The Gentlemen reconvened after the international break, only to play out a stalemate which had minimal variance in the scores and little movement in the table – a situation which brings the Dragon one step closer to the title.
The international break gave the Gentlemen a much-needed chance to recharge their batteries ahead of the run-in, enabling them to plan and strategize the best course of action to maximise success. For many, that involved entering the new gameweek with what they had, with minimal transfers made across the division and neither the Butcher or the Dragon playing their Wildcards. What ensued was a week where little changes occurred at the key points in the table, with the top four all scoring within three points of each other and only three teams rising in position through the whole division.
Instead of hinting at an undramatic ending to the season, however, this gameweek laid the foundations for maximum drama next time out. With only eight weeks to go, those chasing the Dragon may be forced into hits, as they look to find the differentials required to make up the ground with time running out. For the Butcher, the time to Wildcard is surely now; 61 points off the title with the window to strike growing ever smaller, he has to decide if he wants to amble along hoping for the best, or if he wants to take his destiny into his own hands. With the fixture list clearing up for certain teams and getting more difficult for others, he needs to take advantage of the clean slate the Wildcard provides in order to make some inroads on the Dragon's lead. The Dragon himself has a Wildcard, and could well use his own in an attempt to fly further out of reach, though what seems to be happening is a stalemate, with neither man wishing to blink first in case it passes the upper-hand to his rival. Caught in the middle is Ginger Ben, who finds himself wishing for both men to play them poorly and mess their chances up, giving him the opportunity to claw his way back into contention. Behind them, Grinchy Vogt, Flash Funk and Jockin' Jeeves will all harbour hopes of a miracle comeback, but their need to gain between twelve and sixteen points a week leaves their chances of glory receding into the distance.
Further down the table, the race for top twelve and automatic qualification for next season's Gentlemen's Classic is as tight as ever, with just thirty points between King Ding in tenth and Deadly Daz, who outscored the King by fifteen points this week, in fourteenth place. Even the Masterchef, forty points off twelfth in fifteenth, retains hope of avoiding the lottery of the early-gameweek playoffs next season, and with each manager in the race underperforming this season and making various mistakes, this battle is guaranteed to go right to the wire, and could find itself settled by one captaincy choice. That almost proved to be the case this gameweek, with the Ox, Slick Rick and Deadly Daz's captains all outscoring those of King Ding and Lord Geord by sixteen points, bringing that sub-section of the league closer than ever and increasing the pressure on every manager involved.
So, while it was a quiet gameweek on the surface, bubbling under is the tension that is on the verge of boiling over. As the gameweeks tick away and the chances of success start to fade, the Gentlemen will be left with no option but to roll the dice, to take chances, and to risk it all in the hopes of glory. Nobody remembers the man who came in second; who will have the courage to be remembered as the man who dethroned the King?
The Cup Chronicles
In the Gentlemen's Trophy, the second leg of Round Two was impacted by the stalemate in the League of Gentlemen, with no manager who ended the first peg behind able to overcome the deficit to claim victory. Indeed, most of the ties ended quite comfortably, with only Deadly Daz, the Masterchef and Hitman Hodgson getting within fifteen points of the men who vanquished them. While Deadly Daz was able to claim a second-leg victory over King Ding, he was not able to exact revenge for last season's semi-final defeat. The only vengeance was served at the hand of Flash Funk, who managed to defeat the manager who beat him in the Gentlemen's Classic final, Hitman Hodgson. That result means the search for a brother vs brother knockout match will enter its third season next year, with both of the Lawes Brothers also eliminated. The luck of the draw was also highlighted ahead of the Quarter Finals, with Maverick Mikey making it through Round Two despite posting the third-lowest score of the sixteen teams in the competition, marking him out as the man every manager wants to draw in the next round.
