After a tumultuous gameweek, the use of a Wildcard has left it a straight duel for the League of Gentlemen title. Meanwhile, the Gentlemen’s Trophy Quarter-Finals are in the balance after the first leg produced three close games, though one manager looks safely through.
In what could prove the pivotal gameweek in the title race, the top three saw their fortunes fluctuate wildly, with one Gentlemen surely ruled out of the running. Ginger Ben, the man they call The Eliminator, appears to have shot himself in the foot with a score of just thirty points following a four-point hit. Taking the penalty to bring in Iheanacho proved a shrewd move, resulting in a nine-point gain, but the Eliminator’s final score has left him 93 points off top spot with just seven gameweeks to go, with only a Bench Boost to play and a squad not good enough to receive any real benefit from it. It has been a monumental effort from Ginger Ben, in only his second season as an FPL manager and having wasted most of his chips early on, but with this gameweek’s woeful result, it appears his race has been run. He will still harbour hopes of a silver medal, though Grinchy Vogt made up thirty-four points this week. With only eight points between the two, the Eliminator could yet find himself pipped even for the bronze medal, which would be a cruel end to such a fantastic season.
The situation leaves us with a straight shoot-out to determine who will be the League of Gentlemen 2021 champion. Fighting from behind is the Butcher, Big Steve, who currently finds himself 71 points adrift of the top spot. It’s a troublesome predicament, one that is perhaps already beyond rescue, but he has two aces in his hand. The first, the Triple Captain, will surely be played on Heung-Min Son in the coming gameweek. With the Spurs star playing twice, against two relatively-leaky defences, this move would represent his best possible chance of maximising the score from this crucial chip. With no Harry Kane in his squad, and a hit required to bring him in, the Butcher’s best chance is to ignore a talisman likely to be the most captained player of the season and hope he fails to deliver, while the Korean Killer puts his two opponents to the sword. Should such a move pay off, he could cut the gap to the top in half with just one player. Indeed, were Son to score three goals, concede zero and receive maximum bonus points in both matches, he would score 71 points himself, leaving the deficit decimated and Big Steve able to deploy his Wildcard in Gameweek Thirty-Three from a position of strength. It’s a big gamble, but it may well be the Butcher’s best chance of glory.
Leading the field, and currently looking impervious to being caught, is Dan the Dragon. His debut season is so close to ending with the ultimate glory, with him being remembered as the man who ended King Ding’s reign of terror in his debut League of Gentlemen season. He deployed his Wildcard this week to maximum effect, becoming the highest-scoring manager of the week and setting himself up beautifully for the final seven gameweeks, even though he got his captaincy horribly wrong and also left another eight points on the bench. The extra nineteen points he missed out on would’ve seen the title race effectively ended; without them, the Butcher retains the slenderest of hopes. By going for the Wildcard this week, rather than waiting until Gameweek Thirty-Three, it gave the Dragon two extra weeks of benefit from the chip, two weeks the Butcher may come to regret missing out on. The sensible move for the Dragon this week is to play his Triple Captain chip on Son to cut the Butcher off at the knees; such a move, however, leaves him vulnerable to Big Steve opting for the transfer hit and Triple Captaincy of Kane, and finding his way back into the title race through the Dragon’s defensiveness. The deployment of the Triple Captain chip this coming gameweek has the potential to strike the decisive blow to the Dragon’s only remaining challenger; all eyes will flock to the armbands once the Friday deadline passes.
The Butcher versus The Dragon. The mythical beast, versus the man who makes mincemeat of the wildest of animals. Seventy-one points the difference, just seven weeks to go. One of these two men will dethrone King Ding, and become only the fourth man to win the League of Gentlemen Championship. Whether it is a procession for the Dragon or the comeback to end all comebacks remains to be seen, and Gameweek Thirty-Two will give us some, if not all, of the answers.
The Cup Chronicles
The Quarter Finals of the Gentlemen’s Trophy featured four teams that were similar in ability and league position, a situation that was reflected in three of the four matches entering the second leg with ten points or less between the teams. The lowest-scoring tie so far is between Slick Rick and Who Horner, and both men will be grateful they drew each other given how poorly they scored this week. Who Horner’s only return was a clean sheet from Coady, yet that was enough to give him a nine-point advantage, with Slick Rick’s squad featuring seven players who scored one point or fewer. Maverick Mikey was another who struggled for returns, only finding two goals and one clean sheet, leaving him with a nine-point deficit ahead of the return match against King Ding, who ended up without a goalkeeper and with seventeen-point Dallas on the bench, but who did enough to secure forty points.
The tie of the round is the head-to-head clash between first and second in the league, and it’s the Dragon who holds the upper hand, Wildcarding his way to a ten-point lead. With both men expected to unleash the Triple Captain chip, this tie could come down to whether they give the armband to Kane or Son, with the Butcher desperate to overturn the deficit not just to advance in the cup, but to keep his title dreams alive. There is no such drama in the fourth tie, with Jockin’ Jeeves holding a commanding 31-point advantage that should see him safely through to the semi-finals. Flash Funk’s only hope of a comeback is to utilise either his Bench Boost or his Triple Captain; logic suggests his hopes lie in Kane having a stormer and with a huge amount of fortune on the Pep Roulette.
