Gameweek 9 saw the impossible happen: Andrew 'Wooden Spoon' Helling scored the most points in the League of Gentlemen. It also saw the inevitable happen, as Geord's Lords became one of the Also-Rans. In a low-scoring week, could anyone close the gap on Big Steve?
Well, it's finally happened. If we're honest with ourselves, it's been heading this way for a while. Too much scrabbling around, too many hits, too much faith in the wrong players; these things always end up the same way: with a mass of red arrows. Lured by the 20-point gain Big Steve made from a hit the week before, Geord's Lords took an eight-pointer, and we crossed our fingers. The problem was, when you've lost one of your crossing-fingers in a Baron mixer, you can't get quite the same purchase on the finger-crossing, which means the fingers of fortune don't have quite the same power. It was an almighty gamble and, safe to say, it did not pay off. Then the inevitable happened.
After just nine gameweeks, Geord's Lords have joined the Also-Rans.
Now, you'd expect this to lead to an almighty tantrum. Given my history of exploding over the minor perceived slights of the FPL Gods, you'd be sure this would lead to a rant of epic proportions. If you have followed this blog from the beginning, you would put good money on a spewing of venom towards the game of Biblical proportions coming from my pen. And you know what ... You'd be right.
This game is an absolute con. I'm not being funny, but I'm convinced elite-level Premier League players read it and conspire just to piss me off. How else can you explain Gabriel Jesus refusing to pass to de Bruyne when he's six yard out and has an open goal? What else could possibly justify a team that has eighteen wins on the bounce mysteriously becoming petrified of the worst Manchester United team in thirty years, who had just been played off the park by Newcastle? And not just any Newcastle - Steve Bruce's Newcastle! In what universe does an FPL Manager set up a three-team head-to-head league and find themselves in fourth? Fourth, in a three-team league! This game, this bastard game, this evil, hell-created, vicious, abusive, cheating, fixed, disgrace of a game needs to be closed down for good. I can't eat properly. I barely sleep nowadays. The university work is barely being looked at. The casual observer might suggest it's a consequence of a much busier, more hectic lifestyle that is now filled with joy, with love, with the sort of things I'd only ever dreamed of. But not us. We know the truth. It's all down to this ridiculous parody of football that has become the most unhealthy obsession of a life filled with unhealthy obsessions. That 'Delete Team' button looks more enticing every week.
That, however, would be far too easy. That would be the cop-out. That would be the actions of a coward, and I didn't survive the Duffy-Triple-Captaincy of 2019 to be called a coward. No, we're going to turn it around. We know what got us into this mess: too many hits, and too much backing of the wrong players. So now it's going to change. All we need is one great gameweek to kick-start the season. Just one.
It probably won't be gameweek 10 though. We've already taken another eight-pointer to bring in a Newcastle defender. Seriously, I just don't know what's going wrong. I just know that the man hottest on my tail is Mr. Perennial Last Place, Wooden Spoon Helling. Jesus wept. Well, no he didn't. He just didn't pass to bloody de Bruyne like he should've done.
In light of all that, let's take a look at how Gameweek 9 affected the League of Gentlemen, starting with the House of Lords, the Also-Rans.
The League of Gentlemen:
Welcome to my new home, let me show you around. In the basement, at the very foot of the place, we have Mikey P's Suicide Squad. What a week they've had. After taking a remarkable 40-point hit, they only managed to score 28 points, leaving them with the League of Gentlemen's record low score of -12 points for a gameweek. We'd say it'll never be beaten, but Mikey P is a fixer-upper, and he'll keep on renovating Suicide Squad until he's happy. 19 steps above them is the Rodallega Bombs, who didn't move into the place until the second week of the season, and as such have been working at a huge disadvantage. With only ten players available this week, their task became much harder, though they still secured an above-average 42 points. If their manager had showed up on time and hadn't moved out two weeks later, who knows where they'd be. Another sixteen steps takes you to the room of Farcselona. We'll be honest, we thought they'd abandoned their home too, but Metal Marc popped in for a surprise visit and played his triple captain - the first time we've seen him in six weeks. It gave a little benefit too, with captain Sterling trebling his points to 15. If only he'd played it on Grealish though, he would've seen a 13-point return trebled to 39. A great 61-point gameweek shows that it is not ability Metal Marc lacks, just dedication. Another two steps takes us to Walney Utd, who have their own cutlery set in their room. Their problem is it's all wooden spoons. Luckily for Helling, it was soup on the menu this week, with the mixed broth of Pickford, Azpilicueta, Alonso, Alli and captain Ings giving him, incredibly, the League of Gentlemen's highest score of the week, with 62 points and an overall GW rank of 37,019. Much more of this and his coveted last place will be out of his reach, especially given the efforts of the Suicide Squad to secure the foundations.
