Always a tumultuous time in the division, this year’s Festive Frenzy proved even more chaotic than usual. In the biggest test of Lord Geord’s title credentials so far, could Jockin’ Jeeves or Go Cartin take control?
The Festive Frenzy is often the toughest period of the year for the Gentlemen, and this season proved no different, with cancellations and the late announcement of a Double Gameweek making this, perhaps, the trickiest Frenzy to negotiate on record. My own position was under great threat at the Frenzy’s beginning, with Jockin’ Jeeves only three points behind and having made up 37 points in the two gameweeks prior, while Go Cartin was also closing the gap with alacrity. The stakes simply couldn’t be higher, and my team was on the ropes.
The Frenzy started with an unexpected curve-ball – the awarding of a second Free Hit to every manager. This frustrated me at first, with my immediate reaction being that it was unfair to those who had planned sufficiently and taken hits to cover the potential abandoned games. After my initial panic eased, I saw it as an opportunity to gain more points later in the season, while also enabling me to cover Salah’s absence at the African Cup of Nations to some degree by deploying one of my Free Hits when he was away. That was not a view shared by eleven Gentlemen, who played the bonus Free Hit immediately, to varying degrees of success. Dodger Rodgers hit a gameweek-high 77 points, with an inspired captaincy of Sterling bringing in 28 points and Lucas Moura securing a seventeen-point haul, leading to a seven-place rise. Other big winners were Terminator Tris, who achieved the third-highest gameweek score to rise to tenth place, just four points off the Elite, and Grinchy Vogt, who climbed three places, evoking memories of his post-Christmas run last season which saw him score 740 points in just nine gameweeks. Less successful use of the chip came from The Ox, the Masterchef, Ash the Bash and King Ding, who all failed to break a half-century of points, leaving them at serious risk of being blown away in the Double Gameweeks – and potentially a Triple Gameweek - to come.
At the top of the table, Jockin’ Jeeves and I entered Gameweek Nineteen’s final match, Newcastle United versus Manchester United, with a tied gameweek score. With him owning de Gea and Saint-Maximin representing the Lords, the equation was simple: I needed Saint-Maximin to do the business. The mercurial Frenchman has been more explosive on social media than the pitch these last couple of months, but in my hour of need, he produced a wondergoal he had no right to score. It could have been even better, had he converted a second-half chance that looked harder to miss, but he’d done what I needed him to do to ensure I retained my place at the top. The only problem was that Newcastle had peppered de Gea’s goal with several average-to-great attempts, meaning the Manchester United goalkeeper secured two save points and one bonus point and limiting my gameweek victory to just one point. I could only hope that history would repeat itself, and Jeeves would suffer the same tailspin after a single-point gameweek defeat that Ginger Ben did.
Gameweek Twenty saw a further five Free Hits used, with the big winner being Maverick Mikey, whose 61 points saw him climb four places in the table. Metal Marc, Lionheart Lamb and Sirloin Sean all produced average gameweeks with no positional changes, but for Deadly Daz, it was a true FPL Nightmare. Despite using his Free Hit, he ended up with only ten players on the pitch and a gameweek score of just 26 points. It was a result that meant he fell three places, but the bigger damage may be to his motivation, with no transfers made in Gameweek 21 despite it being a Double Gameweek and him only having nine players available.
The big news of the gameweek was the zero-point captain for 24 of the Gentlemen, with Salah’s missed penalty providing a great opportunity for the risk-takers to take advantage. The highest-profile gambler was the Chancellor, who had opted to give the armband to Jota, but he was only able to secure appearance points. There was greater captaincy success for the Hodgson brothers, with both giving the armband to Son and securing twelve points. It was a move which saw the Dragon reach the Elite, but for the Hitman, it proved a case of damage limitation after five of his players scored one point or fewer, meaning he was the man displaced in the top eight by his brother. In a cruel twist of fate, Deadly Daz had also gambled on an alternative captain, with his choice being the clean sheet-securing Cancelo. Unfortunately, he was the only player to secure a return for the Dazzlers, which was the cause of the aforementioned FPL Nightmare. The biggest FPL Nightmares of the gameweek, though, went to the Masterchef, who missed the transfer deadline and had only six players available, a disaster which resulted in him scoring only nineteen points, and Mack Daddy McMahon, who fell seven places after getting just seven players on the pitch and scoring only seventeen points.
