This week, Lord Geord played his Wildcard, a decision that ended in disaster. Meanwhile, Ginger Ben's lead at the top comes under real pressure.
Following their skirmish in the streets last week, Lord Geord and Jez Messing crossed paths again in the post-gameweek press conference. We'll let you make up your own mind about the situation, but it certainly appears Lord Geord is feeling the pressure of a bad season in FPL.
Jez Messing: So, Geord. After playing your Wildcard this week, you find yourself even further away from the top, and the Lords are out of the Eliminator. What are your thoughts? Is the title now out of your reach?
Lord Geord: I really can’t believe it. I don’t understand you. Honestly. The only thing you want to talk about all the time is us becoming champions. Can you imagine? Have you ever been the best FPL reporter in the world? Do you think it’s still possible? Just try it. Give it a try.
JM: So are you conceding the title?
LG: We try. But if I say it’s possible or it’s not possible then we have another headline. Why do we do that? Let’s talk about a situation. If you’re not interested then I don’t understand why we talk.
JM: I'm not trying to make you angry.
LG: I’m not angry at all. I just don’t understand why we have the whole interview is about us becoming champions, again. I don’t understand that.
JM: You could've just said anything is possible.
LG: That’s clear. It’s always ‘anything is possible’ so why should I say the absolute obvious stuff? Yes, anything is possible always in this wonderful life and country. It’s not true, it’s not anything possible always but in FPL, probably.
JM: You said before the gameweek, 'we have prepared as well as we can, we won't know until it starts how it will turn out.' What did you make of it and the way the gameweek panned out?
LG: I think I understood your question in a manner that you weren't sure how much it means to us, this gameweek. Or how much - what did you mean by the question?
JM: Do you have to put it into perspective at all, the fact, as we said before the gameweek, you saw the things you wanted but you have fallen further away. At the same time, you had a stressful week with your university assignment, which you managed to get finished despite having two weeks to do six weeks of work. Do you have to apply a perspective at all?
LG: If you want to lead this story in the direction that we weren't here with our focus on the gameweek, then do it. You have asked for the second time about attitude.
JM: I'm just trying to get your thoughts.
LG: Look, we made two massive mistakes. Pretty much gameweek over. In a gameweek where your lads play so well, these two mistakes obviously killed off the gameweek. The result was the opposite of what we want, but the performance was what we wanted for the majority of the gameweek. There are worse things in the world than a bad gameweek. To us, it’s very important, no doubt, but I want the lads to understand that if they play football like they did for most of this gameweek all the time, we would have more points. I can see in your eyes you think differently.
JM: I'm not saying differently, I'm was listening intently to you.
LG: Ah, OK. I really liked it and I thought we played some really good football.
JM: There's no need for sarcasm, Geord. Give us the real you, not this snarkiness.
LG: You want the real me? Here it is. Why do we never talk about philosophy? It's easy for you, coming in here when the results are in, telling people they've got it wrong. Everyone is Barcelona Guardiola come full-time. It means nothing.
JM: It means you are 137 points off the top with fifteen gameweeks to go.
LG: Exactly! That's all you look at, the scores. You don't ask about the thinking. Last Friday, we were 125 points off top with sixteen gameweeks to go. There are several double-gameweeks coming up. We had Manchester City playing Liverpool, and everyone has Salah, everyone has City defenders, everyone has Gundogan. That match, very hard to call. Honestly, I fancied nil-nil, which is why we sold Salah and Gundogan, but if there was a goal, we favoured City, and we swapped Stones for Cancelo as he has more attacking threat.
JM: It finished 4-1, with Salah scoring and Gundogan scoring twice. You replaced them with Soucek and Lingard, who drew 0-0 with Fulham.
LG: Of course it looks a mistake after the fact. But look at the form. Look at Soucek compared to Salah. Soucek, five goals in eight gameweeks, playing Fulham. Salah, two goals in seven gameweeks, playing the best defence in Europe. One goal conceded in twelve, and that an own goal. It was the right call. Gundogan, we were always bringing him back next week. We gambled losing 0.2 million in team value was worth a gamble on a one-week punt for Lingard, two goals last time out and playing Fulham. Has it worked out? No. We've lost value, ten points and a free transfer. Was it wrong to try?
JM: You replaced the in-form goalscorer in the Premier League, who is on penalties, with Jesse Lingard.
LG: We took a chance. We were 125 points behind, we had to take risks to give us a chance.
JM: For the fourth week running, you've left your top scorer on the bench. Why do you think you keep getting it so wrong?