Gentlemen's Trophy, Round Two final scores:
Gentlemen's Trophy, Quarter Final Draw:
The League of Gentlemen:
The game looks up for Private Parvesh, who remains rock-bottom on 1,362 points with a 141-point gap to Wildman Whitfield in 23rd. Wooden Spoon Helling's 56 points move him fifteen points further away from the Wildman, and narrows the gap to the falling Big-Time Birkett to just twelve points. Moving above him are Metal Marc, on 1,532 points, and Maverick Mikey, four points further ahead in nineteenth. There are no further changes in position until thirteenth place, with Mack Daddy McMahon in eighteenth, Who Horner in seventeenth, Iceman Newton in sixteenth, the Masterchef in fifteenth and Deadly Daz, who closed the gap on the four teams ahead of him, remaining in fourteenth on 1,704 points. Slick Rick falls a place to thirteenth, seventeen points ahead of the Dazzler but six points off The Ox, who moves into the crucial twelfth-place slot, narrowing the gap to eleventh-place Lord Geord to just four points. Three points further away is King Ding, in tenth place on 1,734 points, with Hitman Hodgson establishing a nineteen-point cushion in ninth place.
The Chasing Pack
Pulling away from the Irrelevants is Sirloin Sean, who extended his lead over the Hitman to 21 points following a 72-point gameweek, the highest of the division. The hauls of Alexander-Arnold and captain Kane were supplemented by returns from Ederson, Raphinha, Salah and Watkins, while Sirloin also kept his powder dry in the transfer market, giving himself two free transfers to make next time out. With no urgent worries of being caught, Sirloin can focus his attentions fully on those above him, with Red Hot Rob the first target. Now just ten points ahead in the battle of the Appleby Assassins, Red Hot Rob will regret the disastrous use of his Bench Boost, with only eight additional points collected and nine of his fifteen players combining to score just ten points. Only the 26 points from captain Kane kept his gameweek from being an FPL Nightmare, though Salah, Raphinha, Watkins and Traore did secure returns. Still, when you use a chip like the Bench Boost, you expect a higher gameweek score than 62 points, and Red Hot Rob will be regretting not saving it until after he'd used his second Wildcard, which would've enabled him to maximise the points potential of his squad.
He would certainly have hoped to close the gap to sixth-place Jockin' Jeeves by more than four points, and with Jeeves' still 29 points ahead, his focus will be exclusively on those ahead of him. The decision to leave FPL's form player, Lingard, on the bench was predictably punished, with the West Ham man outscoring the combined total of the four midfielders who started ahead of him. The Rap Rob Roy was another who was saved by his captaincy of Kane, with only Dias, Raphinha and Watkins providing extra returns. Jeeves is not one to throw in the towel on his title chances, but with 129 points to make up in eight weeks, it appears his dream of winning his third League of Gentlemen title is over. Eighteen points ahead of him on 1,833 points is Flash Funk, whose own title aspirations are also likely at an end. Dias, Bruno and Watkins were the only players to support captain Kane's haul with returns, with the omissions of Stones and Gundogan from Manchester City's team leading to him gaining just three points from the bench. Flash's objective now is to try and finish in the medal places, but with third spot still fifty points away, it will be a tough challenge.
The Title Contenders
Before Flash gets to third, he still needs to catch ol' Grinchy Vogt, who pulled seven points further away to establish a fifteen-point lead. It could have been even more, had he not chosen to captain Raphinha over Kane, but the hauls of those two and Lingard lay the foundations for the highest score in the top four, with Coufal, Bruno and Watkins securing returns for a final gameweek score of 63 points. With two free transfers for the coming gameweek, Grinchy Vogt has an advantage over those ahead of him, but he needs to get his moves spot-on if he is to have any hope of moving up the table. With The Butcher 35 points ahead and with a Wildcard in hand, this could be as high as Grinchy Vogt climbs; if that is the case, it still marks a remarkable turnaround from being nineteenth at Christmas, and would cement his improvement as an FPL manager ahead of a renewed push for glory next season.
