In a gameweek where managers struggled for points, a surprise contender rose through the ranks. Meanwhile, the Gentlemen's Classic group stages got under way and the first Manager of the Month was crowned.
Just when you think you have your FPL team sorted, a gameweek comes along like Gameweek Three and turns everything on its head. Only six members of the 24-team League of Gentlemen broke a half-century of points this week, with the top two scorers finishing bottom and fourth-bottom last season. This sort of gameweek often has long-lasting repercussions, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see a spate of Wildcards and transfer hits next week as a result.
For Wooden Spoon Helling, this gameweek was about redemption. Much-maligned over the years for his constant struggles at the foot of the table, he has started this season very strongly, and his 60-point gameweek launched him up to second in the table. With this season already promising to be the most unpredictable season in FPL history, it could well prove that Wooden Spoon's set-and-forget approach provides the consistency of returns that points-chasing managers miss out on. Two injuries in his squad already proves the risk of such an approach, as does having players who fall out-of-favour. Yet, if you get the captaincy right, you can find yourself picking up on the hauls that others miss out on, and Helling's 56 points in three weeks from captain Kane shows no signs of slowing down. A fantastic start from the perennial whipping-boy and, while it is unlikely to last, Walney Utd could surprise a few people this season.
At the other end of the scale, gameweeks like Gameweek Three provide plenty of FPL Nightmare potential. For Mad Mikey and Big-Time Birkett, the gameweek could not have gone much worse. Mad Mikey is already firmly rooted to the bottom of the table, his transfer-heavy approach meaning he ends up with the best team from the gameweek before, a strategy that is doomed to failure unless eleven players repeat their previous performance and score enough to outweigh the massive transfer hits taken. This week, Mad Mikey took a 28-point hit to transfer out 54 points, including goal-and-assist Bruno and hat-trick hero Vardy. The eight players he signed produced just 29 points. With the 55-point swing, he would've been twelve points off the Chasing Pack; now, he finds himself twelve points adrift at the foot of the table, following a final gameweek score of 14 (FOURTEEN) points.
Yet, somehow, that wasn't the biggest FPL Nightmare of all. For Big-Time Birkett, hotly-tipped as a dark horse, the season could not have started worse. His only goal came from Wilson, whose eight points he left on the bench. Every defender on his books scored zero points, as did Jimenez. Two players scored a single point, with four players securing just the two. Indeed, the only return of any description for Big-Time was a clean sheet point for Ward-Prowse, leaving his final gameweek score a miserable 13 (THIRTEEN) points. The only solace for Big-Time is that the Eliminator does not begin until Gameweek Four. He has to be a favourite to Wildcard this week, though his poor performance is as much bad luck as anything else, and faith in those players could yet reap big rewards in the coming weeks.
The Wildcard was played by the Lords this week, and it resulted in a poor 44-point total. It looked even worse before Monday night, but our defensive axis of Martinez, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson conjured up 23 points to give our score an air of respectability, coming in one point higher than the worldwide average of 43. That poor score would suggest the Wildcard was the wrong move, especially as an unchanged team with captain Bruno would've given us 73 points this week. However, the Wildcard is not best used to chase points for one gameweek, but to set your squad up for the next ten weeks. Our squad now has a defence, three midfielders and two strikers that will not need changing all season, barring injury or suspension. That leaves us able to focus all our transfers on three or four positions, shifting between form players with good runs of fixtures. The hope is this stability will take our game to the next level, though it does rankle a touch that we could've ended up with the same squad by Wildcarding this week yet be 29 points better off. It's something to consider for other managers looking for mass overhauls when consistency could be the greatest differential. After all, King Ding proves year after year the value of minimal changes - you can't get more compelling evidence than his being the back-to-back champion.
If you're going to have a bad gameweek, the best time is when all your rivals have one too. The secret to success in FPL is how you respond to a bad gameweek. The strategies managers use to approach Gameweek Four could set the stage for the rest of the season; it's crucial they get the big calls right.
The Cup Chronicles
The Group Stages of the Gentlemen's Classic got under way this week, with the biggest match being the Group B clash between league champion King Ding and league leader Ginger Ben. It was the King that proved successful, producing a 55-42 victory that could prove pivotal to advancing in the competition. Two members of the Appleby Assassin's Guild went head-to-head, with underdog Sirloin Sean producing a memorable 46-29 upset victory over Big Steve. Meanwhile, in the battle of the former bandmates, Jockin' Jeeves blew the Ox away, doubling his rival's score in a 58-29 victory.
