A dramatic first midweek gameweek of the season, which saw the gap between the Title Contenders and the Chasing Pack become minimal, which saw Big Steve further cement his position at the top and which saw those who gambled on captaining Mane over Vardy get richly rewarded.
As the Premier League gave us its first midweek gameweek of the season, the League of Gentlemen was turned on its head. With 12 managers out of 21 captaining Vardy, it offered a great opportunity for those who gambled on their captaincy choice to make advances in the table. No-one reaped the rewards more than Private Parvesh, whose selection of Mane as the man to wear the armband gave him the gameweek's highest score, and saw him rise to the cusp of the Title Challengers. Another man who captained the Senegalese sensation was King Ding, a decision which saw the gap to second-place Jeeves slashed, with Masterchef and Birkett left trailing in his wake. At the other end of the table, the FPL Nightmare continued for The Ox, who gave us the gameweek's lowest score and is now on the brink of falling into the Also-Rans. With Ginger Ben's Wildcarded team giving him a second successive good gameweek, what was once a 50-point gap is now down to just nine points. It's going to take all of The Ox's experience to turn this situation around, especially with the misfiring Kane and Aubameyang up front.
With just one day between this gameweek ending and the next one beginning, there are some big choices ahead for the League of Gentlemen contenders. Some may choose to hold off on feeding their transfer addictions, knowing that they could have two free transfers in just a day. Others will see the influx of Vardy signings and captaincies and look to gain an edge. Many managers decided not to gamble on Abraham's injury, and were punished as he brought home 12 points. Two managers named him as last sub, a heartbreaking mistake and a fine example of why, if your big players are injured and you think they will miss the match, you should leave them in your starting XI and allow the auto-sub feature to work its magic. For those that replaced Abraham, the question is whether they bring him back, as he continues to manage his injury, or whether they go for another option such as Rashford, who has strapped Manchester United onto his back and is single-handedly trying to save their season. Chilwell's injury will cause concern for his many owners, as will the impending blank gameweek for Liverpool and West Ham, now just two weeks away.
The managers who get these big decisions right will be the ones who are successful in Gameweek Sixteen, but for now, let's look at Gameweek Fifteen in more detail, and see how fortunes changed in the League of Gentlemen.
The League of Gentlemen:
In the shock news of the week, Mikey P made zero (yes, zero) transfers! He reaped the rewards of finally showing consistency, with a great gameweek score of 61 points, greatly-enhanced by double-figures returns from Mane, Maddison, Rashford and captain Vardy, supplemented by an assist from Aurier. It's still a long way back for the Suicide Squad, but if Mikey P can exercise restraint in the transfer market, then Wooden Spoon Helling may still achieve his dream of finishing bottom. To do so, he'll have to undercut Metal Marc, who dropped to 20th following a 23-point gameweek, but nothing is beyond Helling in the race for the Wooden Spoon.
Tits-Up Thompson and Ginger Ben remain in 18th and 17th positions respectively. Rodallega Bombs saw Wooden Spoon Helling close the gap on them too, as their unique long-term captaincy of Ings continues to pay dividends. Ginger Ben, on the other hand, has a gap of 57 points on the rest of the Also-Rans, and it almost seems unfair that he's classified in the same category as three dead teams and a suicidal wheeler-dealer. As the season unfolds, it is turning out that seventeenth is the real last place, and the one every manager is desperate to avoid. Cuthben87 were criticised for bringing Dendoncker in on the Wildcard last week, but he repaid their faith with a stunning 11 points. Further returns from Schmeichel, Vardy and Mane saw the gap to Lower Mid-Table closed by 31 points, yet it is a case of what might have been, as the captaincy of de Bruyne backfired horribly. Had Mane been given the armband, Ginger Ben would no longer be an Also-Ran. Given his form in comparison to The Ox, there's every chance that, come Monday evening he will finally rise out of the bottom segment.