LG: I've told you this before, it's a hard game. It made sense to bench Calvert-Lewin, we were starting Wan-Bissaka and Everton had blanked against Newcastle. Nobody saw Wan-Bissaka scoring seventeen points last week, nor Leeds stuffing Leicester the week before. Three weeks ago, Soucek was benched for Bamford, who played Newcastle, and Son and Kane. Could you leave them out?
JM: I'm not the one paid to make the big calls, you are. I'm just saying, you're getting them wrong every week. You replaced Dallas with Mee this week. Selling twelve points to buy one.
LG: Everyone owns Dallas. It was a short-term punt, for two weeks, banking on Mee outscoring him with an extra game. It might still come off yet, but Dallas will be back soon. You can't judge a Wildcard off one week.
JM: But you can. You can look at how you got 37 points off a Wildcard, and how you could've got 91 points just by keeping the same team, captaining Son against West Brom, benching Grealish for Bamford and Trent for Dallas, and you would still have had your Wildcard. Hell, if you'd used your one free transfer to switch Antonio to Calvert-Lewin ahead of his double-gameweek, you'd be on 101 points for the week, you'd be up to fourth and only 73 points off the top, and you'd still be in the Eliminator. These weren't outrageous decisions. Some of them were really bloody obvious.
LG: I know. I've got it horribly, horribly wrong. But that's FPL. It's not a game of taking wild chances, it's a game of having most of your team the same as everyone else, fluking which cheap players pick up the points that week, and hoping you get your captain right. I tried to be bold, I gambled on the usual suspects having quiet gameweeks, and of using my Wildcard to get some differentials in and make up some ground, and it bit me in the arse. If West Ham smashed Fulham, Burnley kept the clean sheet to Brighton and City vs Liverpool finished 1-1 through Wijnaldum and Mahrez goals, I'd have looked a genius, and I'd be right back in it.
JM: The fans are starting to question whether this should be your last season, whether the Lords need a new manager. They're looking at a novice Mackem at the top of the league and questioning why, after so many years, you've never once threatened a title challenge. They're looking at these wild gambles you’re taking and questioning whether you have the temperament. They're hearing the voodoo rumours and thinking you've lost the plot. There's a minority group calling for your immediate removal, and for your young assistant Sven Honey-Crumpet to be given the reins. They're seeing how Nicklas Bendtner, in only his third season and after a year's break, is ranked 69 in the world, and they are demanding better for the Lords. How do you respond to those people? How do you get their backing?
LG: How's the bacon, did you say?
JM: How do you get their backing, their support?
LG: This will be the last question I answer. My contract runs until the end of next season, June 2022. This last few weeks has been bad, but until then, we were on a great run. We were in the Title Contenders. This season, normal FPL strategy is out of the window. The game is all over the place, and we've not really recovered from not having Son and Kane during their incredible opening weeks. Justin, too, we made a mistake not bringing him in. All I can say is we keep learning. Look back over the last few seasons. Every Wildcard I play goes wrong, but then we start climbing, and we go on a run. That's what we need to do now. We need to make up ten points a gameweek on top spot to win the title. It's a big ask, but while there's still a chance, we'll keep going. Then we'll go away in the summer, and next season, when football is more like its usual self, we'll be ready. In sixteen months, I'll be gone from the game. We're going to do what we can this season, we might still win the Gentlemen's Trophy, which starts in a few weeks. Then, next season, it's the final fling. We’ll try to apply all of the lessons we have learnt over the last few seasons and win the title. Whatever the outcome, that’s when all this ends. Next season, it’s all or nothing. Give me that, and then, come next June, you can have my head.
The Cup Chronicles
It was the end of the road for Lord Geord in the Eliminator, with his Wildcard proving utterly disastrous. A sure-fire qualification without it turned into a desperate struggle for points. Going into the final match, he was 24 points behind Ginger Ben, who had no players left to play. While most observers felt the Lords' fate was sealed, with Bamford and Raphinha, he held onto hope of a Lawestanbul moment. When Raphinha assisted Bamford for Leeds' second goal, Ginger Ben felt the twinge of nerves, but despite Raphinha laying chance after chance on a plate for his star striker, Bamford missed chance after chance, each one hammering another nail in Lord Geord's coffin. It ended with him beaten by twelve points - the same twelve points Calvert-Lewin scored, while being benched for no-points Soucek. It takes something special to exit this competition on a Wildcard, but if anyone can be relied upon to shoot their own feet off, it's the Geord's Lords, who become the 21st victims of the Eliminator.
