In what proved a frustrating Double Gameweek for many reasons, the Eliminator reached its grand conclusion. Which of Ginger Ben and Grinchy Vogt would emerge victorious, and how would it affect the title race?
The biggest Double Gameweek of the season promised so much for the Gentlemen, but it turned out to be one of the biggest damp squibs of the season. Most of the big players failed to produce, Barnes got injured early in his first game, players were rotated or failed to play at all, and the key to huge points was defenders, with the official Kings of the Gameweek team comprising of a 5-3-2 formation. From that team, no player was owned by more than 10% of managers in the world, four of the five defenders were owned by less than 1% of managers, and four of those five defenders and goalkeeper came from largely-unfancied Crystal Palace and West Brom. Factor in that the top-scoring player of the gameweek was making just his third league start of the season, and that only four games out of seventeen featured more than two goals, it all combined to minimise the opportunity for the Gentlemen to get big scores, and even those managers scoring highly were left feeling like it was a missed chance to make up ground on their rivals.
Adding to the sense of frustration was the amount of chips that were used and, ultimately, wasted. Seven Triple Captain chips were deployed this gameweek, with four being used on Kane (eight points in two games), two on Bruno (six points in two games) and one on Calvert-Lewin (four points in two games). In addition to that, one Bench Boost was used, which resulted in one return from seven matches, and two Free Hits were used, which saw just a seventeen-point gain for Who Horner and a twenty-three-point gain for the Masterchef from the teams they had the week before, had no changes been made. While these improvements may seem worthwhile, they must be seen in the context of lost points from the two upcoming blank gameweeks, which they must now navigate with no Free Hit. What sums up the general failure of the biggest double-gameweek of the season was that the only Gentleman who entered the Hundred Club was Iceman Newton, who abandoned his team before Christmas three months ago, and even he wouldn’t have been happy with fourteen-point Digne left rotting on the bench. All in all, it’s fair to say Double Gameweek Twenty-Six, with the weeks of planning in the build-up and the fractured and unwanted players now saddled to most teams, has proven the biggest collective FPL Nightmare of the season.
How the managers react in Gameweek Twenty-Seven will prove fascinating. For many, it could be that Double Gameweek Twenty-Six proves the final straw, and with their perceived final hope of salvaging a poor season passing with a whimper, they find themselves being less engaged in the closing twelve gameweeks. Conversely, we could see some Gentlemen decide that the tactics they have used thus far should be abandoned, and we could see some maverick transfer moves that makes the run-in much more unpredictable and enthralling. For those managers who have lost hope, they must remember that Grinchy Vogt rose from nineteenth in the table to third in just seven gameweeks, and outscored everyone else in the division by 73 points or more in January’s five gameweeks. With more than double that amount of gameweeks to go, and with blanks and doubles aplenty ahead, any manager down to King Ding in eleventh still has an outside chance of glory, just by echoing Grinchy Vogt’s example and then doing it a second time, back-to-back. Highly unlikely, perhaps, but as the mental fatigue starts to set in from two seasons played with barely a break between, mistakes will creep in, the inexperience of those at the top could tell, and we may yet see the most dramatic conclusion to a title race yet.
Even without such unlikely heroics, there are just three points that separate the two teams at the top, with three other teams within three great captaincies of first place, and with neither of the top two having a Free Hit chip to navigate the two blank gameweeks. The fallout from a failed double-gameweek can leave many feeling like a season is over, but in reality, it’s only just beginning. If Shooter McGavin can lose a four-stroke lead on the back nine, then a top three consisting of three managers with less than five years’ experience in the League of Gentlemen and without the key chip for the blanks can be caught by an experienced veteran. If a Gentlemanly Gilmore does break from the pack, you know they will be very Happy indeed.
The Cup Chronicles
After the previous twenty-two gameweeks saw the weak and inconsistent weeded out, it all came down to this: Ginger Ben, the League of Gentlemen leader, versus Grinchy Vogt, the manager in the best form since Christmas, for the right to call themselves The Eliminator. Both Gentlemen took hits in the transfer market to maximise their team for the occasion: Ginger Ben spent eight points signing Traore, Barnes and Calvert-Lewin, while Grinchy Vogt introduced Calvert-Lewin, Barnes, Stones and Martinez at a twelve-point cost. At the halfway stage, both men found themselves affected by the low-scoring nature of the double-gameweek, with Ginger Ben having a slight 40 - 37 advantage and an extra player left to play, though Vogt had his Triple Captain active on Calvert-Lewin. By the end of Wednesday night, Ginger Ben was in shambles. Captain Bruno had failed to return at all, and of his eight players remaining, six of them had brought in just sixteen points. While Vogt’s men had only brought in thirteen points, leaving him trailing by six, he had Salah, Kane and Triple Captain Calvert-Lewin to play, while Ginger Ben had only Rudiger and Lloris – essentially, five attackers’ worth of points, four of whom against teams in the relegation zone and the other the record points-scorer in FPL, against two defensive players clinging on to a six-point advantage.