Gentlemen’s Trophy, Quarter-Final First Leg scores:
The League of Gentlemen:
Nineteen points made up by Private Parvesh on second-bottom Wildman Whitfield this week, a total which still leaves him 122 points off avoiding the wooden spoon but which, if repeated over the final seven gameweeks, would be enough to complete the most remarkable last-place evasion ever seen. If he can find an extra five points along the way, and the Wildman can secure an extra fifteen, then Wooden Spoon Helling would achieve his coveted bottom-spot against all the odds. Staying out of this mess is 21st-place Big-Time Birkett, 163 points clear of Parvesh with 1,561 points, though he will be desperate to make up the two points needed to avoid the ignominy of being beaten by Metal Marc. Four points further away is Maverick Mikey, who has improved considerably since settling down in the transfer market but who is still being held at arms’ length by Mack Daddy McMahon, who has a 32-point advantage in 18th. It’s a huge 78-point leap to Who Horner on 1,677 points, while the Masterchef, 39 points ahead, falls to sixteenth following Iceman Newton’s 62-point gameweek. Sixteen points ahead of the Iceman is Slick Rick on 1,740 points, while the race for the final automatic qualifying spot in the Gentlemen’s Classic is a close contest between the Lawes Brothers. Lord Geord – who took a twenty-point hit as he chases the weekly World Number One title - holds a fourteen-point advantage this gameweek, but huge inroads were made by Deadly Daz, who outscored his elder brother by thirteen points and now holds two free transfers for the coming gameweek. Three points ahead of the Lord is The Ox, up to eleventh on 1,773 points, with King Ding just a point away in tenth. Rounding off the Irrelevants is Hitman Hodgson, who holds a 24-point cushion over the King but finds himself 22 points off the Chasing Pack.
The Chasing Pack
A fall to eighth place for Red Hot Rob, who saw eight players score two points or less while seventeen-point Dallas remained on the bench. The one positive was that, of his starting eleven, he captained his highest-scoring player; that the fourteen points of Salah were only supported by assists from Bamford and Soucek is fundamental to his drop in the table. With a Wildcard still to play and injuries to Cresswell, Neto and Calvert-Lewin, as well as some underperforming players in recent gameweeks – defenders Cancelo, Cresswell, Mee and Konsa have a combined six points in the last two gameweeks, while his eight attackers have only secured a combined five hauls in five gameweeks – it makes sense for the Appleby Assassin to overhaul his squad ahead of a final push during the run-in. Moving sixteen points ahead is his fellow Assassin’s Guild member, Sirloin Sean, who hammered him to the tune of 29 points this week. The injury to Lascelles proved critical, as it paved the way for Dallas to rise off the bench, but hauls from Lacazette and Alexander-Arnold ensured he would’ve finished the gameweek in seventh even without Dallas’ freak brace. The only blotch on Sirloin’s record this week was captaining Kane, with four other members of his squad vastly outscoring the Spurs talisman. He remains 23 points off another climb in the table, but having scored more than double the Gentleman directly ahead of him this week, Sirloin will be confident he can rise further before the season’s end.
The man ahead of him is Flash Funk, who will be devastated that a season which promised so much looks like ending with an average result. His gameweek score of 26 points leaves him on 1,859 points, with three assists his only returns in a very average gameweek at just the wrong time. Had Stones also missed out for Manchester City rather than Laporte, seventeen-point Dallas would’ve come off the bench to rescue the gameweek; while Coufal’s assist was better than nothing, it’s still thirteen points shy of the Scottish sensation’s total. The other real frustration is knowing that he has Vardy up front, while his team-mate Iheanacho, at £4.3m cheaper, has secured 22 more points in their last four games. On such decisions seasons are defined, and for Flash, it looks like bringing his to a close, with little to play for in the league and a seemingly-inevitable Gentlemen’s Trophy exit to the man who has moved thirteen points ahead of him into fifth, Jockin’ Jeeves. The hauls of Iheanacho, Lingard and captain Salah were supplemented by returns from Digne, Son and substitute Veltman, as his twelve-point hit paid off to the tune of five points and a much stronger squad on paper. One can’t help but wonder, however, if the replacing of Martinez with Ederson will prove a blunder, when the upgrading of Fabri to Leno would’ve left him with two goalkeepers whose fixtures dovetail perfectly in the run-in. With 44 points needed to catch Grinchy Vogt in fourth, and with 52 points required to sneak a medal position, the selection of a goalkeeper with a heavily-rotated defence ahead of him and no game in Gameweek Thirty-Three may well come back to haunt him, with it forcing either a goalkeeper transfer or a defensive Free Hit rather than leaving the Rap Rob Roy in a position to maximise his potential points.