Gameweek Twenty saw the top four create some distance between themselves and the rest of the Elite, with Ginger Ben falling away following a four-point hit to replace Coufal with the zero-scoring Reguilon, a mistake the Chancellor punished in the gameweek’s final match when Ronaldo scored twelve points, extending the distance between the two to 26 points. A disappointing 31 points for Big Steve halted his growing momentum, a score that was pounced on by the Dragon and King Ding, both of whom moved within ten points, and also by Mighty Mouse, who outscored the Butcher by twelve points and moved 29 points clear. At the top of the table, Jockin’ Jeeves echoed Ginger Ben’s mistake of taking a hit for Reguilon, meaning I was able to extend my lead at the top to seven points, in the process increasing the gap to third-place Go Cartin by three points to twenty. It was not a lead that provided much comfort, however, with Gameweek Twenty ending with the huge announcement that Gameweek 21 would be a Double Gameweek.
A seven-point lead is precarious at the best of times. In a Double Gameweek, it is almost irrelevant, given the potential for huge scores for players who play two games, especially captains. I knew I had to do something special to ensure I remained at the top of the table. That something special was taking my first hit of the season, switching out James and Saint-Maximin, neither of whom would feature in the gameweek, for Coufal and Antonio, both of whom played twice. Spending four points to have two players play twice rather than two players not play meant, should both players play sixty minutes without a card, the worst that could happen was I would break even. My masterplan allowed for a hit in blanks or doubles, and this was the perfect time to roll the dice. I also gave the captaincy to Bowen, who played twice and who was entering the gameweek on the back of a fourteen-point haul. I felt sure the advantage would be limited, and that Jockin’ Jeeves would make the same moves, but they were the right moves to make and they had to be done.
The deadline passed, and I refreshed LiveFPL.net incessantly to see what decisions my rivals had made. Once the game had updated, my eyes lit up. While Jeeves had also taken a hit, he had declined to bring in Antonio, despite the striker having two great fixtures. While he had brought in a West Ham defender, he had opted for Johnson over Coufal, even though he had the funds to afford the better player. His second transfer was the signing of Bowen, who I already owned, but in a bizarre move, he had opted to give the captaincy to one-match Son rather than one of his players who played twice. The old Jeeves would have gone for the minus-eight, stuffing his team with West Ham players and giving one of them the armband. Despite claiming that he only ever focuses on his own score, I can only surmise that the Rap Rob Roy found himself affected by two successive gameweek defeats to myself, a desire to avoid the obvious in the hope of stealing a march on the Lords and the fear of extending my lead prior to kick-off to fifteen points, assuming I would continue with my no-hit strategy. A season of conditioning my rivals to expect minimal gambles from myself had conspired to give me a huge opportunity; the only question was whether my Lords could rise to the challenge.
It was a challenge that became easier when, before most of the gameweek’s players had taken the field, Jeeves’s captain ended his gameweek with a single assist to his name. By the time the referee blew for full-time in West Ham’s first match, Bowen had matched that assist, while Antonio had a goal. Though Coufal disappointed with just a single point, he had another game to make up for it, whereas Jeeves’s defensive choice, Johnson, had been hooked at half-time and scored zero points. As the second West Ham match of the gameweek came around, I had Bowen, Antonio and Coufal that could hurt him, while he only had Johnson that could cut the gap, a gap which had been maintained throughout all the other matches of Double Gameweek 21. As the game kicked off, I went for a nap, too fearful to watch the match unfold. As I awoke at full-time, the news came through: no points for Johnson. The only question that remained was how big the gap would be. Antonio had only added two points to his total, a disappointing score, but one that would disappoint the Antonio-captaining Go Cartin far more. Then I checked Bowen and Coufal, hoping they had done some damage. Two goals, an assist, a clean sheet and five bonus points.
