In another low-scoring gameweek, twenty-two Gentlemen outscored the top four teams, bringing more managers into title contention and leaving those at the top riddled with doubts.
For the second-successive season, Gameweek Seven proved a troublesome affair for the League of Gentlemen. With squad rotation and injuries affecting highly-owned players, managers needed their big names to produce, yet only Salah stepped-up to the plate. With only four managers choosing to captain him, all of whom are in the Irrelevants, points were at a premium for the Gentlemen, with every return proving pivotal.
The side-effect of the season's early big-hitters failing to produce was that twenty-two managers made up ground on the top four, with none of the pacesetters scoring more than 36 points. The big beneficiaries were Ginger Ben and Jockin' Jeeves, both of whom are back in the hunt for the title and have momentum on their side. Hwang was the hero for Jeeves, with his thirteen-point haul enabling him to make up ground despite an eight-point hit, while double-assist hauls for Azpilicueta and Jimenez lifted Ginger Ben into sixth place, and saw him become one of only four managers to break a half-century of points. With both men, plus the defending champion Dan the Dragon, now within seventy points - two great gameweeks - of Grinchy Vogt, the pressure is building on the league leader.
The ominous spectre of four-time champion, King Ding, also looms large. He took nine points off the Grinch's advantage in Gameweek Seven, and though he is 76 points off the top, he still has a Wildcard available. Should he use it and capitalise on the fixture swings, the Grinch's lead could soon dwindle away to nothing. The King has the experience of both winning titles and enacting glorious comebacks, with his recovery of a 119-point deficit to win the title in 2019-20 still the division's defining moment. In the final chronicle of the division, few would bet against the King walking out as the final champion of this epic saga.
One man who has to believe the Grinch can be beaten and the King will not reign is myself. This season marks the final chance to turn my FPL Nightmare into a dream scenario by grasping my final opportunity to complete the King's Quest. I must be honest; right now, I'm apprehensive of my chances. My bright start gave me a lot of hope, but my middling performance after my Gameweek Six Wildcard has shaken my self-belief. This transfer window feels like a pivotal moment in the season, and with two free transfers, I should be confident. Yet, I'm frozen by fear of getting my signings wrong. I find myself tempted by Vardy, but I do not know how much of that is genuine belief he is the right premium striker to own, and how much is trying to differentiate my team from Vogt's. His ownership of both Ronaldo and Lukaku makes any switch from the first to the second a defensive move, but perhaps that is the smart play.
Complicating matters are the injury and selection doubts of three of my defenders, and my fear of not owning Raphinha. Part of me is tempted to take my first hit, sell Ronaldo and reshape my attack into a two premium midfielder approach, while replacing Alonso with Dias. I am desperate to avoid taking a hit, and I do think it is unnecessary, but I genuinely do not know what to do. My aim was to play it safe in the first ten gameweeks and keep myself in contention, which suggests signing Lukaku is the right move. Yet, I remain unconvinced he will outscore Ronaldo, despite the difference in difficulty of their fixtures. It may well be that I roll one of my free transfers and see how Gameweek Eight goes, but as the deadline approaches, the urge to act will continue to rise.
We enter the second international break of the season at an interesting time for the League of Gentlemen. The second-consecutive low-scoring gameweek gives the Gentlemen plenty to consider over the twelve days between gameweeks, and with favourable fixture swings for Manchester City and Chelsea at the time Manchester United, West Ham and Liverpool's games get trickier, the temptation for squad overhauls has plenty of time to grow.
Come the Gameweek Eight transfer deadline, we could see the first major premium player switch, with Lukaku's fixtures so much more appealing than those of Ronaldo. While it seems a simple switch to make, Manchester City's game against Burnley muddies the waters, with de Bruyne, Foden and Jesus all tantalising options. Making it even more complex are the FPL stalwarts Son and Vardy, both of whom are in excellent form and face teams with defensive issues. There are so many choices, and I'm sure my own transfer trepidation is being mirrored throughout the division.
We are settling into the season proper now, with the challenge increasing and the pressure on each decision magnified by the risk of falling away in the chase for glory. All indications being that we are set for the most open title race in League of Gentlemen history, and when we return from the international break, we will start to discover which managers have the mental strength to endure when the form changes and things don't go their way.
The Cup Chronicles
The low-scoring nature of Gameweek Seven resulted in some close ties in the Gentlemen's classic, which continues to be a struggle for the three managers at the top of the league. While the Chancellor was able to secure his first victory of the campaign, both Grinchy Vogt and myself suffered our second defeats, leaving the three of us two points off the qualification positions in our groups. For Jockin' Jeeves, the Classic has been more kind, with his climb up the league table reflected in his three wins so far, making him the only Gentlemen still to have a perfect record in the competition. The Classic is also providing The Ox with respite from his poor league form, with his victory over the Masterchef taking him top of his group, via the better head-to-head record over Ginger Ben. There is still all to play for in the first Group Stage, but as we pass the halfway point, the margin for error has greatly reduced.
