Double Gameweeks are defining moments of FPL seasons. Could Gameweek 19 be the week where momentum switched away from the Dragon?
The climax of Gameweek Nineteen brings us to the halfway point of the season, and what a gameweek it was. Six managers smashed through into the Hundred Club, with Big Steve just outside on 98 points. All of the managers in the Title Contenders closed the gap to the top by at least forty points, with experience truly starting to tell. For the first time in a long while, the Dragon is looking vulnerable, and the season's end suddenly seems a long way away.
It's not that the Dragon had a bad week, per se. It's just that his closest contenders all had outstanding weeks, with only Flash Funk in the top seven failing to outscore the Dragon. The other five managers all finish with 100+ by their name, although Big Steve's eight-point hit prevents Hundred Club entry for last season's runner-up. Making it worse for the table-topper is that, Ginger Ben aside, he is being hunted down by some of the wiliest, most hardened veterans in the game, managers who know what the League of Gentlemen is all about and who lived through a runaway leader being pipped on the Final Day last season. If Iceman Newton or Slick Rick were still Title Contenders, the Dragon could breathe a little easier, but Jockin' Jeeves is a two-time winner of the competition, and is renowned for his post-Christmas charges. While it could be expected that Ginger Ben would fall away, the Juggernauts will only gain strength and, despite being further back at this stage, could well be the Dragon's real nemesis.
Just behind Jeeves now, yet all within 110 points, are Lord Geord, Flash Funk and Big Steve, showing the depth of the challenge ahead for the Dragon. Big Steve is desperate to avenge last season's heartbreak, and will look to turn history on its head by echoing the fightback that took him down. For Flash Funk and Lord Geord, they have never been close to the title before, but their experience, drive and focus remains undiminished and, aided by their technical assistants, will prove formidable challengers in the weeks to come.
This is where it gets real for the Dragon. A fantasy start to life in the League of Gentlemen saw him soar away at the top. While he retains the advantage over his rivals, half of the season remains and, with games being rearranged at the last minute and with football the most unpredictable it has been for some time, there promises to be many more twists and turns to come.
The Cup Chronicles
It's the end of the road for Iceman Newton, whose abandonment of his team was always going to end in tears. 62 points would be enough to survive in most gameweeks, but in such a high-scoring double gameweek, lack of planning, passion and care was always going to cost him dear. Even in his absence, he nearly survived, but the genius signing of Tielemans by Slick Rick saw fifteen points secured, giving him enough to stay in the competition by the skin of his teeth. Avoiding Elimination requires focus and commitment; the Iceman's lack of either see him become the latest victim of the Eliminator.
Eliminated from the FPL Cup: Red Hot Rob.
Still in the FPL Cup: Maverick Mikey, Deadly Daz, All-Star Vogt, Dan the Dragon.
The League of Gentlemen:
Weekly Round -Up
Cast adrift at the foot of the table is Private Parvesh, whose 785 points are 115 behind the rejuvenated Maverick Mikey. His 79 points take him to within five points of Metal Marc, with Wildman Whitfield on 937 and Mack Daddy McMahon on 946 all catchable in a few gameweeks. Dropping to 19th on 976 points is Wooden Spoon Helling, whose set-and-forget style meant this fall was inevitable, meaning that the 18th-place Masterchef can focus on looking up the table. His first target is Big-Time Birkett, who Wildcarded himself into the Hundred Club this week, moving him eight points ahead of the Masterchef while remaining one point off a round thousand, seventeen points behind the 16th-placed Who Horner.
From 15th up, it all gets a bit closer, with just 48 points between King Ding and the Chasing Pack. It has been a season to forget for the King, who is forfeiting his back-to-back titles with barely a whimper. Much of that can be put down to the volatility of the fixture list working against the transfer hit-resistant Champ, though he is always stronger in the second half of the season and he will surely start picking up momentum soon. His first targets are Deadly Daz, who moved 16 points ahead of the King by entering the Hundred Club, and Sirloin Sean, twenty points ahead on 1,069. Twelfth and eleventh are occupied by the Hitman and the Ox, who both fell in the table despite recording scores in the nineties, which really underlines the quality of the division and the standards set in double-gameweeks. This is further emphasised by the last two members of the Irrelevants, Iceman Newton (10th place on 1,085 points) and Slick Rick (9th place on 1,087 points). The Iceman started Gameweek Nineteen in the Title Contenders, with Slick Rick just outside, yet both managers were shunted down the table by the sheer volume of the points amassed by their rivals. When you consider the quality of the Ox and the Hitman, you can't help but think this won't be the end of their slide.
The Chasing Pack
Holding onto eighth place and establishing a ten-point gap is Red Hot Rob, whose 86 points leave him just shy of the 1100 mark on 1097. A transfer hit was taken to facilitate the signing of de Bruyne as captain, a move that resulted in a slight increase of points, but now leaves him with the headache of replacing his new signing. Defensive strength was the key to his points, with Allison, Cresswell and Justin combining for 37 points between them, while Saka, Fernandes and Kane added further returns. He finds himself leapfrogged by All-Star Vogt, who bench-boosted his way into the Hundred Club with a whopping 123-point final score this week. It could have been even better, had he not taken an eight-point hit that resulted in him losing out on a further fifteen points, but given the poor start to the campaign the All-Star had, he'll be delighted with the outcome of the gameweek, with five players breaking into double-figures and another five just short.