The Festive Frenzy was touted as the biggest test of my championship credentials. I entered it on the ropes, with Jockin’ Jeeves having all the momentum. I leave it thirty-five points clear at the top of the table, with all my chips intact. Who’s in charge, me or the devil? I think I’m in charge. Now, with another Double Gameweek up immediately, and with more fixture fiascos to come, the next challenge is to remain in charge. With several players rated at doubts for the double, using one of my Free Hits to press home my advantage is one possibility, but the fixtures aren’t the kindest, and I have enough of a lead that I could perhaps risk retaining the chip and saving it for when the fixtures are more stable, especially with several of my squad facing favourable opponents. It’s something I will spend deadline day pondering in great detail, as I wait for the press conferences and hope for a sign from the FPL Gods. I may be in charge now, but Jockin’ Jeeves and Go Cartin are players of high pedigree, and they will be burning the midnight oil figuring out ways to take me down. All it would take is one FPL Nightmare to render all my good work undone. I’m in a dream position in my final attempt to complete the King’s Quest. I can only hope to remain so at the end of the next gameweek.
The Cup Chronicles
The headline cup news of the Festive Frenzy was Jockin’ Jeeves defeating Big Steve to become the Gentlemen’s Classic champion, but in the background to that titanic clash, the Eliminator rumbled on, with three new victims taken out of the competition. In Gameweek Nineteen, Big Steve and Sirloin Sean both scored 42 points, sending us to the first Tiebreaker of this season's competition. With no outfield players on either manager's bench, it went straight to sudden death in the Substitute Shoot-Out. Big Steve had no substitute goalkeeper available, which meant Fabianski's two points ensure Sirloin Sean wins the Substitute Shoot-Out, condemning the Butcher to a double cup heartbreak in the Frenzy.
Gameweek Twenty saw the closest battle of the season, with seven of the remaining eight competitors finishing within six points of each other. Only Maverick Mikey remained safe throughout the gameweek, and he eventually finished twenty points clear of everyone else despite leaving eleven-point Foden as his last substitute. Once Ronaldo saved the Chancellor in the final match of the gameweek, it came down to a second-successive Tiebreaker, after Ginger Ben and Brad the Lad finished with the same score. With neither men having a substitute and both men scoring one goal, we moved to the third Tiebreaker: Goals Conceded. Ultimately, the tightest of contests was settled by just one extra goal conceded, with the defending Eliminator champion Ginger Ben the one taken out this time.
With four of the final seven remaining in the competition being the top four managers in the league table, the standard required to survive kept on increasing. With Gameweek 21 becoming a short-notice double gameweek, it left the three managers further down the league table scrambling to get enough cover to challenge the title contenders. Sirloin Sean’s Triple Captaincy of Antonio secured 27 points, covering for the lack of Bowen in his squad, while Dawson and Fabianski secured sixteen points between them to keep him safe. It came down to Brad the Lad and Maverick Mikey, and the Maverick chose to use his Wildcard to maximise his chances. Though his Brentford trio only scored eight points between them and Gabriel got sent off for a minus-three, the Maverick’s decision to captain Antonio proved pivotal, with his eighteen points matching Brad the Lad’s three strikers and five defensive players single-handedly. It was enough to see the Maverick through by five points, joining Sirloin Sean, the Chancellor, Go Cartin, Jockin’ Jeeves and myself in the last six. Though the Maverick is over two hundred points behind four of his five rivals, he simply cannot be written off; the hits-don’t-count nature of the Eliminator means that his biggest weakness in regards to league position becomes his greatest strength in this competition. With only five more gameweeks to go, and his rivals above him locked in a tight title battle which limits the risks that can be taken, the Maverick’s freedom in the transfer market could well prove the decisive factor in determining this year’s Eliminator.
Festive Frenzy Round-Up
Though there have been a few minor positional swaps during the Frenzy, the bottom eight managers remain the same, with Lethal Lee still cemented to bottom spot. His hopes of escaping last place have improved, though, with Wooden Spoon Helling now just three points away from his spiritual home. The Frenzy was kindest to Maverick Mikey, who rose six places to 26th, Stone Cold Stephen Levins, who rose seven places to 22nd, Dodger Rodgers, who rose six places to nineteenth, and Grinchy Vogt, who has recovered some form and ends the period in twelfth, six places higher than he began. It was a considerably tougher period for the Rough Rider, who dropped six places to 33rd, the Masterchef, who dropped seven places to 27th, and Deadly Daz, who fell eight places to 23rd. The top three spots in the Irrelevants continue to be occupied by Terminator Tris, the Dragon and Hitman Hodgson, who jockeyed for position throughout the three-gameweek spell and saw it end with the Dragon holding a twelve-point gap over the tenth-place Terminator. However, all three Gentlemen, as well as those further back, end the Frenzy further away from the title than where they began, and time is running out for them to enter the title picture this season, with the Dragon 129 points off the top. Any title win from this position would be unprecedented, though with such chaos among the fixtures, this is perhaps the only season in which such an impossible feat could be achieved.