Gentlemen's Classic results, Matchday Three:
Grinchy Vogt 34 - 50 Ginger Ben
The Ox 45 - 38 The Masterchef
Jockin’ Jeeves 43 - 35 Hitman Hodgson
King Ding 43 - 53 Iceman Newton
Big Steve 28 - 28 Flash Funk
Red Hot Rob 37 - 22 Deadly Daz
Dan the Dragon 40 - 36 Lord Geord
Sirloin Sean 29 - 36 The Chancellor
It's the end of the road for two newcomers in the Eliminator, with Lionheart Lamb's dismal 16 points leaving his season in tatters. He is joined by Professor Storey, whose decision to leave seven-point White on the bench proved fatal.
A stunning performance from Killer Kev was the highlight of the Irrelevants. In a gameweek where returns were like gold dust, he played his Wildcard and saw every member of his team, bar his three strikers, contribute to a division-high score of 65 points. He has made an inauspicious start to life in the League of Gentlemen, and must use this performance to kick-start his season. Lionheart Lamb's FPL Nightmare saw him fall four places to 33rd, while Stone Cold Stephen Levins continued his good form to move up to 28th. Big-Time Birkett's poor 32 points saw him drop from the Elite to tenth place, and with Ash the Bash, Wildman Whitfield and the half-centurion Terminator Tris all within three points, he needs a big performance in Gameweek Eight to avoid falling further. Still at the top of the Irrelevants is King Ding, who continues to close the gap to the Elite and is now just one point away.
It's all starting to tighten up in the Elite, with the bottom four contenders all closing the gap to the top three. Mighty Mouse's 41 points arrested his recent decline, helping him maintain eighth place. It took a Wildcard to achieve it, though, and doubts will be raging over whether he made the right move activating the chip this gameweek after making just a six-point gain from what his Gameweek Six team would've achieved. The Dragon dropped a place after Ginger Ben's half-century, but he will be pleased to have cut the gap to first place by six points. The master of consistency is repeating his run from last season, with steady gains through solid performances, and will remain calm despite the gap that remains - something that Ginger Ben still has to prove he can do, having panicked and lost a great position last season.
Go Cartin, the Chancellor and myself had established a comfortable cushion between the rest of the Elite, but average performances over the last two gameweeks have seen Jockin' Jeeves wipe that out. His transfer hit-heavy approach is high-risk, and it cost him this gameweek, with the five points lost through his market manoeuvrings costing him a rise in the rankings. Despite that, the Rap Rob Roy will feel momentum is on his side, as he looks to close the three-point gap to Go Cartin. To overtake me, Jeeves needs to find sixteen points, and while I should be confident in my position, I am riddled with nervous indecision for the first time this season. Still, cutting the gap on Grinchy Vogt by two points despite a poor gameweek is encouraging. The Chancellor matched my performance, and remains nine points ahead of me in second place. Given his own inexperience at the upper echelons of the table, I suspect he has the same transfer doubts as I do, and I hope I can get my decisions correct and take advantage next time out.
The Man Who Would Be King
Still clear at the top is Grinchy Vogt, though his advantage has been reduced to 32 points after his big transfer gamble failed to pay off. Seeking to leave his chasers in the dust, the Grinch took a hit to bring in Lukaku, Rice and Alonso for Bamford, Torres and Alexander-Arnold. It was a hit that left him four points better off due to Livramento coming off the bench to cover for the rotated Alonso, and he has found a way to fit Salah, Lukaku and Ronaldo into his squad, the only manager in the division to do so. The cost of that is in midfield, where he now faces the prospect of either starting Rice or Allan every week or going with four defenders, essentially sacrificing an attacker in the hope that owning both Lukaku and Ronaldo will cover the lost points. It's a brave move, especially with Alonso a big rotation risk, but with the cushion he holds over the chasing pack, it's one that could reap huge rewards. The first gameweek of the experiment was a failure, with an overall rankings drop of over 3,000 places to 3,589, but the success of his gamble will be determined over the next four or five gameweeks. The odds are always stacked in favour of the house, but if Grinchy Vogt has the winning hand, he could very well hit the jackpot.
That concludes our review of Gameweek Seven in the League of Gentlemen, one which saw the title race grow closer after the big names failed to fire, which saw the sharp-shooting of Hwang bring the Townhead Gunners into serious title contention, and which saw Grinchy Vogt's frontloaded fireworks fail to explode. As we resume after the international break, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods be in your favour.
Gentlemen's Classic fixtures, Gameweek Eight:
Ginger Ben vs Grinchy Vogt
The Masterchef vs The Ox
Hitman Hodgson vs Jockin' Jeeves
Iceman Newton vs King Ding
Flash Funk vs Big Steve
Deadly Daz vs Red Hot Rob
Lord Geord vs Dan the Dragon
The Chancellor vs Sirloin Sean
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