We start with the battle between fifth and sixth, which has played out to almost a dead-heat. Big Steve took a four-point hit, bringing in Dunk and Jota for Rice and Pedro. While this transfer has not paid off just yet, Jota looks a much better option for DGW 35, especially with Pedro playing zero minutes against Liverpool, and Dunk has another match tonight. Big Steve also has Etheridge to play tonight, but will surely be rueing his decision not to start Dubravka, who has already returned six points more than his chosen goalkeeper. Big Steve currently stands on 1857 points, 33 off Who Horner in fourth with both having two players to play this evening. However, he looks to have secured fifth for another week, currently ahead of the Last Stand by 15 points.
The gameweek started in disaster for the Last Stand, who had taken a 12-point hit on Sunday night. Gambling early so as to avoid price fluctuations, the Last Stand traded out Pogba, Aubameyang, Lejeune and Azpilicueta, bringing in Son, Kane, Valery and Duffy. The Last Stand needed a big gameweek, and they went all-in on the Spurs strike-force who were at home to lowly Huddersfield. The problem was, they’d forgotten all about the midweek Champion’s League fixtures, and had to watch in horror as Kane picked up a season-ending injury. To make matters worse, new captain Son was then benched in GW 34. While he came on to provide an assist, the return of 8 points from two players – one a captain – was dwarfed by the 21 returned by Pogba and Aubameyang. With the 29 points they would have received without that hit, the Last Stand would be closing in on Who Horner in fourth. Now, they remain 15 points behind Big Steve, with only one player to play tonight. Unless Duffy scores a hat-trick, they will remain in sixth for another week. Rubbing salt in the wounds was Lacazette playing zero minutes last night, and first-sub Kolasinac watching from the bench as his colleagues returned their first away clean sheet of the season. The only good news was that their midfield returned for the first time in three weeks, with Son, Sterling and Mane netting three goals and an assist between them, but it’s going to be a big challenge to improve their position in the remaining four gameweeks.
Attempting to improve their position could yet end up being the Last Stand’s downfall, with a remarkable gameweek from Dan “The Ox” Oxley’s Oxymorons putting them right in contention for a top-half finish. The Ox has rarely been mentioned in these reviews, as he has simmered away in the bottom half. This week changed all that. His brave minimal-transfers policy paid off in stunning fashion, with his midfield trio of Pogba, Fraser and captain Mane returning 49 points between them. Remarkably, The Ox has made just one transfer in 19 gameweeks, backing his selections before wildcarding in GW 32. While this mean his team lacks value, he still has 8 players with a double gameweek to come, three Liverpool players against Cardiff and a Bench Boost to play. Should he transfer out Speroni, Rice, Van Aanholt or all three for just a four-point hit, The Ox will have a very strong team for DGW 35. At only 22 points behind the Last Stand and 37 points behind Big Steve, The Ox won’t yet have given up hope of a top-five finish, which would be a great achievement for a manager who, for all intents and purposes, looked to have given up the game mid-season.
In the race for third, Who Horner returned two points less than Flash, although both still have two players to play. Sticking with his no-hits policy, Who Horner only brought in Aguero for Kane, which should prove beneficial for the rest of the season if Aguero maintains fitness. A brave call from Who Horner has been going with a triple-Liverpool defensive axis in the wake of four gameweeks without a clean sheet, but it paid off big for him this week, with Alisson, Van Dijk and Robertson returning 25 points. A rare free-kick goal from Milivojevic kept the pressure on Flash, but this week will go down as a missed opportunity for Who Horner. Choosing to start Doherty ahead of Fraser backfired big-style – had he started the Bournemouth man, the White Warriors would be occupying the third position already. With 9 players in his squad having a DGW and three Liverpool lads against Cardiff, Who Horner will be hoping for a big double-gameweek. With no Bench Boost to play, there will be big selection and transfer decisions to be made, although he will surely play his Triple Captain chip on Aguero.
While Flash will be looking over his shoulder at Who Horner, his focus will be on attacking second place. BolyBogleBong slashed the gap on Jeeves’ Jugganauts by 20 points, and, while both have the same defenders playing tonight, Flash could cut that gap even further with a big performance from Murray, who the Jugganauts do not own. From his wildcard squad selection, Flash could only have improved his total by one point, had he started Jota instead of Jimenez. However, he must be looking at the points totals and wondering what might have been had he not been lured by the false promise of a double-Brighton defence. If he’d picked Moura over Eriksen and used the extra cash to secure Alexander-Arnold, he’d have an extra 23 points, and would be just 20 points off second, as opposed to only maintaining third by 20 points. Mind, it’s easy to say that after the fact. With a Bench Boost to play next week, Flash will need to take a -4 to upgrade Peltier, and will surely swap Vardy out to do so, perhaps bringing in Alexander-Arnold and Rashford, although he could take a chance on Ings or Llorente. Who he brings in could determine whether he catches Jeeves or, indeed, is caught by Horner.
In the race for the title, this gameweek could end up proving decisive. Both Jeeves and Dinga used their wildcard, and they ended up with nine identical players. For their game-changers, Jeeves went for Lloris, Foster, Laporte, Eriksen, Tielemans and Vardy, while Dinga opted for Ryan, Leno, Trippier, Moura, Ward-Prowse and Aubameyang. Jeeves felt confident at the start of the week, sure that Dinga’s pragmatism would see him picking a predictable squad, and that the extra squad value Jeeves had would lead to superior players providing the extra points he needed, most specifically his selection of Eriksen over Dinga’s cheaper option of Moura. Somewhere in the heavens, the FPL Gods could be heard roaring with laughter.
