What started as a quiet gameweek exploded, with some big scores achieved in the final few matches, including one entry to the Hundred Club. Meanwhile, Grinchy Vogt’s FPL Cup odyssey is in real trouble, with his opponent’s captain being 17-point Dallas. Can he survive?
Gameweek Twenty-Five was the final preparation before Double Gameweek Twenty-Six, the pivotal gameweek of the campaign which will go a long way to determining who ends the season as League of Gentlemen champion. It was essential for the Gentlemen to end the gameweek in a good position, given the impact next week could have on proceedings. Complicating the issue was Leeds and Southampton having a double-gameweek beforehand, creating selection dilemmas and captaincy challenges, especially for those who have already used their Wildcard and, as such, had to bear this week and next in mind when making transfer choices.
One man in particular got all those decisions correct, and it was the man who needed to get them right the most. Ginger Ben has already used both his Wildcard, Free Hit and Triple Captain, giving him a distinct disadvantage over his title rivals. Knowing that he is expected to lose ground in the next few gameweeks, he needed to give himself the best possible chance of minimising the damage, and he did that in sensational manner, becoming only the second manager to enter the Hundred Club twice this season. Key to that success, which saw him retake top spot with a decent cushion over second place, was the courage to deviate from the expected and captain Raphinha instead of the most popular choice, Bamford. That decision led to a gain of eight points over the majority of his rivals, and showcases why managers need to be brave in the weeks to come. Safe choices do not bring success this season; it is those with the courage to challenge convention that are reaping the rewards. Whether Ginger Ben can maintain this over the final thirteen gameweeks, only time will tell, but the manner of his ascendancy to, and consistency at, the top of the league is a lesson to us all.
Gameweek Twenty-Five was also a test of manager’s strength in depth, with the late injury to popular player Grealish forcing managers to rely on their substitute benches. As the Bench Boosts are played in the weeks to come, managers will face the dilemma of sacrificing bench strength to maximise quality on the field. Jockin’ Jeeves took a step towards that this season, with his selection of cheap option Struijk over expensive alternative Dallas. While Struijk may prove the perfect fifteenth man over the final weeks of the campaign, offering the cheapest route to last-ditch points on the bench in an emergency, not having Dallas cost Jeeves nine crucial points and his fifth-place berth. Nine points may not be a catastrophe, but with only thirteen gameweeks remaining, it highlights another chance to cut the gap at the top gone begging, while serving as an example to the rest of the division about the need to get the big calls right.
Gameweek Twenty-Six may well represent the last chance for those in the Chasing Pack to give themselves an opportunity to win the League of Gentlemen this season. It will not come from being cautious, the points will not be found by a defensive strategy designed to minimise the risk of failure. The time is now for managers to be brave, to be bold in the transfer market, to be creative with their choices, to take chances on the unfashionable players others avoid through fear of losing ground. Only one man can be champion; the rest will be forgotten, deemed irrelevant as the weeks and months pass from the Final Day. Who will be this week’s Lookman, eleven points last time out? Which defender will be the double-gameweek Ola Aina, King of the Gameweek with twenty points in Gameweek 24? Which forgotten superstar will emulate the Aubameyang of two weeks ago, with twenty points unclaimed by so many rivals? In Double Gameweek Nineteen, the top scoring attacker was Mathias Pereira, with 24 points, while Matt Targett scored 18, Youri Tielemans scored 15 and Kasper Schmeichel 17, with Tielemans owned by just one Gentleman and the rest owned by nobody. Finding the unsung heroes is the key to success in this game; if you have the same players as everyone else, you will get the same result, and make no ground at all. Will anyone have the courage to back in-form Fulham to beat spluttering Spurs? With their other game being Crystal Palace, they could be one avenue to glory. Who will pick Mathias Pereira, with his two winnable home games, to emulate his success from his previous double-gameweek? Will anyone chance Crystal Palace repeating their thrashing of Manchester United from earlier in the season, and to beat a team beneath them in the table? Could one of Hodgson’s Heroes be the secret weapon that gets you up the table?