The FPL Nightmare continues for both Oxsmorons and Tiptoppers, whose recent form has seen both teams slip right out of contention. What makes the situation even worse for the Tiptoppers is that their only remaining chip is the Bench Boost, so they only have Slick Rick’s tactical acumen to fall back on. The Ox, meanwhile, retains all of his chips bar his Wildcard, but how he must wish he had that available. The definition of an FPL Nightmare week, The Ox saw his charges produce zero returns for the gameweek. With Chilwell and Van Aanholt nursing injuries and Stearman not being selected, Oxsmorons face the prospect of entering Gameweek Sixteen with only two defenders. That situation may ensure the likes of Hudson-Odoi, Kane and Perez get an extended stay in the team, but if any man could justify taking a hit right now, it’s The Ox. He needs to somehow stay within eight points of Ginger Ben to remain out of the Also-Rans and, as it stands, that looks unlikely. However, he could yet climb in the table, as he is only eleven points off Slick Rick and just sixteen off Jie. Fortune favours the brave, and it remains to be seen how brave The Ox will be. Slick Rick had a slightly better week, with Kelly and Alli both getting returns. The question for Slick Rick is just how long he persists with the disappointing Kane as captain. With only two goals in seven matches, the England captain is letting down his owners. For a team with three Spurs attackers, he seems by far the most saleable, especially with so many superior, cheaper, more in-form options available.
Jie saw Micky Quinnaj rise in the table following a 43-point week, and his aim for the weekend will be to close the gap on Who Horner, 36 points above him in the table. Returns from Ings, Vardy, Soyuncu and Mount led to a much-needed green arrow, and it could have been even better had Saiss started over Lundstram. His big concern will be the form of Sterling, with fifteen points in five gameweeks simply unacceptable for a £12m player, especially when his team-mate, Silva, is outscoring him and is over £4m cheaper. Jie will be hoping Sterling’s explosiveness returns this weekend, but with a tough run of fixtures ahead, it will be a real challenge. Who Horner made no changes this week, and paid the price with another red arrow. Returns from Soyuncu, Mount, captain Vardy and fifteen-point Mane limited the damage, but White Warriors need to make effective use of their two free transfers in order to get their season back on track. James and Kane look the obvious choices to be replaced, especially as removing both would give £17.5m for Who Horner to secure a quality pair of attacking replacements. David Silva and one of Rashford and Abraham, for example, would give Who Horner a much stronger attack, at least on paper.
The joint-highest scorers outside of the top ten were Hitman Hodgson and Lord Geord, who both scored 56 points but incurred a four-point penalty to do so. Does It Mata secured double-figure returns from Mane, Rashford and captain Vardy, and were further boosted by a clean sheet for Willems. With some favourable fixtures this weekend, the Hitman will look to get another green arrow on the board, though Rashford faces a troublesome local derby. A lot will depend on the strategic gamble taken on Zaha, who has nailed some big returns in FPL years gone by, but has struggled to maintain any sort of form this time out. With a generous run of fixtures ahead of him, this is a great opportunity for the Palace attacker to build up some steam. Lord Geord was brought crashing back to earth after the high of November’s Manager of the Month award, with Private Parvesh’s stunning gameweek meaning Geord’s Lords slip back into Lower Mid-Table. Returns from Alexander-Arnold, Mane, Alli, Maddison and captain Vardy were not enough to prevent a drop of one place in the table, and the challenge is on for them to regain momentum this weekend. Now twelve points off the Chasing Pack, they will start the weekend twenty points behind Deadly Daz, having made three early transfers at a cost of eight points. Sometimes these gambles pay off, but Lord Geord will need to get his selection and captaincy spot-on to hold off the challenge of the Hitman and get back in the green arrows.
The Chasing Pack
A disappointing week for four of the five teams in the Chasing Pack, with Private Parvesh’s huge score meaning every team dropped places, with the exception of All-Star Vogt who remains in eighth. Deadly Daz finished the gameweek in tenth and, while he will be happy to end the first of six December gameweeks ahead of his brother, he will be disappointed that a good score did not see a rise in the table. Returns from Alexander-Arnold, Maddison, Mane, Rashford and captain Vardy led to a sixty-point total, a score which was achieved with only ten men, following injuries to Martial, Chilwell, Heise and the non-selection of Guendozi. With Martial and Chilwell touch-and-go for Gameweek Sixteen, there are big decisions to be made over whether to gamble on their fitness or enter the market. Despite being tenth, the Dazzlers are only sixteen points off the Title Contenders; with the right decisions, this weekend could end up glorious for them. The same is true for every team in the Chasing Pack, with the gap to the Title Contenders the smallest it has been for some weeks.