From there, we have to go up a 24-step flight of stairs, where you will find Geord's Lords residing in the Also-Rans penthouse suite. While we hope it's just a short-term residency, we have already paid an eight-point deposit for next weekend. We hope a treble transfer would give us the boost up the property ladder, especially after a low-scoring Saturday for most of the league left us with three Liverpool players and Aubameyang still to play. Our decision to replace Salah with Mane for a -4 seemed genius when the Egyptian failed to make the game, but given the Senegalese sharpshooter the armband did not work out at all. If it wasn't for Robertson's mis-hit cross somehow giving Lallana a tap-in, this could well have been a complete Nightmare of a weekend. As it is, it's only a 95% Nightmare. For us to get out of these digs will take a lot of hard work, but with the wholescale renovations now complete, we hope to move out of the Also-Rans penthouse in GW 11. We can only hope Gameweek 10 doesn't leave us even worse off in the meantime.
The fall continues for the Tiptoppers, who continue to plummet in the League of Gentlemen despite finally securing an Overall Ranking green arrow. With blanks from everyone bar their three Manchester City players, there appears a need for a squad renovation. Persistent faith in the awful Tottenham Hotspurs is letting Slick Rick down. He needs to see beyond his heart to the fact that, over the last 20 games or so, they are a mid-table team who cannot justify a quarter of a team's budget on three average players - especially when that team can only field ten men. Ten points ahead of the Lords in 17th, he can afford to take a hit or two in order to sort his team out, knowing the Lords start next week on -8. In 15th lies PKG FC, who have finally been promoted from the Also-Rans. Private Parvesh deserves so much credit for keeping his cool in the early weeks, during a run where many would have given up on the game. Returns from Lundstram, Robertson, Bernardo Silva and Wood take him eleven points clear of the Also-Rans, though he won't be feeling comfortable just yet.
A tough few weeks for Ginger Ben continued, as Cuthben87 were another team unable to field a full XI, and saw only two players offer returns. With £34.5m worth of talent not on the field, it was a desperately disappointing gameweek that culminated in another red arrow. It's one thing when your bench is filled with cheap players to make up the numbers and you start a man down, but when four guaranteed starters don't make the field, it's impossible not to curse the FPL Gods. What made it worse for Ginger Ben was one of the players he brought in for a hit, Kante, was one who let him down. Big decisions ahead for the newcomer, though he would expect both Salah and Aguero to start this weekend. One point ahead of him lies Jie on 436 points. The revival continues for the Kilmarnock Killer, who saw a green arrow despite being yet another without a full complement of players on the pitch, and seeing only two players offer returns. It was just that kind of gameweek. With injury and selection doubts surrounding six outfielders in Micky Quinnaj, everyone behind him will be looking to pile on the pressure this weekend.
Boom Xhakalaka and Cows Arse Shovel round off Lower Mid-Table. All-Star Vogt was unable to get 11 men on the field despite making three transfers for a four-point hit. He's been an advocate all season of maximising his starting XI at the expense of his bench, and it's starting to backfire on him. Had he taken the weekly advice to bring in Lundstram, he'd be just a point off Flash right now. Vogt, however, is a maverick, and will not bow to the peer pressure of common sense, electing instead to go with injury-prone and back-up defenders instead of a man who is first-choice and is playing attacking midfield. Had he brought in Lundstram in GW3, Boom Xhakalaka would be comfortably towards the top of the Chasing Pack right now, rather than scrambling for position. This week, the loss of 6 points from being Lundstramless was the major factor in him being adrift of Flash. That £1.7m in the bank would be far better spent upgrading Simpson to Lundstram and avoiding this situation happening again. Flash, meanwhile, has none of these troubles. Choosing GW9 as the time to deploy his wildcard, he cruised to an above-average score of 45 despite Aguero playing no minutes. Had he started Lundstram over Connolly, he would've made the half-century, though he'll be pleased to continue his rise up the table. Just one point off the Chasing Pack and with strong squad depth, Flash is making his move and gaining momentum. Look for him to continue to rise, although the selection of Connolly could well end up creating similar problems as the owners of Greenwood are facing right now.
The Chasing Pack.