The gameweek began with disaster for Jeeves. Tielemans played his captain, Vardy, through for what seemed a certain goal for the in-form hitman, but Jeeves could only watch in horror as Vardy somehow scooped over the bar from 6 yards out. With 3 bonus points and 4 goal points gone begging for his captain, and 3 assist points and 2 bonus points lost for his midfielder, that meant what should have been an easy finish turned 32 points into just 5, after Tielemans’ booking and Newcastle’s winning goal. Dinga, with no horses in that race, now had 14 matches and a captaincy with which to overcome that initial 5-point deficit, whereas Jeeves had only 11 matches to try and close the gap. Still, Jeeves was feeling confident.
That self-belief increased when he started reading the Spurs team sheet. Lloris starts, Trippier doesn’t. While Son was only named as a substitute, his score was neutral, as he plays for both the Jugganauts and the Ringers. This is when it all turns around, Jeeves thought. I have the superior Eriksen, he’s going to run riot from set-pieces, and with Llorente’s head to aim for in the area. That rumble in the sky is just thunder, he thought. Jeeves then watched in horror as Moura scored not once, not twice, but thrice, while Eriksen could only return a solitary assist. When FPL is live, it’s never thunder, just the FPL Gods having a merry old time.
That being said, the day did not go completely according to plan for Dinga. He thought the FPL Gods were just laughing at Jeeves, and his uncharacteristically maverick captain choice of Duffy, with two home games, would return solid scores in both. Dinga couldn’t believe his eyes when the vidiprinter announced the final score in Duffy’s first match: Brighton 0, Bournemouth 5. Zero points for his captain. Dinga was typically conservative in his response, pointing out that a home game against Cardiff still offers the chance of a double-points Duffy haul, and that Saturday ended with him on 28 points with six to play, compared to Jeeves’ 24 points with 4 to play, three of which Dinga owned and one of whom Dinga had captained. Whatever happened the rest of the week, Dinga was likely to have the advantage, although he was refusing to rule out Laporte picking up a big total that would swing the gameweek in Jeeves’ favour.
We all know now that didn’t happen. Milivojevic’s free-kick meant Laporte returned only two points, as did Aguero, and Foster’s howler on Monday night led to Aubameyang netting the easiest six points of his season. What was the absolute killer for Jeeves, and the decision that could prove to be the one that costs him the title, was choosing to bench Sterling as he was sure he would be rested ahead of the Champion’s League in midweek. It wasn’t the wind causing the trees to sway on Sunday, it was the FPL Gods howling with laughter, as not only did Sterling start, he scored twice and was awarded two bonus points. An £11.5m player – over ten percent of the squad budget – added fourteen points to Dinga’s total, while fourteen points wasted away on Jeeves’ bench.
As it stands, Dinga has extended his lead at the top of the League of Gentlemen to a whopping fifty points with just four gameweeks remaining. That lead should extend further tonight, when Dinga has three players and a captain to play at home to Cardiff, while Jeeves only has two players, both owned by Dinga. Should Brighton keep a clean sheet and none of those players be carded, Dinga’s lead will be a minimum 62 points. Should Brighton keep a clean sheet and Duffy or Ryan pick up bonus points, or should Ryan save a penalty, or Duffy score or assist, Dinga’s lead could top 70 points at the end of the gameweek. Jeeves’ only hope is that Duffy and Ryan score own goals or get sent off, but even that may not be enough. What makes the situation even more favourable for Dinga is that, as he closes in on a third title in five years, he still has his Triple Captain card to play.
Transfers ahead of the double-gameweek will be crucial. Dinga’s squad already consists of 15 players with two matches, so all he needs is a tinker. He may even hold his transfer to allow himself two free transfers in GW 36, perhaps to bring in some Liverpool coverage ahead of a match against Huddersfield, which has to be a contender for the Triple Captain card. Jeeves, on the other hand, has two Leicester players with just one match, and history tells us he won’t enter a Bench Boost double-gameweek without every player having two games. To replace them both would cost four points, extending the gap to first to 54 points. The question is whether Jeeves will stop at just the one hit, or whether he will remove one of his Brighton defenders for a further hit. The Jeeves of old would do it without a second thought, but he can’t really afford to give Dinga further advantages, which could offer a reprieve for Vardy or Tielemans.
As for the Last Stand, we had a 12-point hit in mind, but the lesson of Pogba and Kane has shown us the folly of chasing glory too hard. The likelihood is we will replace Kane and Schlupp with Firmino and Laporte, though there is a temptation to take a chance on Mendy. Whether he would play both matches is debatable, which means the safe option of Laporte is more likely, but we shall wait until after the Champion’s League matches to decide. We know all too well the hilarity the FPL Gods find in early transfers and, with only four weeks remaining, we simply must get our transfers right.
Four weeks to go, a double-gameweek up next. The League of Gentlemen winner almost looks decided, with only second through seventh up for grabs. The momentum of the Jugganaut appears derailed, but Jeeves will keep on fighting. For the rest of us, it’s about securing as high a finish and points total as possible. There are sure to be many twists to come, and we’ll all take chances in an attempt to secure glory. The lesson of this week, from the rise of The Ox to the fall of the Last Stand, is that sometimes the greatest chance you can take is trusting the team you have.