The Gentlemen were goosed by Guardiola, who left all his big-name attackers on the bench, causing chaos through the division and leaving one man to take full advantage. Meanwhile, Round One of the Gentlemen's Trophy reached its conclusion.
People talk about Pep Guardiola as one of the best of all time, ranking him in the elite echelon of managers for his style of play, his many successes and the dominance his teams show when securing those titles. They say he's revolutionised football, and in a way, he has, even though he has had every advantage in order to do so. Pep's influence is undeniable, and he has raised the standards of the English game to previously-unseen heights.
God, I can't wait for him to leave Manchester City. The man is the most destructive manager to FPL teams in history. How can you build a team around someone who builds a defence that concedes just twice in eleven games - one of them an own goal - then rips it up just because he can? How can you trust a man who, seeing a midfielder produce eleven goals and two assists in twelve games, decides to drop him deeper into midfield, just for the banter? What sort of idiot would take a minus-eight in the transfer market to switch from one Manchester City asset to another, knowing that Pep might tear his teamsheet up on a whim to make it more exciting for himself?
That would be me. It was always going to be me. From the moment I removed Cancelo to bring in Mahrez as captain in an attempt to rescue the Lords in the Gentlemen's Trophy, it was inevitable what would happen. Mahrez benched, no minutes. Cancelo starts, twelve points. When you dance with the devil in the pale moonlight, the Spanish Satan always steals your soul. I pivoted from Stones to Cancelo in Gameweek Twenty-Three. Since then, Stones - without a goal in four years before Gameweek Nineteen - has two goals in six games, while Cancelo had no attacking returns. Knowing the full-back only has one assist all season, I take the chance on removing him for a man who has four goals and four assists in six games. I knew the risks, and I did it anyway, figuring that, if Mahrez doesn't play, at least I have Gundogan to fall back on.
I look at Pep's teamsheet, an hour before kick-off. I always knew climbing aboard Piss-Taker Pep's Merry-Go-Round of Misery was a risky move, but nobody could have foreseen what he would do. The entire team torn up. Five at the back to play Fulham. Mahrez, Sterling, Gundogan, De Bruyne and Foden, all dropped. The gameweek was in shambles, not just for me, but for most of the division, with the Catalan crushing the attacking options for most teams.
Still, it wasn't a complete disaster for the division as a whole. The line-up meant those with double-City defence had a chance of a decent score. For Big Steve, this was the gameweek he'd been dreaming of. Dias and Stones secured him twenty points, while Gundogan's absence saw City old-boy Iheanacho come off his bench with a seventeen-point haul that has blown the title race wide open, lighting the touchpaper on what could be the most exciting run-in for ... well ... since last year, but this run-in is very different altogether. This time, Ginger Ben is in the Dragon-hunting mix, making it a three-way charge for glory, while Grinchy Vogt still cannot be ruled out, given the incredible run he put together post-Christmas. Will lightning strike twice for the Grinch? Will Big Steve avenge last season's heartbreaking finale? Can The Eliminator become the Mackem that makes the Geordie contenders weep? Or will the Dragon soar to the greatest debut season imaginable? Whatever happens, a new name seems guaranteed to be on the famous League of Gentlemen trophy in ten gameweeks' time, a name that will reverberate through FPL history forever.
The Cup Chronicles
We entered the second leg of Round One of the Gentlemen's Trophy with a major upset on the cards, with Wooden Spoon Helling holding a massive 35-point lead over last season's League and Gentlemen's Trophy runner-up, The Butcher, Big Steve. In a low-scoring gameweek, it looked impossible for the Butcher to find his way back into the tie, but somehow, he managed to find a way. Led by Iheanacho's hat-trick, the squad he's been piecing together for weeks came together in defiant fashion, with Stones also scoring, and every outfield player bar Son returning. He entered the final game of the gameweek just six points behind and with three to play, but one of them was Jota, just back from injury. A return from anyone would see him through, while three sixty-minute appearances would take it to a Tiebreaker. With Helling having no players in the game, he could only sit and watch as the gamble on Jota paid off, with the Portuguese firing home the game's only goal to take the Butcher into Round Two.