Full Matchday One Results
Big Steve 29 - 46 Sirloin Sean
All-Star Vogt 27 - 36 Flash Funk
King Ding 55 - 42 Ginger Ben
Hitman Hodgson 37 - 13 Big-Time Birkett
Deadly Daz 43 - 52 Slick Rick
Lord Geord 44 - 38 Private Parvesh
Jockin’ Jeeves 58 - 29 The Ox
The Masterchef 43 - 35 Who Horner
Adding to the weekly drama, The Eliminator begins this weekend, in Gameweek Four. The lowest-scoring team in each gameweek will be eliminated until we have a winner!
The League of Gentlemen:
Despite a late-season surge after getting his mass-transfer policy under control last season, Mad Mikey has already regressed. His 28-point hit left him little room for success and saw him drop to the bottom of the league, twelve points behind Big-Time Birkett, whose early-season struggles have surprised everyone. He's only seven points off Wildman Whitfield, who remains in 22nd and is struggling with the intensity of the division, but the gap to 126-point Private Parvesh is twenty points, so Big-Time needs a big gameweek next time out. Metal Marc was the gameweek's highest scorer, his 75 points blowing the rest of the division away with captain Vardy at the heart of it. He rises four places to 20th and is just four points off All-Star Vogt, who replaced Vardy with the zero-scoring Jimenez in a disastrous transfer. Even a non-captain Vardy would've seen Vogt in twelfth today; now, he finds himself behind Red Hot Rob, the Masterchef, Hitman Hodgson and Lord Geord, who are all a handful of points under 150. All four fancied their chances of success and need to get their seasons going this week if they're to make those hopes a reality.
The rest of the Irrelevants are separated by just one point per position, from Deadly Daz in fourteenth on 153 points to The Ox in ninth on 158. Deadly Daz followed his brother's lead in playing his Wildcard then putting in a bang-average performance; he will need a strong performance in the coming weeks to feel his Wildcard wasn't wasted. Big Steve is in thirteenth after seeing three players score zero points, and he will be worried about second-season syndrome after such a remarkable campaign last time out. Mack Daddy McMahon is holding his own in his debut year; twelfth place is a great foundation, but giving one-point Son the Triple Captain this week could come back to haunt him. Remaining eleventh is Who Horner, while Jockin' Jeeves flies up the table to tenth, having curbed his natural instinct to take a hit, rolling his transfer to give him two free ones this weekend. Rounding off the Irrelevants is the man Jeeves beat in the Gentlemen's Classic, The Ox. Two minus-scores in defence undermined his efforts this week, but he retains a great platform to push on from as he seeks to make up the 45-point gap to top spot.
The Chasing Pack
A rise into the Chasing Pack for Flash, despite taking a transfer hit and only fielding ten players. The signings of Rodriguez and de Bruyne failed to pay off this week, though the four returns he secured meant he managed to overhaul The Ox. The big issue Flash has is four non-playing outfielders leaves him very vulnerable, and he's another who will be a favourite to Wildcard this week, especially after a fifth outfielder got injured. Given the make-up of his squad is so weighted towards his starting XI and there are so many quality budget players emerging, the Wildcard would seem the right move for Flash, although he may be tempted to take a four-point hit and wait for the international break.
In seventh is Dan the Dragon, fifteen points ahead on 176 points. It looked like it was going to be an FPL Nightmare for the Dragon when, after taking a hit to sign him, Podence was ruled out with an injury. The captaincy of de Bruyne turned out to be another disaster, but returns from Alexander-Arnold, Coleman, Salah and Ings meant the crisis was averted. With no major issues in his squad, the Dragon can look to push on next week and make up the 27-point gap to the top. He'd have taken this at the start of the season, especially being 28 points clear of his brother, the Hitman.
Rising to sixth and cutting the distance at the top to 21 points is King Ding, whose team secured eight returns without any truly spectacular performances. While everyone around him was scrambling to sign new players, the King opted to make no signings, with Jez Messing reporting that he left Ringer HQ last Saturday morning and left his phone on silent all week. Messing camped outside the King's house for three nights waiting for a comment, finally grabbing on as the King put the rubbish bags out. He told Messing "I've not even looked at the team all week. If I could be bothered I'd bring in de Bruyne for Aubameyang, but I just can't be arsed." Whether that was just mind games, we can't be sure, but the King moved Soucek to his starting XI so we know he engaged with his squad. However, the King is notorious for early-season apathy; if his rivals want to stand a chance at glory, they need to establish an advantage over him as soon as possible, because come the Christmas season the King will really start rolling.
Even with the King's apparent disillusionment, the gap to fifth-place Sirloin Sean has shrunk to just three points. It was a second-successive drop in the table for Sirloin, even though his signing of Castagne for Doherty paid off with a return. It was slim pickings after that for Sirloin though, with only Ings, Robertson and Salah getting further returns. Some favourable fixtures for his team means he could halt the slide this weekend; another quiet gameweek, however, could see the slide become a problem, especially with the King so close behind.