Incredibly, the tumultuous nature of the Frenzy saw the Elite finish with the same managers occupying the seven slots as it began, with the only positional change being Mighty Mouse dropping two places, bumping Big Steve and Ginger Ben up to sixth and fifth place respectively. The positions themselves do not tell the whole story, however. King Ding may be in eighth place, but he dropped out of the Elite in Gameweek Twenty, with a seventy-point salvo seeing him climb back in by the Frenzy’s end, with an increased gap on the Irrelevants. Mighty Mouse’s fall was caused by a woeful 25 points in Gameweek Nineteen and compounded by a dismal sixty points in Gameweek 21, with Big Steve overhauling a thirty-point gap over the three-gameweek spell. Ginger Ben climbed a place, but the gap between him and the Chancellor in fourth has grown from fifteen points to 34, with sixteen points-worth of hits failing to help Ginger Ben’s cause. The distance to top spot has grown eleven points for the Chancellor, though he has closed the gap to Go Cartin and Jockin’ Jeeves considerably. Go Cartin has kept up the pressure on Jockin’ Jeeves, closing the gap to second place from fifteen points to four, but it is something both men will be focusing little attention on. They entered the Frenzy fully expecting to take me down, yet Cartin’s eighteen-point deficit to my position has grown to 39 points, and Jeeves’s has extended by thirty-two points, the Frenzy ending with me thirty-five points clear from a starting advantage of just three points. It’s not necessarily something that eases the pressure, however, with both men perhaps feeling forced to Free Hit for Double Gameweek 22 in order to keep up. That notion in my head, which may not even be true, is something that will inform my own decision on what to do. Should I make the wrong move, both Cartin and Jeeves will fancy their chances of closing that gap very quickly.
The Man Who Would Be King
That, however, is something to worry about on deadline day. For now, I’ve earned the right to relax for a few hours. The Frenzy promised to be the most chaotic time of the season, and I entered it in decline, with my lead slashed to three points and my overall rank at 79,284. I end it with the second-biggest margin over my rivals of the season, ranked at 41,992 in the world and with every chip still to play. It was the biggest test of my credentials to date, and it’s one that I rose to. Now, I must continue to rise to the challenges ahead, to the blanks and doubles to come, including the immediate threat of Double Gameweek 22. My position is stronger at the Frenzy’s end, but my team is damaged; at time of writing, I have Salah and Son definitely out, McCarthy and Livramento highly likely to be out, with Broja and Dennis further doubts. I have only two players with two games, the doubtful Dennis being one and Rudiger – a defender who plays Manchester City – the other. Should I make just one free transfer, there is a strong chance I only have ten players in the Double Gameweek, for eleven matches. If it was a single gameweek, it was a chance I’d take, but with the potential for my closest rivals to field eleven players who play twice, it is a gamble that requires much more in-depth thought. Of course, I could Free Hit and they could take the gamble, which could see my advantage increase further, and that is a tantalising prospect. With the probability of two Blank Gameweeks to come and the outside chance of a Treble Gameweek, perhaps keeping my chip powder dry will be the shrewdest move. There is a lot to consider, and not much time to do so, adding further pressure to the situation. Outside of the conjecture, all we have are the facts, and the fact is the position I’m in is beyond all of my wildest dreams. I hoped to have a chance to end the FPL Nightmare trilogy in a fairytale manner. I now have that chance, and if I let it slip, it’s something that will haunt my dreams for years to come. It’s not the devil or I who is in charge; our fates are in the hands of the FPL Gods, in this season, perhaps, more than any other. All I can do is keep taking it one gameweek at a time, and hope that the path I am walking leads me to glory. Whatever happens, I’m giving it my best shot, and that’s all anyone can do.
That concludes our round-up of the Festive Frenzy, which saw Jockin’ Jeeves become the Gentlemen’s Classic champion, which saw managers have to adapt quickly to a fixture list in a constant state of flux, and which saw my Lords emerge stronger than we entered, with just a little bit of breathing room. It may not last long, with Double Gameweek 22 just around the corner. Ahead of another inevitable gameweek of drama, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods be in your favour.
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