As the seasons change to the wintery months, the Iceman makes his move, freezing out the competition to become Manager of the Month. Elsewhere, Sirloin Sean overcooked his transfers, while the Butcher carved his way back into contention.
It’s fitting, as we enter December, that the man with all the momentum is Iceman Newton. Bubbling away around the Title Contenders for a while, the Iceman slipped past his opponents this month, recording 207 points in three gameweeks to win November’s Manager of the Month award and move just one point off the top of the table. Indeed, only a 203-point month for Ginger Ben fended off the Iceman’s challenge, with the impact sub Dallas proving critical this week to maintaining top position in the League of Gentlemen.
However, it is not all good news for the Iceman, who will see the robustness of his title challenge tested this week following the cancellation of Aston Villa vs Newcastle, and with Harry Kane becoming an injury doubt. The Iceman has both Watkins and Grealish alongside Kane in his attack, meaning he could well be without three big players in Gameweek Eleven. With Digne a long-term injury, Mitchell out-of-favour and Reguilon also a doubt, it will take some mastery of the transfer market for the Iceman to hang on Ginger Ben’s coattails, while Dan the Dragon is only five points off the top himself. News of the Covid vaccine on Wednesday morning was much-welcomed by League of Gentlemen managers, who already face enough difficulties over the winter period without the threat of abandoned games to contend with too. How managers handle this weekend’s issues will prove crucial in the title picture, especially with several managers facing a tough call on whether to spend a transfer upgrading their substitute keeper or go without a goalie altogether.
It’s these big calls, over the course of the season, which determine the fate of the League of Gentlemen. Any manager can put together a run of results which launch them up the table. Doing it long-term, over 38 gameweeks, is what turns contenders into champions. For us in the Lords, we are hoping that our bad run is over. Following a disastrous start which left us with a 4.8m overall ranking, we have put together a successful month which saw us fall just two points short of being November’s Manager of the Month for the second year running. Last year, November proved to be the launchpad which led us to our highest-ever overall ranking. This year, it has raised us over 2.4m places in three gameweeks, leaving us 115 points off the top of the league. While this is a sizeable challenge to overcome, we made up eighteen points on Ginger Ben in Gameweek Ten, so the key is doing that seven more times over the remaining 28 gameweeks. With the memory of King Ding’s 119-point fightback over Big Steve last season fresh in everyone’s minds, we won’t be the only team refusing to throw in the towel on our hopes of league success this season – especially given Ginger Ben is far more inexperienced than last season’s runaway leader, Big Steve, was at the time.
However, without decisive action, King Ding will not be challenging for the title this season. Jez Messing has been working undercover in recent weeks, moonlighting as a Covid swab tester to gain access to the King’s Court training facility. After luring the King into a makeshift tent under the premise of administering a swab test, Messing informed the King he needed to remain there for an hour in order to ensure he was clear. Unaware this is not the correct protocol for swab testing, the King complied with the false medic’s advice, giving Messing the opportunity to sneak into the King’s office. After conducting a thorough search, Messing was able to photocopy documentation which proves the King has been outsourcing his management skills to an alternative, inferior management simulation for financial benefit. One letter he found, dated August 18th, has a clear statement from the King saying that his energies will be focused on this rival competition, alongside the quote that ‘I pissed the League of Gentlemen last season after giving them all a head start. I don’t even need to try this season.’ The dismissal of his rivals from the King is bound to light a fire under the rest of the competition, and with questions of ethics now surrounding the King, the onus is on him to turn his awful season around and prove to the fans that the League of Gentlemen still matters. With three players definitely out and a further two rated as doubts, the King must surely play his Wildcard and reassure the public that Messing’s revelations – which the King fully denies, claiming Messing falsified the evidence – are not rooted in reality.
The Cup Chronicles
With only one team advancing from each group, getting a good start in the Gentlemen’s Classic is crucial, and nobody has had a better start to Stage Two than Jockin’ Jeeves. He took out his big rival, Deadly Daz, last week to go top, and cemented his position this week with a 55-40 victory over Slick Rick to go two points clear. With zero points from two games, it is a long road back for Slick Rick, but he will take solace in knowing that, in Stage One, Jockin’ Jeeves’ group was the only one which saw the group winner finish with eight points. If that is repeated, he still has hope of making the Grand Final, albeit a very slim hope. Deadly Daz bounced back from his Matchday Seven defeat to overcome Flash Funk by 51 points to 40. With Jockin’ Jeeves up next for the Funkmaster, he has a chance to blow the group wide open, knowing victory will take him above Jeeves on head-to-head record. Should Jeeves prevail, then victory is a must for Deadly Daz. Should Jeeves and Daz win their next three matches, then Deadly Daz would need to beat Jeeves by a margin of 25 points in the final game to advance.
