After three intensive gameweeks, a clear leader has flown away at the top of the League of Gentlemen. Will anybody be able to slay the Dragon?
The Festive Frenzy is one of the real markers each season for managers to assess their progress. While the early weeks of the campaign bring much fluidity and volatility in positions and points, by the time the FA Cup third round comes along, the pattern for the season has emerged and we have a good idea who will be in the mix come the season's end.
This year, while Dan the Dragon has proven himself the clear man to beat, the picture behind him is somewhat less predictable. The Frenzy has seen the top six remain the same, with minimal positional changes, yet behind them the wily veterans are making some real headway in closing the distance, with Jockin' Jeeves, King Ding, Red Hot Rob and The Ox all now on the cusp of becoming real factors in the upper reaches of the table. Jockin' Jeeves, in particular, is looking like a real threat, rising through the ranks and actually replacing Iceman Newton in the top six briefly, before falling back a place in the third of the three gameweeks. While there is a long way to go before any of those four can be seen as potential Dragon-slayers, it is a situation that will have the inexperienced managers towards the top looking over their shoulders.
Further down the table, the big winners of the Festive Frenzy were Maverick Mikey, All-Star Vogt and Big-Time Birkett. Maverick Mikey has maintained uncharacteristic restraint in the transfer market and has put some real distance between himself and bottom-placed Private Parvesh. If he can continue to play the game in this manner, he has more than enough time to continue his climb in the table, though some big points deficits remain. He could also emerge as a real dark horse in the Gentlemen's Trophy, the two-legged knockout competition that begins in Gameweek 27. Vogt and Birkett, while still some way from challenging the Chasing Pack, have turned the tide in their seasons. With the downwards momentum arrested, they enter the New Year with optimism of finishing, if not towards the top, at least in a position of respectability. With only the top twelve teams automatically qualifying for next season's Gentlemen's Classic, reaching that position has to be their first target going forward.
The Festive Frenzy was not kind to all men, however, with some managers having little to cheer. Sirloin Sean is now deeply mired in the Irrelevants, Wildman Whitfield has plummeted in the rankings, while Private Parvesh's season appears over, stranded at the foot of the table. Though Deadly Daz has rebounded to fifteenth, he will be so disappointed to be so far down the table; last season's fourth-place finisher as low as seventeenth at one stage of the Frenzy. With his second Wildcard deployed as soon as possible, he is hoping to make up some ground, but with so many blank and double gameweeks to come, he may well have signalled the death knell on his chances. Wooden Spoon Helling's luck appears to have run out, with the novelty of his high performance in the early weeks worn off now, and his team sixteenth and falling. The Masterchef, too, has struggled for momentum and faces a challenging few months. Despite their struggles at the bottom, few will have more disappointment than second-place Ginger Ben, whose title challenge is slipping away and who has been outscored by the Dragon for the last six gameweeks. He's still in a better position than all but one of his rivals, however, and there remains a lot of promise for his season if he can find a way to start clawing back some points.
The December Manager of the Month was settled, and it's testament to the impact of the Festive Frenzy that Flash Funk, the comfortable favourite on Christmas Day, ended the race in sixth place. Jockin' Jeeves finishing second by just three points showed why he has been able to rise the ranks so quickly, but the inevitable winner of December's Manager of the Month was Dan the Dragon. In more important news, the Masterchef Manager's Manager of the Year award was voted on. Maverick Mikey and King Ding pushed hard for the title, but the winner of the prize was The Butcher, Big Steve, after going so close to glory last year and sustaining a push at the top this season. Having earned the respect of his peers, the Butcher will be looking to start 2021 strongly and make a real run at the Dragon.
For the Lords, we were very satisfied with how our Festive Frenzy turned out. After a nightmare start which saw us ranked 4.8m in the world after six weeks, we have rebounded and are now ranked just inside the top 1.2m, while also emerging from the Festive Frenzy inside the Chasing Pack. There is no margin for error, however, with Red Hot Rob just two points behind, and it will take some shrewd decisions to ensure we don't fade back to Irrelevants over the next few weeks. Our big decision is whether to use our Free Hit in the Blank Gameweek or whether we take a hit or two and go in with seven or eight players. It feels like a real season defining choice that will probably go right up until the transfer deadline.