A week of consolidation for the Dazzlers, who were rewarded for their decision to sign Digne with a clean sheet. Deadly Daz will be disappointed that his highest-scoring player was stuck on his bench, and you have to wonder if that predicament will lead to the end of Pukki in his forward line. The seven points lost from starting the Norwich man over Ake would have closed the gap on Madelaine Milan to two points, and those are the sort of frustrations that can lead to managers losing faith in players. The gap was closed, however, and Iceman Newton will be very nervous ahead of GW10, with both the Dazzlers and Cows Arse Shovel hunting him down like a bunch of Tories after a fox. The only thing that went right for the Iceman this week was his signing of Lundstram. Madelaine Milan will consider themselves unlucky in recent weeks, with a quality first-team on paper. The challenge for the Iceman will be keeping faith with his big players during these dry spells, though in the case of Kane and Felipe Anderson, there are strong arguments to replace them. Interestingly, if he had signed and captained Ings instead of Abraham, his team would be second right now, which goes to show just how tight it's getting in the top half.
The rest of the Chasing Pack - Birkett's Really, Dinga's Ringers and Oxsmorons - are separated by a mere two points and a transfer. Birkett lies in eighth, having watched the other two teams overtake him. His only returns were Ederson and an eleven-point haul from David Silva, yet he will be desperately disappointed to see Aarons pick up six points on his bench. Trying to get ahead of the game, Birkett brought in Zaha this week, only to see the Palace midfielder continue a woeful run of form. It's hard to know who has the biggest regret: the Palace chairman for declining a £60m offer for the temperamental winger, or Birkett for wasting a transfer and watching his rivals steal a march on him. Dinga's Ringers and Oxsmorons are separated, for the second week on the bounce, only by virtue of The Ox making less transfers. King Ding had two free transfers, yet will feel they have been wasted after seeing Soyuncu and Abraham pick up just two points each. Perhaps the truest sign of the defending champion's malaise is that he is reverting to FPL Twitter-template players rather than making his own mind up. One of the few that started Lundstram, he was rewarded with a clean sheet, supplemented by further returns from Digne, McNeil and captain Sterling. With Otamendi and Salah on the bench this week but due to return, we could see The King roll his transfer over, though he does have the funds to upgrade Greenwood to Ings. What will cause those ahead of him concern is that, despite struggling for both passion and focus, the King is a mere seven points off second and retains all of his chips. Even Big Steve will know that his 92-point lead may not be enough to fend off the King over the next 29 gameweeks, especially when the Ringers change the game with their wildcard. Ox's transfers paid off, with Hudson-Odoi bringing home nine points and, while Allison could not keep a clean sheet, The Ox will undoubtedly benefit from his inevitable price rise in the coming weeks. The big question mark for The Ox is how long he persists with Kane, though the injury to Zinchenko may give the floundering forward one last week to impress.
The Title Contenders.
In an incredible turn of events, only two points separate the entire field of Title Contenders. Despite scoring the most points of the four teams, The Juggernauts found themselves dropping two places to fifth, having taken an eight-point hit to replace Cantwell, Son and Pukki with Abraham, Mount and Maddison. Why a team in third is copying the transfer policy of the rapidly-dropping 17th-place Geord's Lords is unclear, and it's no surprise that Jeeves suffered a red arrow as a consequence. He will be raging that a £47.3m midfield could only conjure up one assist between them despite some plum fixtures, and it would be no surprise to see changes made next week. The gamble with doubling-up on a team's attackers is that, if they fail to score more than one goal, you need both your players to be involved in that goal to benefit. Jeeves has doubled-up on three teams, which is a very risky strategy, especially when VAR is ruling out more goals than it is awarding. The other worry for Jeeves is that he is employing the All-Star Vogt strategy of the cheapest bench possible, and hoping none of his starters miss out. With Kelly having missed three of the last five, it leaves the Juggernauts short of cover on the bench, and they have no money in the bank to fix it. One positive for the Juggernauts is that Vardy appears to have patched things up with his team-mates following last week's shocking revelations. While Rebekah Vardy was noticeably absent from the Player's Lounge post-match, the E gland striker was seen sharing a laugh and a blue WKD with a salmon-coloured blazer-wearing Hot Rod, before doing a karaoke version of 'Hero' by Enrique Inglesias while Hot Rod played piano. The tension may not have eased between Vardy and Jeeves though; after Vardy crooned the chorus while staring deep into his manager's eyes, Jeeves stormed out, while shouting that singing Enrique was worse than selling the stories to the Weekly Bullshitter. Still, a few more goals and there'll be no way for Jeeves to run or hide to escape Vardy's love.