Iceman Newton will be looking to build on a solid 56 points, obtained through returns from Patricio, Kelly, Maddison, Mount, Alli and captain Vardy. The worry for him is that, with two non-playing substitutes and the third, Wan-Bissaka, facing Manchester City, he does not have much flexibility in his squad. With all of his starting XI having advantageous opponents this weekend, however, he may not feel the need to make any transfers, or he may look to focus on strengthening the reserves for the challenges ahead. The same could be said about All-Star Vogt, who saw Kelly, Alli, Mane, Ings and captain Vardy consolidate eighth position with a sixty-point gameweek. The obvious problem for Boom Xhakalaka is that, in van Dijk, they have a player guaranteed to miss out in two weeks and who, despite a huge return last week, has been very underwhelming this season. With no defenders on the bench who are first-choice, Vogt will need to address this situation one way or the other. Given his disdain for spending money on substitute options, we could see the Dutch Darren Peacock removed from Boom Xhakalaka very soon. Only six points off the Title Contenders, All-Star Vogt will have designs on a three-place rise this weekend.
His problem will be that both Flash and Private Parvesh have the same idea, and they are even closer to achieving it. Both on 805 points, PKG FC hold the advantage by virtue of making two transfers less. Cows Arse Shovel were saved by their substitutes this week, with Dendoncker and Aurier coming into the team and bringing sixteen points with them – a lesson All-Star Vogt should consider when pondering the value of having non-playing subs and keeping £2.5m in the bank. It could have been even better for Flash, had Mousset not been called off the bench for the final half-hour last night. Flash watched in horror as Chris Wilder summoned the striker off the bench, knowing that, in doing so, the Sheffield United manager had prevented twelve-point Abraham coming in, leaving Cows Arse Shovel eleven points worse off. Had Mousset not entered the fray, Flash would be in fifth-place right now. True FPL Nightmare stuff. It is unlikely Flash will make the same mistake twice, and he will be hoping the Chelsea man can fire him into the Title Contenders this weekend. To do so, he will need to get past Private Parvesh, who saw Patricio, Soyuncu, Vardy, Ings and Bernardo Silva get returns, as well as double-figure hauls from Maddison and captain Mane, who brought home thirty points. After a very difficult start to the season, the Private has made massive inroads though effective transfers and tactical acumen. He will be hoping the green arrows continue but, with every member of the Chasing Pack within touching distance of the Title Contenders, the competition this weekend will be tougher than ever.
The Title Contenders
Looking to fend them all off is Big-Time Birkett, who was dead-level with King Ding two gameweeks ago, but now finds himself 24 points off the third-placed defending champion. In normal circumstances, a 49-point gameweek would be solid enough, and can lead to green arrows over a quiet weekend. However, FPL has come alive since the last international break, and Big-Time Birkett has yet to reap any rewards. A wily veteran and former top-three finisher in the League of Gentlemen, Big-Time will need to call upon all of his experience to emerge from this mini-slump. His first port of call should be to replace Yarmolenko, who has just one return in eight weeks, and has scored one point or less in six of the other seven. He will be unavailable in Gameweek Eighteen, and the bullet needs to be bitten as soon as possible. The best way to replace him would be by taking a hit, and Firmino looks a great candidate to be the second man sold. His early-season form has faded away, and he is another player – of a total of four owned by Really – who misses Gameweek Eighteen. With Rashford, Mousset and Abraham all cheaper and in much better form, selling Firmino would enable the relatively cheap Yarmolenko to be upgraded significantly, while ensuring a full eleven to be selected in Gameweek Eighteen. Van Dijk is another who could be sold, but it is easier to strengthen the squad with the funds provided from a sale of Firmino. Taking a hit would leave him nineteen points off the Masterchef in fourth, while meaning he starts the gameweek just a point ahead of Private Parvesh and Flash, but it’s a gamble that could lead to big gains for Big-Time Birkett.