Choices, choices. To be courageous or play it safe, to rely on fringe calls or go for it all. With so much riding on Gameweek Twenty-Six, this week in the League of Gentlemen was so important. Let’s find out how it turned out for the Gentlemen, starting with the semi-final of the Eliminator.
The Cup Chronicles
It was a close-run thing in the semi-final of the Eliminator. Though Ginger Ben’s masterful performance put him through without ever being in danger, the battle between Grinchy Vogt and Flash Funk for the second final spot was much closer, and was ultimately decided by a single point. It started poorly for Grinchy Vogt, with his triple-Leeds and captain Bamford gambits backfiring with a 1-o loss to Wolves yielding no returns. A chance to capitalise went begging for Flash Funk, with Minamino failing to square to Ings for an open-goal tap-in. While both had Pope in goal, Mee’s clean sheet and Salah’s blank gave the Grinch the edge after Saturday’s matches. Flash clawed back some points after the Manchester City match, with his two defenders both registering higher totals than Vogt’s single defender, and Gundogan’s clean sheet point meaning a six-point total from his captain. Flash then turned the screw, with Rashford’s twelve points giving him a commanding lead heading into the final match. Dallas’ seventeen points proved irrelevant, with both men owning him, and even Bamford’s captain’s goal wasn’t enough for Grinchy Vogt. All Flash had to do was see out the game with no more returns and he was in the final. It was all going to plan until, with just six minutes to go, Raphinha stepped-up and curled a free-kick into the bottom corner from 25 yards, putting Vogt into the lead. With Ings introduced off the bench, Flash Funk begged and pleaded for a goal, a Bamford yellow card, a second yellow for Raphinha, anything that would get him the one point required, but it was not to be. By one point, Grinchy Vogt joins Ginger Ben in the Grand Final, while Flash Funk becomes the penultimate victim of the Eliminator.
Dallas’ seventeen points may have made no impact on Grinchy Vogt’s Eliminator chances, but in the FPL Cup, his opponent had made Dallas captain. Vogt was up against Ojas Sharma, one of FPL’s elite, with an overall ranking of 4,072 in 2018/19. It was close all gameweek, despite Sharma’s eight-point hit, right up until Dallas smashed the ball home. From there, Vogt had his back against the wall and, unlike in the Eliminator, it was he who was screaming for a return of any description. Unlike for Flash Funk, the FPL Gods answered Vogt’s prayers, and salvation came in the form of Raphinha’s free kick. With a three-point lead established and only six minutes left, Sharma watched in horror as Ings – the man he’d replaced six-point Antonio with for a four-point hit – failed to have any influence on the game at all. As the final whistle blew, Grinchy Vogt’s progression to Round Ten was confirmed. To keep his incredible run going, he now needs to overcome Amr Gamal, an American competitor in his third season of FPL who is currently ranked 83,073 in the world. Had this tie taken place in any of the previous three gameweeks, Vogt would be out of the competition; he will have to be at his very best to defeat Gamal in Double Gameweek Twenty-Six.
The League of Gentlemen:
Private Parvesh remains on the foot of the table, his total of 1,093 points now 159 behind second-bottom Wooden Spoon Helling. Metal Marc drops two places, just seven points ahead of Helling, with Maverick Mikey and Mack Daddy McMahon both rising a place in the rankings. Big-Time Birkett falls to nineteenth place, overtaken by Wildman Whitfield who, on 1,306 points, has a five-point advantage. His bigger issue is the 39-point gap to Who Horner in seventeenth, while the Masterchef rose a place after a good 73-point week. He is just two points behind Iceman Newton’s 1,360-point total, with a sizeable gap then emerging to The Ox and Slick Rick in fourteenth and thirteenth position. Both men drop after Deadly Daz’s 86 points moved him up two places, though he still has a 29-point deficit over King Ding in eleventh. The King – who is winning the race for February’s Manager of the Month with one gameweek to go - is now just eleven points off the top ten, with Hitman Hodgson in his way. The falling Sirloin Sean is a further thirteen points ahead in ninth, having dropped two places after taking a twelve-point hit.