Third and fourth are separated by only a transfer and, believe it or not, it is Who Horner who loses out on transfers made. The man who never takes a hit, outfoxed by the wily Masterchef, who has rolled-over a free transfer in most of his gameweeks. Only two returns for the White Warriors this week, and they saw their top-scoring player left on the bench. After GW7 they looked set to launch an assault on Big Steve, but just 50 points in two gameweeks has left them scrabbling to remain a Title Contender. Had either of the last two gameweeks been GW17 then, despite being fourth in the League of Gentlemen, the White Warriors would've failed to qualify for the cup, that's how bad they've been. How Who Horner uses his regulation single transfer this week will be very interesting indeed, because he needs to address the slide. Mikey P has already shown him how quickly someone can fall from second to bottom, although Who Horner will never be as reckless in the transfer market as the man who plays every week as if he has a Wildcard. Hugh G. Rection XI continue to climb the table, despite scoring only a point above the average score. They say the mark of a champion is making progress without performing well and, if that's the case, look for the Masterchef to continue to exceed expectations in their League of Gentlemen debut. Few managers have the street-smarts of the Masterchef, whose two-under-regulation transfer policy is proving to be genius, and could be critical come the season's end.
Last weekend was a true FPL Nightmare for Hitman Hodgson, but Does It Mata? Absolutely not. He followed his GW2 red arrow with five successive greens, and he bounced back from last week's red with another green to take him second in the table. Showing the value of a strong bench, the Hitman saw James come into the team once Salah was ruled out, and the Manchester United man responded with a pin-point assist. Further returns from Robertson and Azpilicueta took Does It Mata? to second in the League of Gentlemen, yet you can't help but think he'll be disappointed to be another manager not to own Lundstram. Easily the bargain signing of this year's game, had the Hitman owned him, he'd have about half a million more in the bank and an extra five points. While the reticence to sign a player owned by so many is understandable, given Pieters' diminishing returns, increasing fixture difficulty in the coming weeks and his extra cost, it would be a shrewd move to bring in Big Johnny L, even just as a defensive measure to ensure Does It Mata? aren't punished for not owning him. When you're second in the table, wiping out your rival's advantages can be just as important as finding the next form player. Given how tight it is between the Title Contenders, anything that makes your position more secure can only reap rewards.
The Man Who Would Be King.
No better is that point proven than by Big Steve, who saw Lundstram come off his bench to not only secure six points, but to ensure Dumb and Dummett extended their lead at the top over every single title contender. Each week, we look for a chink in the armour of the Butcher, and each week he proves that his attire is made out of adamantium. The big man always seems to find a way to come out stronger at the end of every gameweek. He upgraded Cantwell to Hudson-Odoi while everyone else went Mount, and has been rewarded with an extra 8 points in two weeks. While everyone went double-Liverpool defence and were frustrated week after week, he went double-Liverpool attack, sat back and watched the points roll in. When everyone lost their minds to get Sterling at the start, he went with Aguero and has gained an extra eight points. He plays Schar when he returns and benches him when Newcastle get thrashed. He's had three good returns from Jorginho, which is the most of any sub-£5.4m midfielder bar Cantwell, who Big Steve also had until he upgraded to Hudson-Odoi. He has taken one hit this season, and saw it pay off to the tune of 20 points. Big Steve is getting the big decisions right more than anybody else, leaving the rest of the field playing catch-up. Even this week, a quiet week by FPL standards, he's extended his lead over all his closest rivals, he's back up to fourteenth of all the Newcastle fans in the world, 520 in England, and his overall ranking saw another green arrow as he rose to 1,267 in the world, out of nearly seven million players. Each week, you think this will be the one where the wheels fall off. Each week, Big Steve proves he is the man to beat, and after a quarter of the season, nobody can touch him. Remarkable.
That concludes this week's round-up of the League of Gentlemen, a week that saw Wooden Spoon Helling somehow score the division's highest total, that saw Hitman Hodgson bounce back in style, that saw Geord's Lords finally drop into the Also-Rans and that saw Big Steve extend his lead at the top. Can anybody catch him? There's at least sixteen managers in this league that will say they can, and we're all going to enjoy the ride as they give their all to do so. We'll find out next week if anybody can close the gap. May all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green and, as ever, may the FPL Gods be in your favour.
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