The Masterchef drops a place this week, after being outscored by King Ding to the tune of thirteen points. Another who suffered the FPL Nightmare of having Abraham third-sub, the Masterchef at least had the consolation of captain Chilwell missing out, meaning vice-captain Maddison’s total doubled to twenty points, while five-point Aurier came off the bench. Further returns from Patricio, Mount and differential selection Maupay secured a good total of 59 points, but the Abraham situation was a real kick-in-the-teeth. Masterchef is becoming renowned for his patience with players, but even he must be wondering how much longer Kane can spearhead the Hugh G. Rection XI frontline. If he clicks this weekend, however, it could be the spur needed to regain third place and close the 45-point gap to Jeeves in second. Despite a great 72-point week for the Ringer’s, King Ding must be getting close to playing his Wildcard. His total score is impressive, but was achieved through only four players getting returns. The form of Rashford, Ings and Mane has been crucial to his rise up the table, with Soyuncu playing a great supporting role, but the likes of Digne, Greenwood, McNeil, Perez, Cantwell and even Sterling are offering little returns for their outlay. While Sterling retains the potential to ignite again, both De Bruyne and David Silva offer cheaper, more consistent avenues into the Manchester City attack, and would enable the rest of the squad to be considerably stronger. 72 points is great, but it only shaved seven points off Big Steve’s lead at the top, and the King needs to find another 93 in order to become the first man to ever defend the League of Gentlemen title. It seems a lot, but you wouldn’t bet against him finding a way to do it.
In second place is Jeeves, who is in the strange position of not really being pushed by those behind him, yet not really pushing on himself with his title challenge. He did outscore Big Steve this week, but only by two points, and he needs to come up with something in order to make bigger inroads. Jeeves will talk about focusing only on his own team, and that working for the best overall ranking is what leads to success in the League of Gentlemen, yet his title challenge faltered last season because he refused to gamble on changing his team, leaving him entering the final weeks with virtually the same squad as the man he was, inevitably, unsuccessful in chasing down. Jeeves is currently on for his highest-ever overall ranking, but he shares four of the same big-name attackers as the team ahead of him, and two of the same defenders. He is relying on Tielemans, Maddison, Son and Connolly to provide enough of a difference to Moutinho, Pulisic, Jimenez and Saint-Maximin to claw back the Butcher, which places a lot of pressure on captaincy choices. Over the last three weeks, these differential players have all produced a combined total of 56 points, meaning the difference is negligible, and dependent upon getting selection decisions perfect. There are still 23 gameweeks to go, and beating Big Steve by an average of five points a fortnight will mean Jeeves pips him at the death, so there is no cause for crisis. As the weeks go by, however, the margin for error becomes ever smaller, and you have to wonder if and when Jeeves will start to prioritise his title challenge over his overall ranking. Returns from Alexander-Arnold, Kelly, Mane, Maddison, Rashford and captain Vardy gave the Juggernauts a gameweek total of 67 points, but Jeeves will be hoping for much more this weekend.
The Man Who Would Be King
Another week without any real pressure being applied to Dumb and Dummett, who saw Alexander-Arnold, Willems, Moutinho, Mane, Rashford and captain Vardy get the returns that led to a 65-point total. It was a great result for the Butcher, who also saw his overall ranking rise to a sensational 5,380 out of 7.2m, but it could have been so, so much better. If Rico had started over Lundstram and Saint-Maximin over Pulisic, and had Mane been named captain, Dumb and Dummett would have scored ninety points this gameweek. That total would have put Big Steve inside the top 1,000 overall, and just 27 points off the top 100. It just goes to show what a remarkable season Big Steve is having and, having shown no signs of falling away like in previous seasons, he is looking likely to go on to break every League of Gentlemen record going. It’s going to take something special to catch Dumb and Dummett now and, if they emerge from December in the same position, they will be almost unassailable.
Thus concludes a dramatic first midweek gameweek of the season, one which saw Private Parvesh fly up the table, which saw the gap between the Title Contenders and the Chasing Pack become minimal, which saw Big Steve further cement his position at the top and which saw those who veered from the safe captaincy choice get richly rewarded. With the new gameweek beginning just 37 hours after Gameweek Fifteen finished, the pressure is on managers to react quickly, and apply the lessons learned. May all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green and, as ever, may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.
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