In the round's closest contest, Sirloin Sean launched a 25-point comeback against Maverick Mikey, though it was all in vain, as his decision to start Bamford over Watkins cost him the four points needed to send it into a Tiebreaker. Lord Geord gambled on a twelve-point hit to try and catch The Ox, but Pep's team selection put an end to any lingering hopes. There were no dramatics in the other five ties either, with every first-leg leader making it through to Round Two, meaning it was the end of the road for heavy-hitters Grinchy Vogt, Red Hot Rob and Ginger Ben.
Gentlemen's Trophy, Round One Results:
Gentlemen's Trophy, Round Two draw:
TBA prior to the Friday deadline.
The League of Gentlemen:
Now on 1,301 points, Private Parvesh continued his mission to avoid last place by deploying his Triple Captain chip on Jesus, leading to 21 of his 47 points. The gap to second-bottom Wildman Whitfield is now 137 points, and the problem Parvesh has is, while he is ending gameweeks with higher totals than second-bottom, the Gentleman who is 23rd changes every week, so the ground made up is negligible. Metal Marc's 54 points see him climb to 22nd, with Wooden Spoon Helling just a point ahead in 21st on 1,446 points. Maverick Mikey remains in 20th on 1,461, with the gap to 19th-place Big-Time Birkett having increased following Mack Daddy McMahon rising to 18th, with both managers outscoring the Maverick. Who Horner remains in 17th, with his Wildcard score of 65 points closing the gap to the teams above him. Iceman Newton drops to 16th place on 1,588 points, 34 ahead of Horner, while the Masterchef's 56 points this week see him climb nine points ahead in 15th.
The race for top twelve and Classic qualification is very tight from the Masterchef upwards, with Deadly Daz just twelve points ahead in 14th and the Ox a further eleven points away in thirteenth, leaving Slick Rick with just a two-point cushion in twelfth. His 1,622 points are just two behind King Ding in eleventh, with the falling Lord Geord sixteen away in tenth following an FPL Nightmare of just nineteen points this gameweek. Rounding off the Irrelevants is the rising Hitman Hodgson, whose low score of 35 points was enough to see him climb to ninth on 1,646 points, six points clear of those behind him.
The Chasing Pack
For the first time in several weeks, a slight cushion has emerged between the Irrelevants and the Chasing Pack, with Sirloin Sean's 53 points enough to move him back into the Chasing Pack and 22 points clear of the Hitman. Bringing in Maguire proved an inspired choice, with the Manchester United defender securing eight points, with further returns from Ederson, Dias, Alexander-Arnold, Wan-Bissaka and Adams rounding off his gameweek. There may be trouble ahead though, with only five of his squad playing this weekend and him having no Free Hit available, which leaves him very vulnerable despite the gap to those behind him. Less troubled by the absence of a Free Hit is seventh-placed Red Hot Rob, who has eight players available, although Bamford and Traore are injury doubts. Cancelo's haul saved a poor gameweek which saw only two other players grab returns, but in a low-scoring week, the damage was limited and his 1,682 points see him fourteen clear of Sirloin Sean.
Dropping to sixth this week is Jockin' Jeeves, who secured just three returns from Dias, Watkins and Calvert-Lewin and saw a fourth, from Struijk, left on the bench while Pereira and Digne again flattered to deceive with a pair of one-pointers. Punished strongly by Pep's Merry-Go-Round of Misery, he saw both Gundogan and captain de Bruyne benched, while their replacements managed just five points. It resulted in a final gameweek score of just 35 points, leaving him on 1,712 points, eleven behind Flash Funk. A brave move in the transfer market saw Salah replaced by Trossard, resulting in an extra seven points. Those gains were neutralised by the hit taken to swap Calvert-Lewin to Kane, which cost him eight points in total. Watkins was the only other attacker to return for Flash, but he had the defensive strength of Wan-Bissaka, Stones and Dias to fall back on, a trio which brought home 25 of his 47 points this week. With no Free Hit available, the Funkmaster needs Son and Bamford to recover from injury. Should they play, he has nine players and a free transfer to navigate the blank, which should be enough to avoid catastrophe.
