The FPL season started in stunning fashion for those who captained Mo the Messiah, with his performance giving his owners plenty to drool over. For those without the enthralling Egyptian, the first gameweek of the season became a true FPL Nightmare.
Gameweek One has seen the FPL Nightmare begin for so many teams, with anyone not owning Mo Salah finding themselves forty points off the pace already. With hindsight, captaining Magic Mo against a newly-promoted team at home seems so obvious, yet so many talked themselves out of it. Leeds have a great defensive record, they said. With so many premium midfield options, it makes more sense to go double-Liverpool defence and look to other teams for attacking players, they reasoned. He’s looked sluggish and woeful in pre-season, meaning Mane is the better option, they justified. £12m is so much money, and Aubameyang has Fulham, so it’s better to spread the cash rather than spend an eighth of the overall transfer budget on a player that won’t be captained for the first three weeks, they resolved. All of that blown out the water inside ninety minutes, when Mo the Messiah gave us an FPL performance to drool over.
Of course, it goes without saying that the Lords opted against owning Salah at all, never mind captaining him. He has Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton inside his first five, we said. We’d be transferring him out for Bruno in Gameweek Two and we’d be stuck with £1.5m in the bank, a £1.5m that would burn a hole and leave us with too much temptation for a hit. We can carry Bruno, given Soucek has his one good game in his opening nine fixtures up first, then Soucek can drop to the bench, we can save a transfer and give us an edge elsewhere in the squad. We expected Salah to score, but players we don’t own score goals every gameweek, so that wouldn’t be a big deal. Oh, how the FPL Gods chuckled at our presumptions, throwing him two penalties to pad his stats and decimate our gameweek with just two matches played. Given the underperformance of so many players and the scintillating starts of others, rather than saving a transfer, the urge is to rip up the squad with either a Wildcard or a multiple-transfer hit gameweek.
Indeed, for the Juggernauts, an eight-point hit has already been taken, according to Weekly Bullshitter reporter Jez Messing. He writes that there has already been a massive blow-up between Jockin’ Jeeves and Hot Rod, with the elder statesman telling his son all summer that Salah was essential, and his decision to try and steal an early march by going for Mane was too high a risk. He also said the decision to spend £5m on a goalkeeper whose team conceded 65 goals was evidence of Jeeves ‘not living in the real world.’ When the Rap Rob Roy responded with the boast that he had the best squad in the game, Hot Rod dismissed him as ‘delusional,’ saying ‘you’ll take a massive hit in Gameweek Two, watch all the players you bring in do nothing while the ones you sell get all the points, and you’ll have Wildcarded by Gameweek Three.’ Messing reports that Jeeves responded by instructing his wolf-dog Cas to attack Hot Rod, sending Hot Rod fleeing from the Juggernauts new town centre base. Just one gameweek in, and it’s promising to be a turbulent season at Juggernaut HQ.
It’s hard to draw too many conclusions from Gameweek One, with one player’s performance providing such a massive difference in score. Indeed, Salah’s captaincy alone outscored six teams in the division, including newcomers Wildman Whitfield and Red Hot Rob. Next week could be a completely different story, especially with Kevin de Bruyne, Anthony Martial, Raheem Sterling and Bruno Fernandes entering the fray for the first time this season. With so many premium options, managers need to accept that there will be gameweeks when your captain does nothing and your opponent’s gets a hat-trick. Captaincy choices have never been as crucial in FPL as this season, and the eventual winner of the division will be the man who gets his armband correct the most. This week, that honour goes to Sirloin Sean and Ginger Ben, who both top the League of Gentlemen for the first time. Sirloin Sean is a debutante in the competition, but his previous overall rankings suggest an inconsistency that means he could either challenge at the top or fade away completely. Following an Overall Ranking of 2,171,171 last year, Sirloin will be looking to rebound in style, and his opening gambit of 84 points suggests he can eclipse his highest-ever ranking of 344,439.