Grinchy Vogt's FPL cup odyssey continued apace, with a tie against Josh Lacy in Round Seven. Vogt entered the match as favourite, with his opponent ranked over a million places lower in the overall rankings. Yet, for the first time since Gameweek Fifteen, some cracks appeared in Grinchy Vogt's armour. He took a chance on his captaincy, only to see Antonio blank while two other members of his team scored in double figures. He left Salah on the bench for Dias, costing himself another six points. It went to the final game, where both men had Bamford, but Lacy had him as captain. Vogt was stuck in the perilous position of needing points for his title challenge, but not enough points that it would see him defeated in the cup. In the end, Bamford's profligacy in front of goal limited him to just six points with zero bonus points, which saw Vogt progress by just five points. He will need to be sharper in Round Eight; his lucky escape this time came from Lacy choosing to start Grealish over Watkins as his Villa attacker. Had he gone the other way, Vogt's run would be over; as it is, the Gentlemanly Grinch progresses to the eighth round, and a meeting with Max Ryan, currently ranked 93k higher in the world. Vogt will be the underdog this time, a position he tends to perform best in.
The League of Gentlemen:
Private Parvesh remains adrift at the bottom, and with just 965 points he is still to break the thousand-point barrier. The distance to Maverick Mikey grew by fourteen points to 138, but Mikey's own hopes of advancing have been hindered by Metal Marc being active in three of the last four gameweeks, and extending the gap to 22nd to 34 points. There are no positional changes before we reach fifteenth this week, with Mack Daddy McMahon on 1,158 points in 21st, Wooden Spoon Helling on 1,166 in 20th and Wildman Whitfield on 1,178 in 19th all posting similar scores. The Masterchef remains in 18th, but closed the gap to 17th-placed Big-Time Birkett to just eleven points after doubling his gameweek total, while also making up ground on 16th-placed Who Horner after outscoring him by sixteen points. The Masterchef is still 31 points behind Horner's 1,219 points, but will be buoyed by his strong showing this time out. The Ox falls two places to fifteenth after strong scores from Slick Rick and Iceman Newton, who is in the ninth week of abandoning his team. Three points ahead of the Iceman is King Ding, on 1,292 and now just 46 points from the Chasing Pack, the closest he has been for some time. With every chip still at his disposal, expect the King to start moving through the ranks sooner, rather than later. Deadly Daz is now in eleventh, just 16 points behind his Wildcard-wasting brother Lord Geord, with Hitman Hodgson moving seven points clear into ninth on 1,320 points, just eighteen off the Chasing Pack.
The Chasing Pack
Falling to eighth is Sirloin Sean, who took an eight-point hit to replace three players who scored eleven points with three who scored fourteen. Whether that move was a success will be determined over the next few gameweeks, but the immediate impact was detrimental. With two players scoring zero points, it was always going to be a tough week for Sirloin, but the performances of Cresswell, Gundogan and captain Bruno kept his score respectable. While the injury to Wilson is a worry, the ownership of Ederson looks particularly exciting for Sirloin, with Guardiola hinting that the Brazilian goalkeeper may take on penalty duties for Manchester City. It would certainly give him the edge he needs in the battle of the Appleby Assassin's Guild, having been usurped as head henchmen this week by Red Hot Rob, who moved five points ahead into seventh on 1,343 points. Seven players secured returns for Red Hit Rob, with two of those players - Cresswell and Calvert-Lewin - also securing maximum bonus points, giving his team a gameweek score of 72 points. After a slow start to life in the League of Gentlemen, Red Hot Rob is starting to show his potential, and his quality over the long haul. It may come too late for success this season, but he is definitely one to watch in the future.
Moving up to sixth place, and closing the gap to top spot by 26 points, is Jockin' Jeeves after a strong score of 75 points. Fabianski, Coufal, Bruno, Salah, Watkins, Gundogan and captain Son were the men bringing in the points this week, giving a points total that starts to rebuild the fabled Juggernaut momentum after an abysmal performance two weeks ago. Jeeves will be disappointed to have left Calvert-Lewin on the bench, with the decision to start both Salah and two Manchester City defenders a defensive move that ultimately cost points. Still, that caution minimised the risk of another disastrous score and, with the performances elsewhere in the team, will keep him believing he can be this season's King Ding and secure a remarkable comeback. Nine points ahead of him is the falling Big Steve, who now finds himself just one point outside the Title Contenders on 1,364 points, nine ahead of Jeeves. If it wasn't for Lord Geord's woeful Wildcard, the Butcher would be identified as having the biggest FPL Nightmare of the week, with double-figures-hitting Meslier, Dallas and Gundogan all left on the bench. While nine-point Martinez started ahead of the Leeds goalkeeper, the decision to start Dias and Soucek has cost the Butcher 24 points. Unlike Jeeves, who started a Liverpool attacker against a Manchester City defender to mitigate damage, Big Steve's decision has cost him dearly. The 86 points he is away from top spot could've been 62, a total achievable in two great gameweeks. That being said, he did close the gap by twelve points this week; keep doing that, and the Butcher will be top with gameweeks to spare.
