In a record-breaking gameweek, ten Gentlemen entered the Hundred Club. Gentlemen’s Classic qualification remains firmly in the balance, while the race for the Silver Medal intensified and the Gentlemen’s Trophy Grand Final got under way.
The late announcement that Manchester United vs Liverpool gave us the first Treble Gameweek in League of Gentlemen history, while also saving the day for those managers with no chips remaining. With many squads heavily-influenced by Klopp’s Flops, their obtaining of a second fixture limited the advantage for the Free Hitters, while also causing doubt as to the viability of Solskjaer’s subordinates, with heavy rotation guaranteed. Only one thing was assured in Gameweek Thirty-Five; this would be the gameweek with premium points potential. The gameweek wasn’t about if any Gentlemen would join the Hundred Club; the only question was just how many would achieve the benchmark figure.
The answer came on Thursday night, when Salah scored deep in stoppage time to fire an extra three Gentlemen into the elite band of managers. Those three Gentlemen joined the seven managers already confirmed in the Hundred Club, ensuring that, for the first time ever, a gameweek produced double-figures entry to the upper echelon. Out of a division of twenty-four teams, a total of ten managers broke into triple figures, with three managers finishing within six points of the entry fee and a fourth declined entry by the bouncers due to the transfer hits taken. With the previous record entry being six managers in a gameweek, and last year’s League of Gentlemen producing just nine Hundred Club entries all season, to have ten managers reach three figures in one gameweek is truly unprecedented, and may well be an achievement that is never surpassed. Had Greenwood not had a five further points denied by a goal-line clearance, the League of Gentlemen record gameweek total would also have fallen. King Ding’s all-time gameweek record of 138 points remains, a scant consolation for a disappointing season for the defending champion.
This gameweek marked the last realistic opportunity for Big Steve to launch a fightback in the title race, but instead, he was the only top-five manager to fail to reach the Hundred Club. His failure ensures the race for the Silver Medal is alive and well, with his three rivals for the accolade all closing the gap by over twenty-five points. A twenty-five point gap means The Butcher should have enough to cling on to his position, but the pressure is growing, and a good response in Gameweek Thirty-Six is essential. With the Dragon’s exceptional campaign rendering him virtually-uncatchable, the runner-up slot is where all the focus has shifted. Finishing second for the second-successive season would be an achievement that is tinged disappointment for Big Steve. Falling any lower would be devastating, and at this stage, the only way is down, and that’s what he must avoid. With four of his players blanking in Gameweek Thirty-Six, he faces a real challenge to maintain his position; should he fail to meet the challenge, the vultures circling below are ready to pounce, with the villainous Grinchy Vogt in prime position to pick at the carcass of the Butcher.
A Treble Gameweek for the first time in the division’s history, an unprecedented amount of Hundred Club entries and the final real opportunity for the Dragon to be denied gone; Gameweek Thirty-Five is one that will live long in the memory. Before we get to the detailed round-up, it’s time to look at the other big business of the week: the first stage of the Gentlemen’s Trophy Grand Final.
The Cup Chronicles
Jockin’ Jeeves entered the Grand Final as favourite over runaway league leader Dan the Dragon by virtue of the ability to deploy the Free Hit chip. With the first stage falling over a Treble Gameweek, the option to pick a tailor-made squad for the challenge was a huge advantage, though some shrewd moves in the transfer market in recent weeks and the addition of a second game for Liverpool meant the numbers game would not be a major factor. Jeeves reduced his advantage further by naming Salah, with two chances to feature this week, as captain, while the Dragon gave the armband to three-game Bruno. Inevitably, the top scorer in all of FPL used his extra game to secure an extra six points, a total that doubled-up for the Dragon, leaving casual observers wondering how Jeeves could make such an elementary mistake. When you have the advantage of a Free Hit, you do not need to take risks with your captain, as the rest of your squad is the differential. Further mistakes were made in the selection of Henderson in goal, with the other option of Forster gaining six more points, while the decision to start Watkins over Smith-Rowe proved disastrous, costing the Juggernauts a whopping twenty points. The Dragon, however, made mistakes of his own; starting Christensen over Ward cost him five points, while the choice to back Leicester’s defence over Newcastle’s attack blew up in spectacular fashion, with the Geordies scoring four times and Wilson, the Dragon’s substitute, scoring eleven points more than Fofana, named in Dandee United’s starting eleven. Ultimately, though, it proved irrelevant; had the Dragon named his optimal eleven, he still would’ve fallen short of the final total secured by Jockin’ Jeeves. Stage one of the Grand Final ended with the Juggernauts winning by twenty-one points, with the final score reading 126-105. That puts Jockin’ Jeeves one-nil up in the race to two gameweek victories; to keep his chances of debut double alive, the Dragon simply must outscore the Rap Rob Roy in Gameweek Thirty-Six. With five outfield players blanking, however, the challenge may well prove insurmountable.