Ginger Ben's head was all over the place, telling Jez Messing on Wednesday night that it was over, that Grinchy Vogt was the favourite and there was no way he could hang on. Even if both his men kept a clean sheet, a single goal from Calvert-Lewin would be enough to wipe out his advantage, leaving Kane and Salah only needing to play a minute between them for the win. Was the Ginger One playing mind-games? Was he cranking up the pressure on Grinchy Vogt? Only he knows for sure, but if so, it was having the desired effect. First, Lloris kept a clean sheet while Kane blanked, extending his advantage to thirteen points after Lloris claimed a save point and two bonus points. Next up was the key man, Calvert-Lewin. The man Grinchy Vogt had placed all his hopes in, against the team with the worst defence in the league. Yet, to Vogt’s chagrin, Ancelotti changed Everton’s system, operating in a 4-4-2 which reduced Calvert-Lewin’s influence dramatically. He was only able to conjure up one shot on target and failed to score, still reducing the gap to seven points but failing to find the one goal that would’ve made all the difference. Still, he had one ace left up his sleeve: Mohamed Salah, the man of 303 points in a season, of 73 league goals in three years, going up against his old team. A goal would wipe out Rudiger’s clean sheet, but Salah would still need nine points, meaning he’d need either a second return, two bonus points, or a clean sheet and either a Rudiger yellow card or Chelsea to concede twice. In a situation like this, you would always back the attacker, yet Liverpool, at Anfield, put in a listless performance, with Salah looking drained. The spark was gone, the magic was missing. Still, it would only take a moment, one gamble gone right, one correct choice, even a penalty kick would do it. And then it came. The gamble was taken, the choice was made, and in a moment, it was all settled. Mohamed Salah was subbed-off with half an hour to go, Grinchy Vogt paid the penalty, and in the process, he became the final victim of the man we now know is the Eliminator, Ginger Ben.
The heartache didn’t end there for Grinchy Vogt. After a remarkable run of nine wins on the bounce, his FPL Cup odyssey came to a heart-breaking end, eliminated by Amr Gamal in Round Ten. His 54 – 71 defeat was almost inevitable having taken a twelve-point penalty, and making it worse was knowing that, had he kept Wan-Bissaka and Antonio and Triple Captained the safe option in Kane, he would have won the tie quite comfortably, while also winning the Eliminator final. In searching for an edge with a variety of hits, Grinchy Vogt ended up hoisted by his own petard, the master of his own downfall. Such a promising gameweek, such hopes of glory, blown apart by forgetting that, in FPL, consistency is the greatest differential. His cup run to Round Ten will go down in legend, but the manner of the ending will hurt for some time to come.
With the Eliminator now completed, the focus switches to the Gentlemen’s Trophy, the head-to-head knockout cup where each round is played over two legs, except for the final, which is played in a best-of-three format. With the first round being all about narrowing the field to sixteen, eight teams received byes, while the other sixteen members of the division were drawn in head-to-head combat. The draw is below, with the first leg in Gameweek Twenty-Seven, and the second leg in Gameweek Twenty-Eight.