Looking over his shoulder at the resurgent Vogt is the Butcher, Big Steve, eleven points ahead on 1,115. While he did score 106 points this week, he did not gain Hundred Club entry due to the eight-point hit taken. It was a hit well worth taking, with new signings Stones, Martinez and Foden combining to bring in forty points between them. Sadly for the Butcher, only Kane, Holding, Justin and Son provided further returns, with the Bench Boost wasted by only producing six additional points, with two of his subs not playing at all. Just five points now separates him from fifth-place Flash Funk, who will look back on Gameweek Nineteen as a disaster. With no chips played and his only signing de Bruyne for Bruno, he watched as de Bruyne only matched Bruno's score before getting injured, while seeing only five players secure returns, with substitute Lookman outscoring five of the seven attackers selected ahead of him. Compounding Flash's misery was being outscored by everyone around him by a considerable margin, while also emerging from the gameweek with four players injury doubts for Gameweek Twenty. After putting together a great run of form to get back in the title picture, Flash now has just one gameweek rank above 3.3m overall in five gameweeks; given that was achieved via a Free Hit, it suggests Flash's squad is in severe need of refreshing if he is to get back on track.
The Title Contenders
Moving into the Title Contenders for the first time this season is Lord Geord, whose long-term planning paid off in spectacular fashion with a division-high 138 (-8) points. While the four-point hit to bring in El Ghazi for Lookman did not pay off, costing the Lords ten points, the signings of Fabianski and Watkins for Steer and Rodrigo secured an extra ten points after the hit, meaning the Lords broke even on their transfer activity. Last week's transfer of Dias in for Zouma continued to pay off, with the Man City man securing 18 more points than the Chelsea defender this week, while defensive partner Stones brought in a monstrous 27 points - equalling the FPL record for a defender. In all, eleven players secured returns for the Lords, and the Bench Boost bringing in an extra 21 points, a decent if unspectacular plunder. It's been a stirring fightback from Lord Geord, who was ranked 4.8m overall after Gameweek Six and now finds himself at 554k. There's still a long way to go to catch the Dragon, but the gap has been cut by a massive 53 points this week. The Lords are taking it one gameweek at a time, but it would be a lie to say they haven't thought about sitting atop the table come the season's end.
Six points ahead of Lord Geord, on 1,130 points, is Jockin' Jeeves, who entered the Hundred Club by way of a twelve-point hit and a Bench Boost. Another who reaped the rewards of the Dias-Stones-captain de Bruyne axis, their 61 points provided the platform for the Juggernauts to score 107 points and move into third place, with Martinez, Fabianski, Coufal, Son and Bruno the other players to secure returns. Despite these outcomes, Jeeves will be disappointed with his double-gameweek result. His Bench Boost brought in a disappointing 13 points, while his four new signings proved disastrous. Not only did they cost him twelve points to bring in, but, to a man, they were outscored by the player they replaced - de Gea beating Martinez by one point, Lindelof scoring five more than James, Salah being his score more than doubled by Saka despite having a game extra and Kane bringing in seven more than Rodrigo. Those lost thirty points could yet prove critical, especially with 95 points still to make up on the Dragon.
Before he can think of topping the table, he still has 66 points to go to catch Ginger Ben, the sixth entry to the Hundred Club this week. He, too, took a transfer hit, meaning that the six men who scored in three figures all either took hits or Wildcarded - evidence, perhaps, that an aggressive transfer approach is the key to success this season. Unlike Jockin' Jeeves, Ginger Ben nailed his transfers, with the hit for new boys Antonio, Maddison and Grealish meaning an extra seventeen points on the total of the Ginger One. Maddison and Antonio were the stars of the show, bringing in 35 points between them to close the gap to the Dragon for the first time in weeks. Before this gameweek, it looked inevitable the Ginger One would fade away; while he still has the disadvantage of only having Bench Boost remaining from his chips, he will now also know that, with the right transfer gambles, he can overcome that deficit. His final score of 109 points may not have been the highest in the division, but it may yet prove the most important in shaping the title picture over the weeks ahead.
The Man Who Would Be King
So, a tough week for the Dragon, all things considered. He's been battered, but he is not broken. While new contenders have come to the forefront and his cushion at the top has been slashed by more than half, he still retains a 29-point lead, and he still has a Triple Captain, a Bench Boost and a Wildcard to play. Coufal, Justin, Martinez, Bruno and Kane secured returns to minimise the damage, while new signing Foden brought in an extra point to the man he replaced, and has a great run of games to add to that. A final score of 77 points was just above average for the week, and because of the groundwork lain down in recent weeks, ensures that he remains the title favourite as we enter the second half of the campaign. Any notion that it would be a canter to the championship, however, is out of the window, especially with the Juggernauts in hot pursuit and renowned for their late charges. The heat is on, and the pressure is reaching boiling point; we're about to find out whether the Dragon can survive the onslaught.
That concludes our review of Double Gameweek Nineteen, one which saw transfer hits prove caution isn't always clever, which saw veterans exert their experience to maximum effect, which saw the Dragon's lead at the top slashed and which saw six entries to the Hundred Club. Ahead of the second half of the season, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.
"One of the most insightful works I've read on mental health problems in men ... It is very well-written and a real page-turner. I would recommend it to anyone.
Dancing With Disorder
"It communicates a deep understanding of troubled individuals who suffer from the challenges of mental disorders ... Courageous, wise, humorous and thought-provoking ... an easy-to-read, surprising and subtly moving chronicle.
The FPL Nightmare: How to Lose the World's Greatest Mini-League in 38 Simple Steps
The FPL Nightmare II:
The Crying, the Hits and the VAR Probe
Follow Andrew Lawes on Social Media
All Lawes wants is to win The League of Gentlemen, yet the FPL Gods are bastards that conspire against him.
This column provides weekly updates of Lawes' dismal attempts to best his rivals.