For Ginger Ben, he entered this season looking to prove himself after a dismal ranking of 1,844,362 in his debut season. Having studied the game last year and learned its nuances, he entered the campaign desperate to prove himself in the upper echelons of the table, and his 84 points show that he could well be a dark horse in the Title Contenders. Ominously for the rest of the league, just four points behind them in third is King Ding, the back-to-back League of Gentlemen champion. For a man who traditionally starts slow and didn’t set up his squad until an hour before the deadline, he has exploded into life. If the man who makes his decisions based on reason and evidence can also now rely on gut instinct like this week, it’s going to be a long, hard season for the King’s rivals.
The Cup Chronicles
The Gentlemen’s Classic Final Qualifying round got under way this week, with the first leg of the four Qualifiers to determine the final four entrants to the inaugural competition. In the first qualifier, Metal Marc entered a team at the last-minute to ensure it was a three-way battle, though his score of 27 points means he will struggle to make it through. The Ox is in the driving seat, his 65 points giving him an eight-point lead over Mad Mikey, though with Mad Mikey’s heavy-transfer approach and preference to use all his chips as early as possible, it’s impossible to predict which players will line up for him in the second leg. Qualifier Two was a straight fight between Wooden Spoon Helling and Slick Rick, with Tits-Up Thompson retiring after realising he doesn’t have the quality or mentality to be successful in the League of Gentlemen. It’s Wooden Spoon who has the seven-point lead in the second leg, with Slick Rick’s Spurs-heavy selection blowing up in his face.
Jie has taken a sabbatical from FPL, the burnout of a decade of intense focus leading him to recharge his batteries this season before, hopefully, returning to challenge the King next year. That left Qualifier Three a head-to-head between Iceman Newton and Ginger Ben. The Iceman outscored every team in the first two qualifiers, yet finds himself seventeen points behind following Ginger Ben’s table-topping performance. In Qualifier Four, the newcomers to the division vied to be the final manager to qualify. Wildman Whitfield and Red Hot Rob look out of the race, both finishing Gameweek One just under fifty points off the pace. It will be a real challenge for Mack Daddy McMahon to make it through, with twenty-six points to make up before a ball is kicked; Salah’s performance shows that, while unlikely, this is possible. Dan the Dragon was the only new-boy able to keep pace with Sirloin Sean. With just seven points needed to catch the leader, it promises to be a tussle that goes right to the final whistle.
First Leg Results in full:
Qualifier One: The Ox - 65 points, Mad Mikey P - 57 points, Metal Marc - 27 points.
Qualifier Two: Wooden Spoon Helling - 42 points, Slick Rick - 35 points, Tits-Up Thompson - 0 points (no team entered).
Qualifier Three: Ginger Ben - 84 points, Iceman Newton - 67 points, Jie - 0 points (no team entered).
Qualifier Four: Sirloin Sean - 84 points, Dan the Dragon - 77 points, Mack Daddy McMahon - 58 points, Red Hot Rob - 37 points, Wildman Whitfield - 36 points.
In other cup news, with the late additions of Red Hot Rob and Metal Marc to the division, the Eliminator is now scheduled to begin in Gameweek Four. Should there be any Gameweek Two additions to the League of Gentlemen, it will begin in Gameweek Three, with multiple teams eliminated in the first round if necessary.
The League of Gentlemen:
(24th to 9th)
A tough start for all the non-Salah captainers, with every manager in the Irrelevants one who didn’t not give him the armband. It was an especially woeful start for Metal Marc and Private Parvesh, who both failed to break the thirty-point barrier. Slick Rick, Red Hot Rob, Wildman Whitfield and the Masterchef all failed to outscore a Salah captaincy, leaving them well off the pace already. For new boys Red Hot Rob and Wildman Whitfield, both of whom fancied their chances of success, this gameweek served as a wake-up call as to the quality of the division. How they respond to an opening-week FPL Nightmare could well be the defining factor of their season. Wooden Spoon Helling is at seventeenth and, given his set-and-forget style, seventh-bottom could well be his highest-ever league position. Also failing to break a half-century of points were Lord Geord and Jockin’ Jeeves, whose performances fell well short of their expectations and proud boasts of impending glory. Both men started poorly last season and compounded their errors with multiple transfer hits and early wildcards; doing the same again this season could ruin their title chances before the international break.