The Cup Chronicles
While the big cup story of the Festive Frenzy was Hitman Hodgson defeating Flash Funk to become the inaugural Gentlemen's Classic champion, the Eliminator has continued its inevitable march to find yet more victims. Gameweek Fifteen saw the Masterchef trampled under the Eliminator's avalanche with a gameweek score of just 28 points, with frustration coming from knowing that if substitute Meslier had started, the extra ten points he scored over Fabianski would've kept the Masterchef alive. Gameweek Sixteen saw a close-run affair between Who Horner and Wildman Whitfield, one that went to a Tiebreaker after a tied score of just 27 points. In the end, Who Horner survived, a solitary goal proving enough after the Wildman saw his entire team fail to hit the net. Gameweek Seventeen showcased the highs and lows of FPL to dramatic effect, as it came down to last year's top two, King Ding and Big Steve. With just three points in it, the late cancellation of Fulham vs Burnley proved critical, as Coufal rose from the King's bench with six points to send him through, leaving the Butcher cursing the King yet again. Jez Messing reports that the Butcher has called an emergency meeting of the Appleby Assassin's Guild, with the express intention of keeping the King rooted in the Irrelevants. Whether he is successful or not, he will still be out of this competition, after becoming the latest victim of the Eliminator.
Still be Eliminated: Dan the Dragon, Ginger Ben, Iceman Newton, Slick Rick, Flash Funk, Jockin' Jeeves, Who Horner, Lord Geord, King Ding, All-Star Vogt.
The FPL Cup also started during the Festive Frenzy. While, as a non-League of Gentlemen competition, we won't be giving it full coverage, we will keep track of who remains in the FPL Cup.
Still in the FPL Cup: Maverick Mikey, Mack Daddy McMahon, Deadly Daz, All-Star Vogt, The Ox, Red Hot Rob, Lord Geord, Slick Rick, Big Steve, Ginger Ben, Dan the Dragon.
Eliminated from the FPL Cup: Metal Marc, Hitman Hodgson, Sirloin Sean, King Ding, Jockin' Jeeves, Flash Funk.
Did not qualify: Private Parvesh, Wildman Whitfield, Big-Time Birkett, Who Horner, the Masterchef, Wooden Spoon Helling, Iceman Newton.
The League of Gentlemen:
The situation is dire now for Private Parvesh, who is marooned at the bottom on 708 points. While Maverick Mikey is 59 points ahead, Parvesh's only hope of avoiding the wooden spoon is if Wooden Spoon Helling's fall continues, and he can make up 179 points in 21 gameweeks. On 767 points, Maverick Mikey is looking up the table and while Metal Marc is 55 points ahead, his first immediate target will be Wildman Whitfield in 21st, who may be sixteen points further away but is in far worse form. In 20th is Mack Daddy McMahon on 843 points, with Big-Time Birkett hoping his rise to 19th on 846 points proves the ignition his season needs. Who Horner and the Masterchef remain in 18th and 17th, though both closed the gap on 16th-place Wooden Spoon Helling, and would expect to overtake him next time out.
A strong 77 points from Deadly Daz launches him up to 15th on 910 points, but it took his second Wildcard to do it. It will take some strategic moves in the transfer market to keep his momentum going over the blank and double gameweeks to come, especially with good ol' Grinchy Vogt showing some great form over the Festive Frenzy. Now up to 14th on 920 points, a disappointing campaign is showing signs of coming to life, with Hitman Hodgson just three points ahead in 13th and Sirloin Sean another three away in 12th. King Ding peaked at ninth in the Festive Frenzy, but ends it back in 11th on 937 points following a disappointing 57-point Gameweek Seventeen score, while The Ox is a point ahead in tenth following a strong 81-pointer. Rounding off the Irrelevants is Red Hot Rob, who secured a gameweek-high 88 points to take him onto 953 points, and with two free transfers in the bag, he'll be looking to break into the Chasing Pack next week.
The Chasing Pack
After weeks of travails, Lord Geord ends the Festive Frenzy in the Chasing Pack, although only two points separates him from the Irrelevants. A strong gameweek saw four players hit double figures, with captain Kane's 24 points crucial in reaching a 77-point total. The big question for the Lord is whether he Free Hits for Blank Gameweek Eighteen, or whether he takes a hit or two and goes without a full team. Should he choose the latter, the hit will mean he starts the gameweek in the Irrelevants, but he may be able to secure enough points to end it in the Chasing Pack, while also retaining his Free Hit for the challenges ahead. It's a big call, one which could define his season. 21 points ahead in seventh is his long-time comrade Jockin' Jeeves, who will be disappointed with his standing after starting Gameweek Seventeen in sixth. The signing of Nat Phillips is a bizarre one, with the Liverpool youngster having played just three games all season. After he was left out again by Klopp, it left Jeeves with having only Brewster, a striker without a goal or assist all season who plays for the worst team in the league, as his only playing substitute. With £1.4m in the bank, one can only assume Jeeves is trying to raise funds for the blank and double gameweeks, but such a week bench leaves him very vulnerable with games facing late cancellations at an increasing rate. Only Soucek, Bruno and captain Son scored returns for the Juggernauts, leaving them four points behind Iceman Newton at the gameweek's end.