In Group B, Sirloin Sean’s hopes have all but evaporated. His 16-point hit left Hitman Hodgson’s victory a formality, a result which would’ve remained the same even without the hit. His 23-47 defeat leaves him four points behind League of Gentlemen leader Ginger Ben, and the man who won his first five games in the competition is now on a three-match losing streak which shows no signs of ending. The Hitman’s victory keeps him a point behind Ginger Ben, who edged a tight contest with the Ox by virtue of Dallas rising off his bench to score eight points. Next week’s crunch clash between the Hitman and Ginger Ben will set the tone for the rest of the group, with the rest of the group praying the Hitman can assassinate the Ginger One.
Gentlemen’s Classic, Matchday Eight scores:
Deadly Daz 51 – 40 Flash Funk
Jockin’ Jeeves 55 – 40 Slick Rick
Ginger Ben 50 – 45 the Ox
Sirloin Sean 23 – 47 Hitman Hodgson.
Gentlemen’s Classic, Stage Two tables:
In the Eliminator, King Ding survives by the skin of his teeth for the third time. Despite scoring the lowest score of those remaining, Sirloin Sean’s 16-point penalty meant that the King scrapes through yet again. With fortune like this, few would bet against the King fluking his way to winning the Eliminator, but it is a case of what might have been for the Appleby Assassin, who shot himself in the foot with his transfer decisions and now finds himself the latest victim of the Eliminator’s relentless challenge.
Currently Eliminated: Metal Marc, Mack Daddy McMahon, Red Hot Rob, Maverick Mikey, Private Parvesh, Deadly Daz, Sirloin Sean.
The League of Gentlemen:
Another week at the bottom for Maverick Mikey, who falls further away as a result of his twelve-point hit doubling his gameweek deficit to Metal Marc. Now ranked 6.1m and the only manager still to hit 400 points, something needs to change for the Maverick if this season isn’t going to be another long struggle to avoid last place. His 395 points is 35 off Metal Marc’s 430, with Private Parvesh four points further adrift on 434. A huge gap then develops, with Wildman Whitfield 55 points away on 489 while All-Star Vogt’s FPL Nightmare continues with him in twentieth on 490 points, his sixteen-point hit resulting in his team scoring two points less than they would’ve done with no transfers, though with a squad that looks better equipped for the weeks ahead, those two points may well prove a price worth paying. That hit means Mack Daddy McMahon remains nine points clear in nineteenth, while Red Hot Rob outscored Big-Time Birkett by ten points to overtake him into seventeenth, seven points ahead. In sixteenth lies the back-to-back champ King Ding, whose 37 points means he has scored just 285 points in six gameweeks. It’s a long road back for the King now, and it beggars belief that neither he, Red Hot Rob or Big-Time Birkett have used their Wildcards. When your team is this poor for this long, take the opportunity to change it up!
Moving ahead of the King into fifteenth is Lord Geord, who seems well on the comeback trail. If he could start his seasons in August or September rather than waiting until November, he would be a real threat, but now the challenge is to emulate the King’s performance from last season. His 68 points was a divisional high, and it could have been so much more had more than five players secured returns. Now on 530 points, he’s just eight points behind the Masterchef, with Hitman Hodgson and Who Horner both a further five points clear after average gameweeks. In eleventh is Deadly Daz, who overcame his Eliminator ejection last week to move back up the table, three points behind Jockin’ Jeeves, who is starting to gain that fabled Juggernaut momentum and is back in the top ten, his 63 points moving him to 547 points. Rounding out the Irrelevants is Wooden Spoon Helling, who has shown remarkable staying power despite not making a single transfer since Gameweek Two. His seventeen-point gap over the rest of the Irrelevants will fall before long, though he may yet hold out for another week or two. Ultimately, though, the only way is down for Wooden Spoon.