The Chasing Pack
Rising back into the Chasing Pack at the expense of his Appleby Assassin’s Guild cohort is Red Hot Rob, who nailed his transfer this week, replacing the injured Justin with the gameweek’s highest-scoring player, Dallas. Those seventeen points were critical behind his return to the Chasing Pack, and were supplemented by hauls from Bruno and captain Bamford and further returns from Cancelo, Mee, Sterling and Calvert-Lewin. Looking ahead to Double Gameweek Twenty-Six, Red Hot Rob has ten players who play twice, meaning he can put out a team of two-gamers with just a single transfer. With little money in the bank, though, that single transfer becomes much more limited, meaning top defender Cresswell could be at risk of being sold to bring in Shaw, with Soucek switching to Jorginho another option. In reality, his best plan would be to Wildcard, to ensure he has the strongest squad for such a pivotal week, although the absence of a Free Hit for Blank Gameweek 29 complicates matters. Five points ahead of him is fellow riser Lord Geord, who seems to have rebuilt momentum following four weeks of substitute sucker-punches. His decision to leave Calvert-Lewin and Dias on the bench, both of whom returned, suggested the selection issues he had been having were returning, but Grealish’s injury meant only Dias’ seven points were missed out on. Hauls from Dallas, Bruno, Raphinha and captain Bamford, with further returns from Calvert-Lewin, Pope and Cancelo ensured the Lords remained in the green arrows, though the 128-point gap to top spot suggests dreams of an unlikely title win will probably need to be shelved.
The gap to sixth place is down to fifteen points, with Jockin’ Jeeves currently holding that berth following a disappointing 74-point gameweek total. Falling just £0.1m short of being able to procure the services of Dallas proved pivotal; with Struijk the affordable alternative, it meant nine crucial points being missed out on, points the majority of his rivals secured. While those nine points are the reason he drops a place this week, Jeeves will be pleased to have one less selection dilemma going forward, with Struijk a capable fifteenth man that frees up funds for his starting eleven. Hauls from captain Bamford, Raphinha and Bruno were supplemented by returns from Pope, Dias, Stones and Struijk, though frustration will arise from Calvert-Lewin and Digne, both of whom secured returns, being stranded on the bench. With ten players doubling-up and a Triple Captain to play, Jeeves is well-positioned for Double Gameweek 26, with Coufal to Shaw the expected transfer, although you can never rule out a multi-hit week from the Rap Rob Roy. Moving ahead of him is Big Steve, whose daring captaincy of single-game Bruno over double-playing Bamford was rewarded with an extra eight points. The signing of Alexander-Arnold did not pay off, with Antonio’s seven points sacrificed to get Trent’s single point in the team a mistake that denied him the chance to move level on points with fourth place. Nevertheless, the hauls of Meslier, Dallas and captain Bruno and the returns of Dias, Stones and Bamford keep the Butcher in touching distance of the elite, and with a Wildcard to play, he could do real damage to his rivals in Double Gameweek Twenty-Six.
The Title Contenders
The man in fourth place remains Flash Funk, who will be grateful for the six-point cushion but disappointed he hasn’t pushed on this week. Two of the players he sold for an eight-point hit – Antonio and Calvert-Lewin – secured returns, meaning that both of those transfers go down as failures, even accounting for new signing Bamford securing eight points. It also leaves him with just nine players doubling-up in Gameweek Twenty-Six, meaning a hit will have to be taken if he wants a full team of doubles. Had he retained Calvert-Lewin instead of signing Ings, he’d be five points better off with an extra player having a double, so while it was an understandable gamble, it has backfired and, with it, cost him a place in the Eliminator final. The captaincy of Gundogan was another gamble taken that did not come off, with seven of his squad and the two attackers he sold all outscoring the Manchester City midfielder. Despite scoring 79 points and securing a green arrow, this week has to go down as an FPL Nightmare for Flash, based purely on what he has lost from his own choices. How he rebounds next time out is crucial, though his choices are limited due to only having £0.5m in the bank. It raises the prospect of potentially selling Salah, but he remains one of Flash’s true differentials over the league leader, so it would be a huge call. Given how his gambles have gone this week, it’s hard to say it would be the right one, especially with the Liverpool star facing Sheffield United and his old team Chelsea this week, followed by a game against Fulham. Indeed, from the squad he has to play with, Salah would be the best option of playing the Triple Captain chip on, especially with likely replacement Son woefully out-of-form with just one goal in eight games.