The Butcher remains in third place, having lost ground by two points on each of the two managers ahead of him. That in itself won't be too concerning, but the season moving another gameweek closer to conclusion will be. With 61 points still to make up on the Dragon and just eight gameweeks left to do it in, his quest for redemption after last season's heartbreak could still end in triumph, but he needs to narrow the gap quickly. Indeed, it could've been a whole lot worse, had Pep rotation not gone in his favour this week; the non-appearance of Gundogan meant Big Steve saw twelve-point Trent come off the bench and keep him in contention. Further hauls from Jota and captain Bruno were supplemented by returns from Salah and Watkins, but the absence of Kane from his squad - especially with a double gameweek coming up - is an aberration that needs to be rectified immediately. Given the layout of his squad, it only seems possible to bring him in through use of the Wildcard, a move The Butcher needs to deploy to keep his dreams alive. Winning the March Manager of the Month trophy shows he is making up ground, but he needs to do so at a faster rate than he is currently doing to have any chance of ascending to the throne.
How and when The Butcher uses that Wildcard is crucial to Ginger Ben's hopes of remaining in the top two. Indeed, having navigated the blank and double gameweeks with no Wildcard or Free Hit, the Butcher's Wildcard is the greatest threat to the Eliminator's hopes of a silver medal. The huge haul of captain Kane keeps him ahead this week, while underlining the folly of the Butcher going without the Spurs sharpshooter, while the returns of Dias, Bruno, Watkins and Raphinha keep him in touch with the Dragon at the top. Having matched the Dragon's score in two of the last three gameweeks and being just two points off him in the third, the problem for Ginger Ben is shifting from the protective mindset he's had to use over the last ten gameweeks; with fifty points to make up, he needs to find a differential or two to turn these draws into gains. He does retain the Bench Boost chip, which - if used at the correct time - could be worth twenty or more points, but finding that right time is the difficult bit. He also has to be aware of having three Manchester City players and Kane ahead of their blank gameweek in three weeks; without altering the make-up of his squad, he could find himself without a full team to play. It's been a remarkable season for the Ginger Goliath; if he can find that extra burst of points over the next eight weeks, it could end with the ultimate triumph.
The Man Who Would Be King
It's another week closer to the title for the Dragon, who maintains his fifty-point lead at the top and now has just eight gameweeks to navigate before he wears the crown. All the advantages are in his hands; he has a Wildcard and a Triple Captain to play, he has a commanding gap over his rivals and there are no more double gameweeks scheduled bar one for Spurs and Southampton in a fortnight. With the World number one position out if reach, the Dragon has no need to take risks going forward; he can play it safe, let his challengers take the gambles and enjoy the rewards when they go wrong. His retention of his Wildcard gives him the most power, with the option of waiting until the week after the Butcher uses his before activating his own, and then using it to negate the Butcher's threat. With the Triple Captain chip likely to be used on Kane in Gameweek Thirty-Two, it forces his challengers to either accept losing ground by captaining Kane, or risking an alternative captaincy that could cost them even dearer. Captain Kane and Lingard were the heroes this week, with their hauls supported by returns from Salah and Bruno, moving the Dragon onto 1,944 points and inside the top-50k overall. Right now, it is the Dragon's title to lose. A word of warning, though: At this stage last season, the Butcher had a 34-point lead, only to finish second by 27 points. Should that 61-point swing be repeated, the Dragon would be defeated by Ginger Ben or, somewhat poetically, the Butcher could render the final tally a draw, leaving the title to be determined on transfers made. The nous demonstrated by the Dragon thus far suggests this is a fate he will avoid, but in the League of Gentlemen, with the FPL Gods up to mischief and with the sense of destiny behind the Butcher's narrative, you just can't rule anything out.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Thirty in the League of Gentlemen, which saw the final eight competitors of the Gentlemen's Trophy determined, which saw the Butcher become the Manager of the Month for March, and which saw the Dragon draw ever closer to the title. 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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