Mad Mikey, Mack Daddy McMahon and Big Time Birkett all scored just under sixty points; not a great start, but one that keeps them in touch of the leaders. Mad Mikey will need to show more restraint in the transfer market this season if he is to push on, whereas Mack Daddy McMahon simply cannot afford to throw away his captaincy on the likes of Mitrovic if he is to be successful in his debut season. Given he has no premium midfielders, he needs to look to the likes of Vardy, Rashford and Willian to maximise his points potential. Big Time will be reasonably happy with his performance, knowing that if he can get seven players scoring returns every week, he will climb in the table each week.
Rounding off the Irrelevants are Deadly Daz, The Ox and Iceman Newton, who all averaged one return-per-player and scored in the mid-60s. For Iceman Newton and The Ox, it proved a solid start to the campaign following last season’s underperformance. The Ox declared his determination to focus harder this season, and more performances like this will only enhance that drive. The Iceman gave up completely halfway through last season, walking away from the game when he realised the quality of the division. With his beloved Leeds back in the top flight, his commitment should remain until the end of the season; whether his treble-Leeds approach will be successful remains to be seen. Deadly Daz finished his first full season in fourth position last time out, only denied the bronze medal through Jockin’ Jeeves having the advantage of early team news. With the transfer deadline now ninety minutes before the first kick-off of the week, that won’t be a factor this time out; whether Deadly Daz suffers from second-season syndrome or he can kick on and win a medal promises to be an exciting story throughout the campaign. A solid start to the season, though the choice of Firmino up front instead of Werner or Martial could come back to haunt him, with the Liverpool striker a consistent underperformer in FPL terms.
The Chasing Pack
(8th to 5th)
A solid start to the competition for the head of the Appleby Assassins Guild, Big Steve, as he finds himself tied with Flash in eighth position. Having led the League of Gentlemen from Gameweek Four to the Final Day last season, only to be pipped by King Ding on the Final Day, the Butcher entered this campaign swearing vengeance. Bring his henchmen Red Hot Rob and Sirloin Sean into the division, rumour has it his aim isn’t even to win the league, just to ensure King Ding does not. While Red Hot Rob had an ice-cold start, Sirloin Sean turned up the heat by topping the table, and the Butcher isn’t too far off the pace. Between his own 16,444 overall ranking last season, Red Hot Rob’s pedigree of six successive top-100k finishes and two more inside the top 150k and Sirloin Sean’s sensational start, the Appleby Assassins Guild promise to be trouble for the King all season long.
Flash was tipped by the King as a dark horse for the title and, while he’s had a very good start to the season, the performance of Salah hides the underlying issue of Flash having only eight outfield players in his squad making appearances. Without some serious transfer surgery, perhaps even a Wildcard, Flash will need a lot of luck to sustain this week’s performance. A point ahead is All-Star Vogt, who would’ve topped the table had he captained Salah instead of Werner. An excellent debut campaign looks like being repeated this time out, as the master of the mind-games text message is already showing signs of continuing his outstanding post-restart form.
The second-highest new entrant to the competition is Dan the Dragon in sixth, just seven points off the top. Though people may dismiss his opening week as luck due to fifteen points coming from auto-subs, that would miss the fact that, had the players subbed-out started, they would’ve scored a minimum of twelve points themselves. Alli being hooked at half-time will be the Dragon’s biggest concern, though with the likes of Greenwood and Foden priced lower and James Rodriguez putting in a talismanic debut, there are easy solutions to that issue. His brother, Hitman Hodgson, slashed his greatest-ever overall ranking in half in his debut League of Gentlemen campaign; should the Dragon repeat that success, he’ll be knocking on the door of the top-100k and potentially the King’s throne.