The Title Contenders
Two points clear of Sirloin Sean is Iceman Newton, who has started this season like a man with a point to prove. His Leeds boys did the business again, with Dallas and Bamford providing fourteen points between them. Richarlison, McCarthy, Salah and Alexander-Arnold boosted his score to a half-century, though he'd have been better served starting Soucek rather than new signing Zaha. While he only scored one point this week, Zaha has an enticing run of games; if he retains his centre-forward position, the injury to Pablo Hernandez that devastated the Iceman could prove a gift from the FPL Gods. In order to keep pushing on, he must surely keep the armband away from Werner, who has been disappointing so far and is playing as a winger.
Four points ahead in third is Slick Rick, who drops a position based on transfers made despite being level with Wooden Spoon Helling on 191 points. While his Spurs boys let him down this week - Son coming off injured for one point, Doherty losing a clean sheet deep into injury time to an absolutely, hundred-percent nailed penalty and captain Kane producing only an assist - five other players produced returns, including three of his defenders. Promisingly, hitman Ings produced his third goal of the season, making him a real candidate for captaincy ahead of his home game with West Brom, who have conceded the most chances and touches in the box of any team. A lot will depend on how Slick Rick responds to Son's injury; with no playing substitutes available, the Trickstars would be best served bringing in a cheaper replacement, with a view to upgrading their subs in the coming weeks. Despite the position drop on transfers made, Slick Rick can approach Gameweek Four full of confidence; just twelve points off the top, having outscored the league leader by fourteen points this week. Repeat that this weekend and the Trickstars could well end up top come Sunday evening.
Another who will fancy his chances of ending Gameweek Four at the top of the division is Wooden Spoon Helling, who scored the gameweek's second-highest total after producing nine returns. Mount was the highest-scoring player, his goal and assist bringing in twelve points; with nobody else in the upper reaches of the league owning him, he could prove Helling's secret weapon. The strike force of Kane and Calvert-Lewin remain dangerous, and with Wood likely to come in for Harrison with a game against Newcastle, the firepower grows even stronger. There are two main worries for Helling. Henderson and Harrison are injured and Loftus-Cheek isn't playing both, leaving him down to the bare bones with no transfers likely due to his set-and-forget tactics. The other is the baffling decision to give Pickford the vice-captaincy. Captaining Kane is a logical choice, but he's an injury-prone player. When he inevitably misses games, Wooden Spoon's captain will be one of the worst goalkeepers in the Premier League. Kane's fitness is paramount to Helling's success; while falling away is inevitable for a man who doesn't manage his team, there's every chance he could end up with his highest finish ever, after potentially topping the league in Gameweek Four. What an achievement that would be for him.
The Man Who Would Be King
A third week at the top for Ginger Ben, who holds onto his position despite only four players returning and every other team in the top six outscoring him. As we entered Monday evening, there was the possibility of Wooden Spoon Helling displacing him; seventeen points from Alexander-Arnold and captain Salah ensured he would maintain his hold on first place for at least another week, while also securing him the first Manager of the Month award this season. The pressure is mounting for Ginger Ben, with Son and Branthwaite injured, Saka playing sporadically, Mitrovic playing for an abysmal Fulham, Werner underperforming and Antonio having Leicester, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool next, three of them away from home. With all that in mind, the Wildcard becomes a very viable option this week. The question is whether he has the courage to hold off a week, replace Son with his free transfer, trust his squad to deliver this week and use his Wildcard over the international break. If he has, that could give him a much bigger advantage over his nearest rivals, could see him attack October from a real position of strength, and could turn him from the month's best manager into a serious contender to King Ding's throne.
That concludes our Gameweek Three review, a gameweek which saw the much-anticipated Gentlemen's Classic get under way, which saw Wooden Spoon Helling stir the pot at the top, which saw Metal Marc get the gameweek's highest score and which saw Ginger Ben crowned Manager of the Month for September. As gaps start to form in the division, Gameweek Four looks like becoming critical to ensuring the Gentlemen stay in the title race. As always, 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 Fixtures, Gameweek Four
Big Steve vs Flash
All-Star Vogt vs Sirloin Sean
King Ding vs Big-Time Birkett
Hitman Hodgson vs Ginger Ben
Deadly Daz vs Private Parvesh
Lord Geord vs Slick Rick
Jockin’ Jeeves vs Who Horner
The Masterchef vs The Ox
'The FPL Nightmare: How to Lose the World's Greatest Mini-League in 38 Simple Steps'
Available now on Amazon.