The Title Contenders
Rising back up to fourth is Flash Funk, whose only two mistakes this week were starting Soucek over the in-form Watkins, and putting the captaincy on Antonio instead of Calvert-Lewin or Gundogan. At least he had the sense to play them both, along with twelve-point Dallas, an error several of his rivals made. Coufal, Salah, Bruno and new signing Rashford provided further returns, raising the Funkmaster back into the Title Contenders after a two-week absence. The key for Flash is building on this week's performance and putting a run of form together; after looking like he had built unstoppable momentum before Christmas, it has been a stop-start affair ever since. Ginger Ben has previously identified Flash as one of the rivals he most fears; if Flash can post strong scores over the next few weeks, the pressure will tell on the man at the top.
As Flash's potential returns to the forefront, the man who replaced him in the form ranks, Grinchy Vogt, suffered his first stumble since Boxing Day. While his score of 59 points closed the gap to glory by another ten points, and he did keep his remarkable FPL Cup run going, the benching of Salah and the captaincy of Antonio were two mistakes of the kind the Grinch has not been making recently. It resulted in the end of his nine-gameweek run of green arrows, and Vogt will have to ensure he puts it right in Gameweek Twenty-Four. With that in mind, it's important to note his 'bad' gameweek still moved him closer to unprecedented glory, and his squad is well-prepared for the challenges ahead, with his policy of the cheapest bench possible long-since abandoned. Now just 44 points off the summit, Gameweek Twenty-Four offers him an outside chance of completing a rise from nineteenth place to top spot in just ten gameweeks; a sensational performance that should give everyone in the division hope. He may need to use his Triple Captain to get there, but it is very possible indeed.
Another man with serious aspirations of the apex is Dan the Dragon, who returned to form with an excellent 74 points, a total that moves him just seven points away from first place. Son, Dallas and captain Bruno all secured double-figures scores, with further returns from Martinez, Justin, Salah and Bamford. Yet, for the Dragon, this is the one that got away. By bringing in Shaw this week, it forced him to bench Calvert-Lewin; had he instead trusted Coufal to start, and had he benched Soucek for the Everton hitman, he would be fifteen points better off and eight points clear of a displaced Ginger Ben. He won't be too disappointed in the outcome, though; Shaw himself got a return, although it was minimised by him losing two points too, and the starting XI he played was the correct one given the make-up of his squad. His transfer choice will strengthen his squad for the weeks ahead; the Dragon has re-found his wings, and it is surely a matter of time until he soars back to the top.
The Man Who Would Be King
Unless, of course, Ginger Ben has something to say about it. Written off on a seemingly-weekly basis, he has led the table for the majority of the season and has a rare knack of doing just enough to survive. He was unfortunate to replace the zero-scoring Robertson with the zero-scoring Rudiger, and the frustration of that move was compounded with Dallas' twelve points wasting away on the bench. Beyond that, apart from captaining Antonio, he did very little wrong this week. His squad has the most variance from any other top ten team and, while it didn't pay off this week, it's the reason he has been able to top the table, and gives him every opportunity to steal a march on his rivals in Gameweek Twenty-Four - especially with Soucek's red card having been rescinded. With £4.5m in the bank, he could move to upgrade Brewster to Ings ahead of Southampton's double-gameweek in Gameweek Twenty-Five but, given Burnley have two matches this coming gameweek, and Lloris faces a Manchester City bang in form, a shrewder move would be to replace Allison with Pope. Seven points may not be a huge gap at the top, but it is more than enough to win the title; still well inside the top 100k overall, that has to be the Ginger Goliath's aim. Given his lack of remaining chips, he needs a strong Gameweek Twenty-Four; if he can produce the goods, the time for doubting will come to an end.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek Twenty-Three, one which saw the title race become tighter, which saw the Juggernauts start regaining momentum, which saw Grinchy Vogt's FPL Cup run continue despite his first stumble in ten gameweeks, and which saw a perfect example of how a Wildcard can be as destructive as it can be beneficial. Gameweek Twenty-Four, with four teams playing twice, promises to be the most important gameweek yet. 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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