while substitute goalkeeper Allison outscored his starter by seven points. With only four returns in his whole team, a gameweek rank of 6.44m and a final total of 39 points, this was one to forget for Sirloin, who only survived in the Eliminator through a Deadly Daz brain fart. Nevertheless, the Appleby Assassin has adapted very well to the pressures of the division so far, and 544 points remains a great score nine weeks in. If he can get back in the points this weekend, Sirloin could be back in the Title Contenders come Monday evening.
The Title Contenders
To do so, he'll have to make up a 23-point deficit to Slick Rick, who also fell in the rankings this week. Injuries saw two substitutes promoted from the Trickstars bench; sadly for Rick, they were the ones who scored five points between them, not the ones who combined for thirteen. His Spurs spine continued to produce the goods, with Son and Kane continuing their position-best form while Reguilon secured his fourth return in five matches. Calvert-Lewin, Jimenez and Zouma added to the returns to give Slick Rick 58 points for the week, one that sees him drop three places in the table but keeps him within touching distance of the top spot. Much will depend on how he uses his two free transfers; with Zaha and Saiss set to miss Gameweek Ten, they are the obvious players to replace, especially with the likes of Cancelo and Jota having such favourable fixtures and available for similar prices.
In third place is Iceman Newton, just one point ahead on 578 after a gameweek score of 70 points. The Iceman made a decisive move in the transfer market this week, opting to replace Salah despite him only being out for one game, and was rewarded for his aggression when new boy Bruno banged in 11 points. His entire back line brought in returns, though two-assist Digne's injury in training produces another transfer headache this week. Son, Calvert-Lewin and Kane produced further points, with the Iceman's only real mistake being to captain Watkins ahead of other, more obvious choices. Captaining either of his premium players would've taken him to within nine points of the top, a mistake he is sure to rectify this week. Digne to Chilwell seems the obvious transfer for the Iceman, but he's not always been a fan of the obvious, and his instincts have served him well thus far. It's surely just a matter of time before he tops the table for the first time.
While everyone around him fluctuates, Dan the Dragon is proving a remarkable figure of consistency. The pattern is setting that he rises in the table, then consolidates before rising again, and that pattern continued with a solid retention of second place following a 65-point gameweek. The big heroes were Robertson, Son and captain Calvert-Lewin, who brought in 48 points between them. While it was another strong performance from the Dragon, some underlying issues were revealed. The absences of Salah, Zaha and Wilson, along with the non-appearance of Jorginho, meant only ten players took the field; of those ten players, the two substitutes – Justin and Lamptey – brought in a combined score of minus one point. The returns of Salah and Wilson should ensure a full first-team is available, but the Dragon’s bench looks exposed right now, and the two free transfers he has available could well be used to strengthen in depth. While top place moved further away, he is only fourteen points off the summit, a total that is catchable with one good captaincy choice. When the Dragon inevitably reaches the top of the table, whether in Gameweek Ten or a few weeks down the line, he will prove a very tough man to displace.
The Man Who Would Be King
Moving back into first place with a fourteen-point cushion is Ginger Ben, who has now been top for more than half the season so far. His only transfer was to bring in Jota for Mendy, a move that resulted in an eight-point gain, repeating the transfer success of the last gameweek. With Salah and Saiss not playing, his only decision was whether to play Lamptey or Dallas, and this proved a rare mistake from the Ginger One this season, with his choice of Lamptey resulting in a six-point deficit. This was more than made up by the performances of McCarthy, Robertson, Chilwell, Jota, Son, Kane and captain Calvert-Lewin, who combined to produce a gameweek score of 80 points, the highest in the top 20 and one that blew away his immediate rivals. With a strong first team guaranteed for Gameweek Ten, Ginger Ben should look to replace Saiss in his squad, with a straight swap to teammate Kilman not only offering an extra squad member who actually plays, but would also free up a further 0.8m in transfer funds for squad strengthening in the weeks to come. The cushion over the Title Contenders means he can be aggressive this week, not only in building better squad depth but in taking risks in the chase for points; currently ranked 40,404 in the world, an opportunity like this to captain a variable player could see him push closer to the top-10k overall. It has been a great season so far, and with Ginger Ben showing he has learnt from the mistakes of his debut campaign last year, the sky is the limit and anything is achievable.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Nine, one which saw Deadly Daz devastated in the cups, which saw courageous captaincy choices rewarded and which saw Ginger Ben establish himself as the man to beat. Ahead of Gameweek Ten, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green and, as always, may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.
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