The League of Gentlemen:
One of the shocks of the week came from Private Parvesh, who scored the third-highest total in the division with 96 points, closing the gap to second-bottom Wooden Spoon Helling to 136 points. While he still has some way to go to catch the man on 1,325 points, the 23 points he made up this week give him hope of avoiding last place. Mack Daddy McMahon falls to third-bottom, seventeen points further ahead, with Metal Marc’s ninety points lifting him up a place on 1,349. Breaking into the top twenty is Maverick Mikey, who is six points clear of the bottom four and just ten points off Wildman Whitfield and his 1,363 points. Big-Time Birkett rises t0 18th place following a 93-point week, with Who Horner 38 points ahead and the Masterchef a further nineteen away on 1,451 following his own Free Hit that brought a strong 93 points of his own. Iceman Newton is fourteen points away, having become the only manager this week to join the Hundred Club, while Deadly Daz’s sixteen-point hit saw him drop two places to fourteenth. The Ox climbs ten points ahead of him on 1,494 following an excellent 95 points, yet he will be slightly bemused at the realisation that, had he backed either of his Manchester City attackers over Kane, he would also have made the Hundred Club. Slick Rick also climbs a place to twelfth, but is only four points ahead of the Ox having been outscored by thirteen points. A disappointing 74 points meant King Ding was pipped at the post to February’s Manager of the Month, and also meant he failed to climb in the table, with Hitman Hodgson remaining eleven points clear after scoring the same amount. Rounding off the Irrelevants is Lord Geord on 1,555 points, who dropped two places after a disastrous 53-point week, one which saw him show courage in starting Alonso against Manchester United and Liverpool and receive no points at all despite two Chelsea clean sheets. He now finds himself just ten points clear of the Hitman and nine off the Chasing Pack, and has a lot of work to do to make the season respectable.
The Chasing Pack
The two men rising at the Lord’s expense are the underlings in the Appleby Assassin’s Guild, Sirloin Sean and Red Hot Rob. The Triple Captaincy failed to work for Sirloin, who saw Bruno get just 18 points from the chip with two games in the gameweek, and though he did see Gundogan and Watkins get assists, a seven-man attack with twelve games getting just two three-point returns is deeply disappointing. Defensive strength saved his gameweek, with Dias, Wan-Bissaka and Alexander-Arnold all hauling, securing eighty points for Sirloin and seeing him just three points off Red Hot Rob’s 1,567. Red Hot Rob had better luck with the Triple Captain, seeing Kane bring in 24 points, but the assist of Gundogan was his only other outfield return of the week. Mendy’s two clean sheets were his saving grace, those sixteen points critical in keeping him ahead of Sirloin and the Irrelevants, though just four returns from twenty games shows what a missed opportunity this gameweek was.
Jockin’ Jeeves took a sixteen-point hit to remove 35 points from his team and replace them with 21, a decision that – had he Triple Captained the transferred-out Son instead of new signing Kane – resulted in 48 points thrown away. The complete reworking of the squad to find room for de Bruyne, with only three goals all season, always seemed a massive risk, and the inevitable consequence of such transfer folly means he exits the gameweek with 82 points rather then 130, in sixth position rather than third, and 101 points off the top rather than 53. It’s the second time in six gameweeks that the Rap Rob Roy has snatched disaster from the brink of glory through his excessive transfer manoeuvres. To have to butcher your squad to such an extent twice in eight weeks after using a Wildcard suggests either poor forward-planning or over-reactions to the prior gameweek; whatever is behind it, it’s something Jeeves needs to stop if he is to have any hope of a title success which is still within his grasp – those two gameweeks of excess transfers cost him 105 points, showing that he can still close the gap to top spot over the last twelve gameweeks if only he can calm down in the transfer market. Extending the gap over him to 23 points is fifth-place Big Steve, who misses out on the Hundred Club by virtue of a transfer hit for the second time this season. Frustratingly for him, neither of his transfers helped in any way, with the switch of Wan-Bissaka to Shaw proving irrelevant with both men scoring twelve points, while Soucek-replacement Barnes scored just one point due to injury. Defensive strength was the key to the Butcher’s strong gameweek, with all four defenders and his goalkeeper hauling for a combined 57 points, while Son, Gundogan and Watkins provided four assists between them for a final score of 98 points. With an average gameweek score of eighty points a week over the six weeks since his disastrous 27 points in GW20, the Butcher is showing some remarkable consistency; outside of the Title Contenders only on transfers made and now just 78 points from the top with his Free Hit, Triple Captain and Wildcard all to play, Big Steve is in a great position to go one better than last season and claim the League of Gentlemen title for the first time. The man to watch over the last twelve gameweeks.