A point ahead is Who Horner, who secured a massive 78 points despite only having nine players. While Bruno will bolster the starting ranks this week, Who Horner finds himself with three non-playing defenders, two of whom cost just £4m. Given his reticence to take transfer hits, his options are limited as to who he brings in, though one of the Leeds full-backs for Egan would seem the shrewdest move. Without a transfer of that kind, Who Horner could find himself without a full team again next week, a situation which could cost him dearly.
The Title Contenders
(4th to 2nd)
A very strong start for Hitman Hodgson, who finished last season in fifth position and begins this one in fourth. Crucially, he saw five of his six attackers secure returns, with three players managing to score in the double-figures. The highest-ranked manager not to captain Salah, there will be frustration that he isn’t at the head of the table as we speak. Given the strength of his starting eleven and the fact all of his substitutes will be starters within a week or two, the Hitman looks poised to build on his highest-ever overall ranking and make a real run at the title. The only real concern in his squad is Bowen, who faces the hardest run of fixtures of any team in the division. Given his strength in depth, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Hitman take a chance on Foden, knowing David Silva has retired and he has the cover in place should the Man City youngster fail to appear. While many would like to gamble on the young maestro, the Hitman is one of the only managers in a position to benefit from that bet, and it’ll be interesting to see if that’s the direction he takes in the transfer market, or if he goes for someone like Harrison of Leeds and frees up some funds.
Occupying the bronze medal position at the end of Gameweek One is King Ding, who threw together a squad last-minute and still finds himself running the show. Sticking to his no-Spurs comment from his pre-season interview, ‘Anyone having a Mourinho player in their squad is asking for trouble,’ he eschewed Doherty in favour of Tierney and was rewarded with a clean sheet. The instinctual captaincy of Salah proved a masterstroke and, with Greenwood already in his squad, he has options ahead of next week. His pre-deadline talk was of Wildcarding in Gameweek Two, but don’t be surprised to see his natural pragmatism kick in and a simple switch of Vinagre to one of the plethora of £4.5m defenders available, most likely one of the Leeds full-backs. The King can be a slow-starter, so to see him start like this despite being so unprepared is a warning for his rivals; if they allow him to get too far ahead, there will be no stopping the King from winning his third successive championship.
The Men Who Would Be King
A tie at the top between Sirloin Sean and Ginger Ben this week, both men smashing home 84 points to give us the unlikeliest of league leaders. The most remarkable fact of this situation is that both men achieved this despite sharing just one player. There are two lessons every manager should draw from this: First, the captaincy is not a bonus, but a crucial component of success in FPL – both men captained Salah, and both reaped the rewards. Second, there is no template team for success, and there are many avenues to points in this game. For Sirloin Sean, double-Liverpool defence proved advantageous; his decision to sacrifice Alexander-Arnold for Robertson and van Dijk being rewarded by both players securing returns despite conceding three goals. The punt on Willian proved a massive success, with the Brazilian bagging three assists and proving pivotal to every attacking threat Arsenal provided, while going for the steady Jimenez up front brought in the eight points that took him to the top. Time will tell whether this is a one-off for the Appleby Assassin or whether this performance can be sustained; with Pope to start in goals next week, there’s every possibility this score can be exceeded.
For Ginger Ben, this gameweek was one of redemption. So many mistakes last season – none worse than forgetting to confirm his Free Hit and taking a 36-point penalty – led to him struggling throughout the campaign and failing to make much of an impact. Entering this year’s competition, he vowed to apply the lessons he had learned and give a better account of himself, and he got off to the best possible start. Salah was the big hero, with the defensive duo of Justin and James boosting his score by 23 points. Though Werner and Aubameyang were his only other players to get returns, when your big players bang it can be enough. The scary thought for the rest of the division is what happens if the other six players start to produce for Ginger Ben. An excellent start to the season, and he enters Gameweek Two with the intention of proving it wasn’t a fluke.
That concludes our first gameweek round-up of the season, one which saw two unfancied contenders top the table, which saw six teams score less than one individual player, which saw the Lords and the Juggernauts give themselves a mountain to climb and which saw King Ding position himself perfectly to push for his third title in a row. As we approach Gameweek Two, 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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