The Chasing Pack
Dropping a place to eighth is The Ox, who saw only two players secure any type of return. Luckily for him, he had named de Bruyne as captain, and the Manchester City man produced the highest gameweek total for the Oxsmorons. With his three Villa players ruled out of Gameweek Eleven, Branthwaite out-of-favour and Kane picking up a knock, the last thing The Ox needed was to see Kilman relegated to a substitute for Wolves, leaving him with the very real prospect of only fielding nine players next week. While his two free transfers mean an injured Barkley should be sold, the real dilemma is whether to sell one of his other Villa players, points-machine Kane or try to upgrade Branthwaite with meagre funds. One option is bringing in Soucek for Barkley, which would enable Branthwaite to be upgraded to a defender that costs £5.2m or less, possibly James or Lamptey. That strategy, while not sexy, would considerably strengthen the Oxsmorons for the challenging weeks ahead. Currently on 573 points, he needs to make up four points to catch the freefalling Sirloin Sean, whose season has fallen apart these last two weeks. Having fielded only nine players in Gameweek Nine, the Appleby Assassin took a sixteen-point hit to ensure a full squad, only to leave his third-highest scoring player on his bench. With only two starters securing returns and having taking such a hit to fix his squad, he now finds himself without a goalkeeper next week, with Allison injured and Martinez not playing, while Grealish, Mings and possibly Kane being out means one more knock could leave him in the same position as Gameweek Nine. It’s going to be a real challenge for the former table-topper to overcome, with dropping into the Irrelevants next week not out of the question.
Moving into sixth place is last season’s big-hitter Big Steve, his 56-point week meaning he overtakes his fellow Appleby Assassin’s Guild member by one point. Only four players returned for the Butcher, but the 47 points they generated proved enough in what was, overall, a low-scoring gameweek. The hit taken to bring in de Bruyne and Jota for Foden and Mane proved genius, with the new signings outscoring the old by twenty points following the decision to captain de Bruyne. Less successful was the choice to start McCarthy over Meslier, with the Leeds goalkeeper outscoring his Southampton counterpart to the tune of nine points. Despite this, it was a very good week for the Butcher, who is now 67 points off the top of the league and is moving in the right direction. With the King so far off the pace, the Butcher is the man the top five will fear, none more so than Flash Funk, who ends the gameweek in fifth on 587 points, just nine ahead of the Butcher. It is a bit of a fortuitous rise for the Funkmaster, based more on the failings of others than his own performance. With only Chilwell, Grealish and Salah producing returns, Flash secured just 40 points this week, and exits the gameweek with two players without a game, two out-of-favour for their clubs, two further injury doubts and Brewster, the £4.5m enabler, now required to play a starting role. That can surely only mean one thing: that this week, the highest-ranked player not to play his Wildcard will be forced to do so. He may have two free transfers in the bank, and he may chance that he can go without doing so, perhaps with a small hit. The question is, when you find yourself thirty points off the Title Contenders and your squad needs surgery, why would you not use your Wildcard – especially when Manchester City seem back in form, have a great run of games and Fulham up next?
The Title Contenders
The man thirty points ahead of Flash Funk is Slick Rick, who seems to be repeating last season’s pattern of a promising start before fading out of contention. Outscored by the rest of the top four in each of the three gameweeks since he reached the top of the league, The Slickster has now fallen to fourth, 28 points off first place and now 23 points behind the third-place Dragon. While his total of 617 points is very good, and he is deserving of his place inside the top-200k overall, it is a pattern of decline for Slick Rick that needs addressing as soon as possible. While four players returned, none of those four were his captain, and those returns totalled just 29 points. What really proved the Trickstars undoing this gameweek was getting the team selection completely wrong, with Koch, Zouma and Ward-Prowse’s 22 combined points wasting away on the bench. What could turn things around for the Slickster is knowing he should have eleven players even if injury doubts become realised; that enables him to use his free transfer to strengthen the team, as opposed to plugging the gaps. A big gameweek is needed in Gameweek Eleven, especially with the prospect of a Flash Funk Wildcard squad hot on his heels.