The League of Gentlemen:
No changes in the bottom five, though Private Parvesh’s quest to avoid the Wooden Spoon continued apace, with the gap to Wildman Whitfield cut to sixty points. While such a margin would be insurmountable in the upper echelons of the table, he has now reduced the deficit by 58 points in the last two gameweeks; with three gameweeks to go, Parvesh still has a glimmer of hope. There remains a slim chance that Wooden Spoon Helling could regain his rightful place at the bottom by season’s end; Parvesh has made up 63 points on him in two gameweeks, with the Wildman closing the gap by 22 points this week. With 85 points separating Helling from his spiritual home, it looks like the gameweeks will run out just in the nick of time, but you just never know. Fifteenth down look to have little to play for but pride; The Masterchef is at the head of a cluster that includes Slick Rick, Who Horner, Metal Marc, Mack Daddy McMahon, Maverick Mikey and Hundred Club entrant Big-Time Birkett, who all are safe from the Wooden Spoon but just too far back to challenge for automatic Gentlemen’s Classic qualification. The competition for that crucial twelfth place reignited this week, with both Deadly Daz and the Ox thrashing Iceman Newton to move back ahead of him. The Ox holds the key position right now, but with Hundred Club-achieving Deadly Daz just four points behind and the Iceman only ten further back, this is a contest that could swing each gameweek until the Final Day. Looking to have sealed qualification are Lord Geord and King Ding, who both produced stunning totals to move 71 and 75 points away from unlucky number thirteen. Lord Geord’s hopes of escaping Irrelevants looked dead and buried, but a division-high 135 points – his third Hundred Club entry of the season, a League of Gentlemen record - from a Free Hit leaves him now just thirteen points off the Chasing Pack, while King Ding’s Bench Boost leaves him only nine away following a resounding 126-point gameweek. Red Hot Rob’s dismal 79 points saw him fade back into Irrelevants, three points ahead of the King on 2,054 points.
The Chasing Pack
Returning to the Chasing Pack is Sirloin Sean, who took a huge gamble on a 32-point hit to reshape his squad for the Treble Gameweek and, via the use of the Bench Boost, was rewarded with a final score of 102 points. It could have been so much more, however, had he not sold Lowton and Westwood after initially bringing them in. In addition to the extra eight points lost from unnecessary transfers, the Burnley duo outscored their replacements by fourteen points, costing Sirloin a total of twenty-two points that would’ve seen him finish the gameweek in seventh position. The other big blunder was captaining seven-point Vardy, with just two goals in twenty matches prior to this gameweek. The veteran was not only outscored by his much more in-form strike partner Iheanacho, but also by a grand total of nine players in Sirloin’s squad, six of whom secured double-figure hauls. The perils of the maverick captain choice were not felt by Hitman Hodgson, who pounced on Sirloin’s errors to see captain Bruno secure 38 points and four other players haul for a Bench Boosted Hundred Club entry. Again, though, the curse of the transfer hit struck, with the signing of Ward-Prowse and Walker-Peters for Coady and Pereira costing the Hitman five points, despite the Southampton duo playing an extra game each. With four outfielders absent for Gameweek Thirty-Six, the transfer market will be key for the Hitman, who needs to make up ten extra points to rise another place in the table. It’s a much better situation than Sirloin Sean, who has eight players absent and faces another week of huge hits if he wishes to field a full team, and a possible three-position fall if he gets his transfer choices wrong.
Another vulnerable to a drop in the table next time out is Flash Funk, one of only two managers outside the Irrelevants to fail to enter the Hundred Club, and who has seven players absent and another one a serious doubt for Gameweek Thirty-Six. Only Mendy, Jota and Bruno secured hauls for the Funkmaster this week, and it is only the captaincy of Bruno that averted a major crisis, with those 38 points just barely keeping his head above water. The signing of Antonio for Bamford backfired, with the Leeds line leader securing seven extra points to his replacement. Indeed, given the run-in Leeds have, Flash may well bring Bamford back for Vardy, who has been a massive flop since Flash took a chance on him over Iheanacho in Gameweek Thirty-One, a decision that has cost him 22 points in five gameweeks. His chances of catching Jockin’ Jeeves were already slim, but with his squad issues and with Jeeves opening-up a 77 point gap this week, they are now non-existent. The Rap Rob Roy Free Hit his way to a huge 126 points this week, with six players securing hauls and further returns from Robertson and Iheanacho. It is the twenty-three points lost by starting Henderson and Castagne over Forster and Smith-Rowe that Jeeves will be lingering on; not only would his two substitutes have given him the gameweek points total record for the League of Gentlemen, they would also have left him just six points off the bronze medal, six points that would have been secured had he captained three-game Bruno or Greenwood over two-game Salah. The gap to third has narrowed by two points to twenty-nine, with the Silver Medal another twenty-five away. Fifty-four points to second would feel insurmountable for most managers, but Jockin’ Jeeves is headstrong enough to believe there is still hope, and while that hope remains, he will always keep fighting.