Forty-four points ahead in third is the man who caused his Elimination at the semi-final stages, good ol’ Grinchy Vogt. His transfer signings didn’t pay off to any real effect, with the minus-four taken rendering him two points worse off than if he’d made no transfers at all. That being said, the benefits of replacing Jesus with Kane can only really be judged in the long-term and, with de Bruyne favoured up front for Manchester City in Gameweek Twenty-Five and Aguero moving closer to fitness, Jesus’ minutes could well be limited going forward. Grinchy Vogt’s gameweek total of eighty points was secured through hauls from Dallas, Raphinha, Bruno and captain Bamford and returns from Pope, Cancelo and Mee, with Antonio’s seven points going begging on the bench. This coming week is huge for Grinchy Vogt. Having got himself into a position to challenge for the title, he needs to make it count in the coming double-gameweek. With eight fit players having doubles and no Wildcard available, much comes down to what Vogt decides to risk in the transfer market. In a week where most people will bench or sell their Leeds assets, Vogt could steal a march by playing Raphinha, Dallas or Bamford against Villa; should one or two of them haul, it would be points that only he will benefit from, giving him the edge. With Raphinha in the form of his life, with returns in each of the last six gameweeks and two hauls, it’s not as crazy a gamble as it would first appear. With thirty-three points to make up in order to rise to second, the Gentlemanly Grinch needs to take a chance somewhere; given the form he has been in these last ten gameweeks, nobody would bet against him getting it correct.
The man thirty-three points ahead, on 1,607 points, is Dan the Dragon, who was knocked off the top spot after one week following a poor 66-point final score. While Dallas, Bruno and captain Bamford secured hauls, only Mee added a return, while two players who returned – Calvert-Lewin and Cancelo – remained on the bench. There’s a feeling growing that the pressure is getting to the Dragon, with the benching of both of his Manchester City players against an Arsenal they beat with ease every time the strangest call this week. The signing of Dunk, a player without a double-up in Gameweek Twenty-Six, suggests that the Dragon has the Wildcard in mind; quite frankly, this is a necessary move in order to re-set his squad ahead of the final thirteen gameweeks. While he remains the best-placed to challenge Ginger Ben for the title, he has averaged just 65 points-per-gameweek over the last six gameweeks, a full ten points behind Ginger Ben’s 75 points-per-gameweek. Boldness is required to become the League of Gentlemen Champion; now is the time for the Dragon to show it, and to start using the chip advantage he has over Ginger Ben to take back top spot and keep himself there.
The Man Who Would Be King
The top spot hokey-cokey continues with Ginger Ben back at the apex of the division this week, with a monster 103-point total making him just the second Gentlemen to enter the Hundred Club twice this season. He got the big calls right this week, not least by being the only top ten manager to entrust Raphinha with the captaincy over Bamford, and trusting Antonio to overcome his injury and deliver. Those decisions combined for 31 points, with another 37 points coming from his four defensive players, a further eight from Sterling, who he has bravely chosen over the popular Gundogan, with Bamford, Bruno and Maddison combining for another 29 points. His transfers were an unqualified success, with Raphinha’s 24 points and Bamford’s eight replacing Soucek and Brewster, who achieved just one point between them. This Hundred Club entry, at this particular time, is massive for the Ginger Goliath; having used most of his chips, the coming gameweeks will prove a real challenge to his title credentials, and so securing a 23-point cushion entering Double Gameweek Twenty-Six could prove critical to his chances. If he can make it through the next few weeks and still be in contention, Ginger Ben could easily go on to secure the most unlikely title success in the history of the division. Fantastic.
That concludes the round-up of Gameweek Twenty-Five, one which saw Ginger Ben re-ascend to the top of the table, which saw Flash Funk fall in the Eliminator semi-finals, and which saw Grinchy Vogt continue his remarkable FPL Cup odyssey. With next week being the most important gameweek of the season, the pressure has never been greater, and the stakes have never been higher. As you make your final preparations, 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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