The Title Contenders
Keeping Flash Funk in fourth place was him being the only man in the top twenty to have a decent captain this gameweek, with Son bringing him in 28 points. It made the hit taken to bring him in for Rashford a worthy one, and was the foundation for a strong 92-point score. With Watkins and Gundogan’s assists his only other attacking returns, he was another boosted by defensive hauls, with Dias, Stones and Wan-Bissaka his heroes. He faces a dilemma as to what to do this gameweek with regards to Bruno, with plenty of money invested in him making him hard to sell, but him playing two of Flash’s defenders making it hard to play him. The underperformance of Salah also clouds the issue, though he will surely keep the Liverpool man ahead of a game against Fulham. Does Flash have the courage to bench Bruno, or will he sell one of his Manchester City defenders and work de Bruyne or Sterling into his team? That’s the big question facing Flash this week, and with Big Steve level on points and Grinchy Vogt six points ahead on 1,628, it’s one that will shape the remainder of his season.
It’s been a remarkable run of form since Boxing Day for Grinchy Vogt, who has been like a runaway freight train for three months but was finally derailed this week. Another who took a huge points penalty to reshape his team, it looked a strange move from the outset given the form he’d been in and what was at stake for him this week, and now he has seen his worst FPL Nightmare come true. Out of the FPL Cup, beaten in the final of the Eliminator, and now he finds himself 72 points off top having been comfortably outscored by everyone outside the Irrelevants and many of the Gentlemen in the bottom section, too. Indeed, only Lord Geord performed worse than him this week, with the pair of them goading each other into taking outlandish risks in their respective press conferences and both of them paying the price for their hubris. Ultimately, Vogt’s transfer mishaps only cost him seven points, but when you factor in the wasted Triple Captain chip, Double Gameweek Twenty-Six has been nothing but an unmitigated disaster for the Gentlemanly Grinch. What he needs to do now is stay calm, and avoid making any rash moves in the transfer market; whether he is able to show that level of composure in what is just his second season, however, remains to be seen.
It was a mixed week for ‘The Eliminator’, Ginger Ben. While he emerged successful from what was, in reality, a pretty poor final, he was knocked off the top of the table and saw none of his three transfers prove successful. The sale of Antonio for Calvert-Lewin cost him two points and, while the signings of Barnes and Traore for their injured team-mates Maddison and Grealish were logical, the eight-point hit meant he would have been a further six points better off – and top of the league – had he left his two injured players in his squad and instead played Bamford and Dallas. Still, those transfers were logical and, had Barnes not been injured, could well have been seen as successes. What is a success for The Eliminator is knowing that he is still within an assist of top spot, despite having had such a chip disadvantage hanging over him. The lack of a Free Hit is a worry with two blank gameweeks ahead, but it’s a worry shared by his rival at the top. Gameweeks Twenty-Six to Thirty were always about damage limitation for The Eliminator; his cushion at the top may be gone, but he’s still in good shape. With a bit of planning and a stroke of luck, he can remain in a good position throughout these next few weeks; if he does, the last eight gameweeks of the season will be a scintillating prospect.
The Man Who Would Be King
Three points clear at the top on 1,700 points exactly is Dan the Dragon, who is handling the pressure of the League of Gentlemen in exemplary fashion in his debut season. Taking an eight-point hit this week, he was one of the few managers who saw the transfer gamble pay off, with Lookman, Kane and Johnstone all outscoring the men they replaced by four points or more. Utilising the Bench Boost brought him an additional 21 points, but he will be disappointed that none of his outfield substitutes secured a single return in five games of football. There will also be slight frustration at captaining Kane over Son, though that will be tempered by knowing he is one of the few managers to own both players, while Shaw and Martinez both hauled to give him a final score of 93 points – a very good score but, in a Double Gameweek with Bench Boost active, one that has to be a disappointment, and will be seen as a missed opportunity. Still, the Dragon holds all the cards in the title chase; three points clear at the top, a 72-point gap to third and, while both he and Ginger Ben are without their Free Hit, the Dragon has his second Wildcard remaining; even though we have seen so many times this season that mass changes can lead to disaster, holding the Wildcard at this stage is such an advantage. Despite the best efforts of the Title Contenders and the Chasing Pack, it has been a straight fight between the Eliminator and the Dragon for several weeks now. The Dragon holds the upper hand this week, but these two young stars could trade top spot until the final day, and it’s going to be enthralling to watch it play out.
That concludes our round-up of Double Gameweek Twenty-Six, one which saw Grinchy Vogt’s FPL Cup odyssey come to an end, which saw Ginger Ben become The Eliminator, and which saw the Dragon re-take top spot. With many managers frustrated at their performance this week, and with the opening round of the Gentlemen’s Trophy, Gameweek Twenty-Seven promises to be the tonic that washes the bad taste out of your mouth. 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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