The Title Contenders
A great gameweek for Ginger Ben, whose season had threatened to fall away completely with the end of his title chase, only to see it rescued with the help of a massive gamble. Taking a huge twenty-point hit to attack the Treble Gameweek, he saw it pay off with a thirty-one point improvement to his gameweek score, thirty-one points which secured the second-highest gameweek total of the division. Had he kept Dallas over Maguire, it would’ve seen The Eliminator break King Ding’s divisional record for a gameweek score, but the 129 points secured are vindication enough, especially when five of his six new signings secured hauls, with Alexander-Arnold and Salah adding a further two hauls. The use of the Bench Boost also proved critical, with his four substitutes securing thirty points and keeping the Ginger Goliath firmly in the race for the Bronze and Silver Medals. The absence of eight players in Gameweek Thirty-Six could prove a challenge too far, however; with only one game per team, the value of taking hits is greatly diminished, and the chances of them paying off drop dramatically. Nevertheless, it would be in Ginger Ben’s interest to ensure he has a full team out; an eight or twelve-point hit can only needs the new signings to secure nine or thirteen points to pay off, when the other option is a guaranteed zero points. The eighteen-point cushion back to Jockin’ Jeeves gives some security to this approach, though each hit will increase the eleven-point gap to the medal positions.
Occupying the first of those medals positions is Grinchy Vogt, who took huge strides forward this week by Free Hitting for 124 points, cutting the gap to Big Steve in the silver slot by more than half. Key to that was the sensible captaincy of Bruno over Big Steve’s Iheanacho, a decision which secured an extra ten points for the Grinch. The signing of twelve-point Keane was a gamble that paid off, with the Everton defender being one of five players that secured hauls, though Sigurdsson, Zaha and Shaw all disappointed. While Zaha and Sigurdsson failed to secure any returns, however, their starting over Watkins was a huge boost, with the Villa striker costing his owners dearly after his late red card for diving secured a minus-one score. There was a touch of fortuity to the Grinch’s score, too, with van Aanholt’s being dropped for Palace freeing up a space for nine-point Holding to step into. How Vogt prepares his team for Gameweek Thirty-Six is critical to his chances of success; with Vardy and Iheanacho fixtureless and Veltman struggling with injury, there are problems in his squad, though still having eleven starters gives him flexibility in his decision-making. With both those chasing him and the man he is chasing unable to field full teams without taking hits, Gameweek Thirty-Six represents a big opportunity for the Grinch to cement his medal aspirations and close the gap to second; given he was nineteenth in the table at Christmas, the Silver Medal would be a simply outstanding achievement.
One man desperate for the season to be over is Big Steve, who has nothing to gain and everything to lose. Ground down by the Dragon’s relentless push for glory, the Butcher entered this gameweek having fallen fifteen points further away over the last five weeks, and with Gameweek Thirty-Five offering one last throw of the dice. With no chips to play, it was all about the players, and the Butcher’s heart sank when the minus-one of Watkins and the one point of Coady kept seven-point Pereira and nine-point Dallas on the bench. New signing Sigurdsson failed to produce, Castagne was switched to an ineffective centre-back role and conceded five goals over two games, and the captaincy of Iheanacho proved a failure, with four of the Butcher’s men hauling while Iheanacho was stranded in single figures. The last-minute dive and subsequent red card of Watkins proved the final sting in the tail, costing him three points and Hundred Club entry, and also leaving him seven points further adrift in a fruitless and one-sided title race. His total of 98 points was equal with his score from Double Gameweek Nineteen, and it is these failures in the crucial gameweeks which have cost Big Steve this season. With Grinchy Vogt obliterating the safety net over third and the Butcher’s impending squad issues, Gameweek Thirty-Six is threatening to be another nail in the coffin of a season which once promised so much, and now is destined to end in heartbreak.
The Man Who Would Be King
While it is never over until the final whistle of the Final Day, barring Big Steve taking a huge transfer hit to reshape his squad, there is little chance of the Dragon’s 85-point lead being eradicated. Twenty-four points from the final match of the gameweek saw him soar into the Hundred Club, and left him needing only 67 points from the final three gameweeks to take not only King Ding’s crown, but his record final points total as well. With six players absent in Gameweek Thirty-Six, it will be difficult to achieve that goal this week, though the comfortable margin between him and his closest challenger means he can afford to take the hits required to maximise his squad’s points potential. The only real risk with that is to his overall ranking, which fell to 21,988 in Gameweek Thirty-Five, twenty-seven points off the top ten-thousand. He needs to get to 7,043 to take King Ding’s highest overall ranking record too, and that is the real challenge facing the Dragon for the rest of the campaign. Even if he ultimately falls short, it takes nothing away from the quality of his season; never before has anyone strolled into the League of Gentlemen and dominated their debut season in such a manner. Simply magnificent.
That concludes our round-up of Treble Gameweek Thirty-Five, which saw Jockin’ Jeeves take the advantage in the Gentlemen’s Trophy Grand Final, which saw a record-breaking ten Hundred Club entrants – including an unprecedented third Hundred Club appearance in one season from Lord Geord – and which saw the Dragon move ever closer to his date with destiny. With the medal positions and Gentlemen’s Classic qualification still up in air, Blank Gameweek Thirty-Six promises to bring much tension to the party. May all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.
'The FPL Nightmare: How to Lose the World's Greatest Mini-League in 38 Simple Steps'
Available now on Amazon.