The Title Contenders
Remaining in fourth place is Grinchy Vogt, who moved eleven points further ahead of Jockin’ Jeeves while more than doubling the score of the man ahead of him, leaving just a further eight points to find to move into the medal positions. The big mistake from the Grinch was the selection of Mee against a resurgent Newcastle fighting for their lives; his one point prevented the seventeen of Dallas being in his team, a swing that would’ve seen him up in third and closing in on the silver medal. In all, his defensive selections cost him twenty-three points this week, while the captaincy of Salah over in-form Lingard cost him a further seven. Those thirty points would’ve seen him level on points in second place, albeit behind on transfers made, though the Grinch will be satisfied to still be in the hunt for second place following such a disastrous opening three months to the campaign. Still, though, the extra thirty would’ve kept him in the title hunt, as opposed to be scrapping it out for second, with even the second-highest gameweek score in the division not enough to prevent him falling to over a hundred points off the top.
Eight points ahead in third, with 1,924 points in the bag, is The Eliminator. Having flown by the seat of his pants throughout the double and blank gameweeks, The Eliminator was hoping this would be the gameweek he could go back on the offensive, taking a hit to bring in Iheanacho and Neto. Despite the haul of Iheanacho, the goal of Watkins and the injury to Neto meant that, not only did he just break even on the hit, he now also has an injured player who could be out for the rest of the season. Making matters worse is being so loaded up on Pep Roulette, with only one of his three Manchester City players featuring this week. Sadly for the Eliminator, despite using three substitutes this gameweek, the one substitute left on the bench turned out to be the man he most wanted to be brought into the team, seventeen-point Dallas. Further injuries to Pope, Cresswell and Raphinha have left Ginger Ben’s squad looking very weak, with four injuries and three high-cost players who could be as easily rested for the Champion’s League as selected to play. It could well be that, if the FPL Gods are feeling particular cruel, he only has eight players to play next time out; it’s going to take some magic in the transfer market and a whole load of luck to fend off Grinchy Vogt in Gameweek Thirty-Two. It was a magnificent effort from Ginger Ben this season; sadly, it looks like the memories of his great work will all be Eliminated come the season’s end.
The rise into second place of Big Steve has long been expected; the only surprise is Ginger Ben was able to fend him off so long. In opting not to use his Wildcard this week, however, the Butcher has surrendered the initiative in the title race. With Triple Captain the chip to play next time out, his decision to abstain on the squad overhaul has handed the Dragon two full gameweeks’ advantage of a refreshed squad focused on attacking the remaining fixtures. It’s a rare slip from the Butcher, who has emerged over the past two seasons as an FPL manager of some repute, and it could well cost him his redemption from last season’s Final Day heartbreak. It all looked so promising after the opening match of the gameweek, with new signing Patricio bringing in nine points, and his final gameweek score of 63 points would be good, under most circumstances. In a gameweek where his title rival Wildcarded for 73 points, however, good just isn’t good enough. Making things even worse is knowing that, had he benched the single point scorers Shaw, Stones and Gundogan, he would’ve been 26 points better off and the gap would be down to 45 points. His selections were the sensible ones on paper, but now the Butcher has to decide whether sensible will be enough to make up over ten points a gameweek, or whether it is time to roll the dice and take some gambles. With only twenty points closed on the Dragon over the last seven gameweeks, he simply cannot afford to be steady away over the final seven gameweeks if he wishes to end the season triumphant.
The Man Who Would Be King
This could be the gameweek where the title was sealed. With the proactive Wildcard from a position of strength deployed and not reciprocated by the Butcher, the Dragon could see two or more gameweeks’ worth of benefits as he pulls further away. With all the form players in his squad and with a huge lead giving him room to make mistakes, quite simply, it is the Dragon’s title to lose. Hauls from Iheanacho, Alexander-Arnold and Lingard were supported by returns from Leno, Saiss, Son and Salah, and even a wasted captaincy on Kane wasn’t enough to stop the Dragon moving further clear at the top. At no seven-week period in the season has the Butcher outscored the Dragon by 72 points; for him to do so during the final seven gameweeks, against all the form and with the Dragon having Wildcarded when he has, it would be a comeback to rival Lazarus himself. The biggest dangers for the Dragon are injuries and suspensions, but even then, it would take a freak occurrence or some incredible gambles on the Butcher’s behalf to stop the ascension of the debutante Dragon to the throne. Indeed, having broken the two thousand-point barrier with so many gameweeks to go, there is a real chance the Dragon could post the highest points total in the history of the division. To do that, he needs 354 points from the final seven gameweeks. Over the last seven gameweeks, he has scored 488 points, and over the seven gameweeks before that, he scored 453 points. While there were double gameweeks involved in both of those periods, in the seven games preceding those, he scored 384 points, and in the seven gameweeks before that, he scored 410 points. It’s looking like the Dragon won’t just be taking the King’s title, he’ll be taking his points record as well. A simply stunning campaign.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Thirty-One, one which saw the Gentlemen’s Trophy Quarter Finals poised on a knife-edge, which saw Ginger Ben’s title dreams finally be Eliminated, and which saw the Dragon extend his lead to a seemingly-impregnable level. Gameweek Thirty-Two offers the Butcher one last shot at staying in the title hunt; to take it, he’ll need to overcome the ten-point deficit in the Gentlemen’s Trophy and he’ll need to get his Triple Captaincy choice correct. As always, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.
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