Dropping into third place is Dan the Dragon, who used his two free transfers to bring in Jota and Soucek for non-playing squad members and was rewarded with Jota firing in nine points. While Salah’s goal being ruled out denied him the top spot, his assist, combined with returns from Grealish, Wilson and Zouma, gave him a gameweek total of 59 points and, despite dropping a place in the table, closed the gap to top spot by nine points. It’s hard to predict where the Dragon will move in the transfer market this week. While he has Grealish and Wilson out, with Kane and Robertson further doubts, he does have cover for the absent Martinez and he has £1.6m in the bank. Does he replace one of the four mentioned outfielders? And if so, who? Wilson and Grealish are two of the highest-scoring players in the game, and both now have a double-gameweek – or in Grealish’s case, two double-gameweeks – to come. Yet, Kane has been irresistible, and you have to feel he will overcome his knock to feature in the North London derby. That leaves Robertson looking the most vulnerable, especially with Chilwell performing so well this season. However, the delayed deadline for Gameweek Eleven gives the Dragon options, and he would be advised to leave it as late as possible to see what happens with Kane and Robertson. Should both be declared fit, upgrading Balbuena, or even rolling his transfer, becomes very appealing. Whatever decision is made, the Dragon is moving from a position of strength, and has a real chance to end Gameweek Eleven top of the pile.
Stealing ahead of him by a point into second is Iceman Newton, whose Manager of the Month performance for November has got his title challenge right back on track. Indeed, without the missed penalty of Watkins – or his goal being ruled offside – the Iceman could find himself clear at the top, rather than one point behind. 27 points from his back four provided the foundations for Grealish and captain Bruno to smash home another 30 points, taking him to 644 for the season and moving him into the top-50k overall. Yet, the Iceman emerges from the gameweek not with a sense of celebration, but one of trepidation. He has three outfielders definitely ruled out, another out-of-favour, two more as injury doubts and he has just one free transfer to fix the situation. Logic suggests this is the week to sell long-term injury victim Digne, knowing that, should the injury doubts take the field, he will be able to play a full team. Furthermore, having £6.2m invested in a defender that will not play for some time is foolhardy; a switch to one of the Manchester City full-backs could reap huge rewards. That, in itself, is a gamble though; while the funds are there to secure ever-present Walker, nobody would put it past Guardiola to bench him this week, now that Mendy is back on the scene. A safer option might be James, but that would leave him with three of his backline being Chelsea players. Given they play his beloved Leeds, it would make sense to look elsewhere, and avoid the team he supports potentially destroying his gameweek. It’s a tough dilemma for the Iceman, but if he wants to finish the season as champion, it’s one he has to emerge from stronger.
The Man Who Would Be King
Clinging to top spot by the skin of his teeth is Ginger Ben, who was outscored by his two closest rivals and now has a cushion of just a single point. While five players secured returns, none were for more than nine points, and two of them were solitary assists. The Ginger One will point out that it doesn’t matter how many returns you get, it’s about points on the board and nobody has more than him. In that, he is correct, but there’s still three-quarters of the season to go and he is completely inexperienced when it comes to competing at the top end of the table. The advantage he has this week is that, with no players absent this weekend, he can afford to take a chance on the fitness of Robertson and Kane – especially as, should the rest of his team take the field, his substitute options have favourable fixtures this weekend. He will, in particular, be desperate for Foden and Cancelo to start against Fulham, and if he wanted to safeguard his position, there could be some merit in switching Robertson to Walker, making Lamptey his first defensive substitute and Dallas his second. With both Walker and Cancelo in his squad, he would be assured of at least one City flying full-back starting against the woeful Fulham; should both take the field, that gamble could see him gain a massive advantage over his rivals, before switching back to Robertson the following gameweek to target Fulham for a second gameweek running. Whether Ginger Ben has the aggression to employ such a strategy remains to be seen; don’t be surprised if he takes a hit somewhere to upgrade Foden to de Bruyne instead. Whatever happens, he will begin Gameweek Eleven with the upper hand over the Iceman; it’s the Dragon, however, that is the real threat to his position at the top.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Ten, a low-scoring gameweek which saw Flash Funk rise despite his failures, which saw the Butcher move into a prime position to strike, which saw the Iceman become the Manager of the Month and which saw Banksie's Magicmen’s hopes disappear in a puff of smoke. Ahead of Gameweek Eleven, and all the injury and selection dilemmas that come with it, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.
Gentlemen’s Classic, Gameweek Eleven fixtures:
Deadly Daz vs Slick Rick
Jockin’ Jeeves vs Flash Funk
Sirloin Sean vs The Ox
Ginger Ben vs Hitman Hodgson
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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.