The Title Contenders
A solid 51 points wasn't enough to prevent Grinchy Vogt falling to fourth place in the table, despite the heroics of Cancelo and Vardy, who brought in 25 points between them. Sadly for the Grinch, the captain's armband was on neither, and with Watkins' five points his only other return, he could do nothing to prevent dropping down the ladder. With eight players available for Gameweek Twenty-Nine, Vogt may navigate it with transfers, but he also retains a Free Hit which he could use to reverse his current downwards trend. With the injury doubt Son being one of his eight players, the Grinch is likely to go for the Free Hit as a means to try and make up ground on those ahead of him; if he does, expect at least two Arsenal players to come in, in an attempt to steal a march on a division heavily-stocked with West Ham players. Matching the league leader's gameweek score keeps him at 98 points off the top; this coming gameweek could be his big chance to eat into that lead, and keep his title dreams alive.
Climbing up to third is the Butcher, Big Steve, following a monster 81-point score that saw him ranked 14,426 in the world this week. The big hero for the Butcher was Iheanacho, who rose off the bench to smash home a massive seventeen points that could prove crucial come the season's end. Should he be able to invert last season's narrative and be the man to win the title with a glorious comeback, the history books will look back at that fortuitous seventeen points as the turning point in the title race. 38 further points from his four defenders and returns from Jota and Watkins rounded off the gameweek nicely, though there will be disappointment that eleven-point Meslier and six-point Dallas were left on the bench, and that no-return Bruno was given the captain's armband ahead of the seven team-mates who outscored him. Now up to 1,757 points, he has cut the gap to top to seventy points, and still has a Wildcard, a Free Hit and his Triple Captain to play. Given his experience and the heartbreak from last season that drives him forward, the Butcher is operating with a sense of destiny and, should he complete a remarkable comeback, no-one would begrudge him his glory.
Nobody that is, except maybe the two men ahead of him, the first of whom, Ginger Ben, is clinging to his position with everything he has. Given the early deployment of his chips, Gameweeks Twenty-Four to Twenty-Nine were always a case of The Eliminator doing enough to stay in contention; with one gameweek of that run to go, he finds himself just 48 points off top and with eight players who have a game next week. Yet, despite all that hard work and planning, the FPL Gods have been particularly cruel to the Ginger One, with three of those eight players being current injury doubts. Whether they make it to the field could be the difference between closing in on top spot and being overtaken by the Butcher, who outscored the Eliminator by thirty points this week to close the gap to twenty-two. Another whose gameweek score was built on defence, Ginger Ben secured thirty of his 51 points from his three rear-guard stars, including twelve from vice-captain Dias, promoted to captain in the absence of de Bruyne. It wasn't a big enough score to close the gap to the Dragon, but it's kept him in contention, and that's all the Eliminator was hoping for this week. One more week to survive, then the Ginger One can start thinking about clawing his way back to the top.
The Man Who Would Be King
Another week at the top for the Dragon, who ensured his lead was not cut by matching the score of his nearest rival. The haul of Cancelo was backed-up by returns from Dallas, Shaw and Calvert-Lewin, though he was left cursing his decision to bench Dunk after the Brighton man secured ten points that could've cemented his place at the top. Nevertheless, it's one more gameweek closer to glory for the Dragon, who has taken the League of Gentlemen by storm in his debut season. With eight players active this coming weekend and two free transfers, his planning has been impeccable, and though the spectre of Big Steve looms large, the Dragon knows he has a Wildcard of his own to fall back on and a seventy-point lead over the man in third. How the Wildcards play out will determine this title race; the Dragon is the favourite, but Big Steve has destiny at the wheel, while Ginger Ben can only hope they both get their squad reshaping horribly wrong. It really is a tantalising prospect, one that promises a title race that will be remembered for years to come.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Twenty-Eight, which saw the Butcher carve up the competition, which saw the sixteen entrants entering Round Two of the Gentlemen's Trophy decided, and which saw the Dragon move ever closer to the most incredible debut season in League of Gentlemen history. Ahead of Blank Gameweek Twenty-Nine, 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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