A rise back up to sixth for the Iceman, with his seventy points procured through double-figure performances from Son, Soucek and captain Kane, assisted by Mitchell and Grealish. The importance of a strong bench was underlined by how seventeen of his points came from substitutes Soucek and Mitchell; based on this gameweek, it looks as though Jeeves has been foolish to weaken his bench, given that it was the reserves that came through for the Iceman. How long he can sustain this while he remains absent from the game is hard to say; while he has a strong squad, they are somewhat prone to injury and rotation. Whenever he does return, he does so with two free transfers; should he choose to make his comeback this week, he can apply real pressure on Slick Rick, who remains ten points ahead after equalling the Iceman's score. Grealish, Son and captain Kane were his main men too, with Walker-Peters, Vardy and Ward-Prowse supplementing their total nicely. These next two gameweeks will be crucial for the Slickster, who remains on the cusp of the Title Contenders, just four points away. With seven available players and two free transfers, there is no urgent need for a Free Hit, giving him a great advantage over those higher up the table.
The Title Contenders
A disappointing result for Flash Funk, who entered the Festive Frenzy with real hope of emerging close to the top and with the Gentlemen's Classic title, but fell to fourth after scoring just 142 points over the three gameweeks and got hammered in the Classic to bring 2020 to a crushing climax. He did manage to get four players in the double figures, though one was captain Vardy, who otherwise would've scored five points. Flash has had a great couple of months and remains in a strong position; the Festive Frenzy can cause managers to lose their heads, but with all his chips intact, Flash is well poised to bounce back. Indeed, he ended the Frenzy by closing the gap to third slightly, although the Dragon seems further away than ever.
Six points ahead in third, on 1000 points exactly, is the Butcher, Big Steve. Many expected him to fall away this season after the heart-breaking end to the last campaign, yet despite his slow start, he has risen through the ranks with a consistency that suggests he will be a major player for years to come. The mistake of benching Soucek cost him dearly this week, leading to his exit from the Eliminator, but he remains in a strong position. Given the experience gained last season, the hardened warrior is even more dangerous to the Dragon than second-place Ginger Ben, who has already used his Free Hit. The 35 points to second place won't concern him too much at this stage, and even the 93 points needed to take top spot won't seem too daunting; if anyone knows how quickly a huge lead can evaporate, it's Big Steve. Heading into the New Year, expect the Butcher to keep cranking up the pressure as he seeks to right last season's wrongs.
Ginger Ben, in second place on 1035 points, will be doing all he can to prevent the Butcher from clawing him back, while making his own attempts to capture the Dragon. The Frenzy was not kind to his chances, with a 29 point deficit being extended to 58 points, and with a blank gameweek up next for whom he only has five players, two of whom are injury doubts. That leaves the Ginger One with an awful dilemma; does he take a few hits and hope to limit the damage, does he write the next gameweek off and hope to regain momentum in the weeks afterwards, or does he use his second Wildcard, ensuring he can play a full team in Gameweek Eighteen but missing out on a glorious Bench Boost opportunity and risking late cancellations destroying any potential gains? It's a question only Ginger Ben can answer, and with the sharks circling beneath him and smelling blood, it's a question he simply has to get right.
The Man Who Would Be King
Through the ice and snow of the winter months, the Dragon's fire has melted away the competition. Now 58 points clear at the top with only three managers within a hundred points of him, the Dragon's debut League of Gentlemen season is moving ever closer to ending with the greatest of successes. Only one man has ever broken the King Ding - Jockin' Jeeves duopoly at the top, a man who retired immediately after and whose name has been lost to the annals of time. That single success, five years ago, seems almost like a fever dream. This, however, is cold, hard reality and, should the Dragon see out the season, his name will be immortalised in the writings of lesser men. His next challenge is how he handles the blank and double gameweek double-header; with six players in his squad available, he would be best served using his two free transfers to bring in some Manchester City players, going into the gameweek with eight or nine men, and saving his Free Hit to turn the screw further down the line. Given the shambles that is Ginger Ben's squad management, expect the Dragon to soar even further away from the rest of the field next time out. 1093 points, December's Manager of the Month, top of the League of Gentlemen, and just inside the top 12k overall, nobody could touch the Dragon in the latter half of 2020. Fantastic stuff.
That concludes our special Festive Frenzy review, a trio of gameweeks which saw Lord Geord claw his way into the Chasing Pack, which saw Big Steve become the biggest name to fall to the Eliminator, and which saw the Dragon fly away from the competition at the top. With the first Blank and Double Gameweek double-header of the season up next, the excitement is only just beginning. 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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