A few weeks ago, the defending champion told Jez Messing that he had lost his passion for the game. He claimed he found it boring, that it was no longer a challenge, and that he hoped for somebody else to win it this year to, perhaps, reignite his passion next season. There was even an unspoken hint of retirement, the King abdicating his throne as the only three-time winner of the League of Gentlemen. He even declined to make a transfer the following week, saying he didn’t even bother to look at the game.
It was all a trap. It seems the King was merely rejuvenating his forces, letting others win minor battles while he focused on winning the war. He didn’t have the best gameweek in the division, this much is true. He didn’t even have the best gameweek out of his closest rivals. What he has done, however, is silently sneaked his way up to fourth position. There are none who study history more than kings, and King Ding knows fine well that, at this stage last year, he occupied the same berth. He knows that, of those ahead of him, the Masterchef is unproven and may struggle to handle the pressure, and the Juggernauts can blow it all in a mad few weeks of hits. He knows he has a Wildcard in hand over both of those rivals, as well as a Triple Captain over the Masterchef. He also knows that Big Steve, the Man Who Would Be King, entered November in first place last season.
One year on, Big Steve is top, and King Ding is fourth. It’s all just a little bit of history repeating.
Big Steve will point to his eighty-point cushion over the King. Jeeves will argue that, this time last year, he was stranded in eighth, before going on a massive run after Christmas, and this year he is second. The Masterchef’s supporters argue that there is no burden of history weighing him down, that his fresh perspective on the game and his wily street-smarts give him an edge his more seasoned rivals lack. But the King is back, and Dinga’s bell is ringing for his opponents.
Aside from the Return of the King to title contention, it was an eventful week in the League of Gentlemen, so let’s see what else happened.
The final team of the Also-Rans remain Geord’s Lords, but there is great optimism this will be the final week of this being the case. With 131 points in two gameweeks since recalibrating their team, only the second-place Juggernauts have scored more. 37 points from four defensive players, coupled with 38 from four attackers, meant the sub-standard gameweek of David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Mason Mount merely supplemented an 83-point final score – the second-highest in the division. Indeed, had Mane been given the armband and Willems started over Mount, the Lords would have become the first team in the League of Gentlemen to enter the 2019-2020 One Hundred Club. While no positional advancement has been made, so much ground has been made up on points that the Lords are now just 25 points off the Chasing Pack. Fashionably late to the party, it’s likely too late to contend for the title now, but the Lords will keep fighting until the last.
Adding to Jie’s misery is the fact that two of the three teams above him also outscored him heavily. The team directly above him, PKG FC, scored the highest total in the League of Gentlemen this weekend, a whopping 85 points, aided in no small measure by captain Mane’s goal and assist in the dying moments, and Lord Lundstram’s incredible 21-point haul. Private Parvesh had a slow start to the season, but is now building momentum, and will be looking to gain further ground in the coming weeks. All Star Vogt was another beneficiary of Lundstram’s huge returns, having finally given in to peer pressure and secured his signature. After such a stunning week, it’s hard to see him leaving Boom Xhakalaka any time soon. Sixteen points from captain Aubameyang and twelve apiece from Abraham and Mane meant All Star Vogt finished with 79 points for the gameweek and, finally, started moving up the table again. With £0.7m in the bank, surely this is the week he upgrades one of his two non-playing substitute defenders. Even Simpson to Rico would give him so much more security in his squad. Vogt remains a maverick, however, and is more likely to replace the injured David Silva and keep riding his luck. Between those two teams in the table, Slick Rick had his own FPL Nightmare. With captain Kane not playing, vice-captain Sterling only scoring one point, Son’s assist being negated by a harsh red card and David Silva’s injury, the Tiptoppers scored only 32 points, the lowest in the division. Truly a week to forget, and with Son now facing a three-match ban, how he approaches the transfer market could end up defining his whole season.
The Chasing Pack.
Rounding off the Chasing Pack are Oxsmorons and Cows Arse Shovel. No attacking returns at all for Oxsmorons meant they dropped into seventh, though they were saved from falling further by clean sheets from Chilwell and Ake and Lundstram’s sensational weekend. With some tough fixtures next time out, The Ox will need a bit of guile in the transfer market and a bit of luck on the pitch. Despite a disappointing weekend, he remains only four points behind the Title Contenders with a greater transfer record, so he will be confident he can pull it out of the bag. A great run for Flash in recent weeks saw him end Saturday in fourth position. While Sunday’s games saw him slip back to sixth, it represents a remarkable comeback from the lower depths of the table he occupied just a few weeks ago. Only outside of the Title Contenders by virtue of transfers made, he will be looking to turn the screw on Birkett this weekend. Indeed, had Rico and Chilwell started ahead of Mount and Connolly, he would be in fourth spot right now. Had he done that and captained Mane, he’d be in third, only the third player to break the 600-point barrier, and we wouldn’t be discussing the Return of the King at all. The smallest decisions can have the biggest consequences in the League of Gentlemen.
The Title Contenders.
Both the Masterchef and Jeeves, however, will be unimpressed with the attention lavished on King Ding this week, arguing that they both outscored him and he was rewarded by the failures of the rest of the top ten, rather than his own skill. Whether they have a point is for the individual to decide, but what is irrefutable is that the Masterchef is proving just why he was tipped as the dark horse of the newcomers to the League of Gentlemen. With six players offering returns this week, including three double-figure hauls, Hugh G. Rection XI continue their ascent up the table. Injuries to Mount and David Silva will be a concern, especially with the benched Van Dijk facing Manchester City this week, but the Masterchef is building a reputation for transfers out of left-field and he will have something up his sleeve.
The Juggernauts remain in second, twenty-two points ahead, and it was another strong gameweek for Jeeves. With 363 points in six gameweeks and two 70-plus pointers on the bounce, the fabled Juggernaut momentum is reaching top speed, months ahead of schedule. Whether they can maintain this velocity or they end up derailed is the question, but with options on the bench to cover their two injury concerns and a strong first XI, they should be fine for the week ahead. Jeeves’ newfound composure in the transfer market makes predicting his moves for this week very difficult. The old Jeeves would have taken a minus-four this week, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the wily veteran hold his transfer this week, giving him the option of a three-transfer minus-four following the international break to prepare himself for the winter period. Despite his success in recent weeks, Jeeves will be furious that he allowed Hot Rod to talk him into playing the Chelsea duo of Mount and Tomori over Rico and Maddison, a decision that cost him 12 points. That mistake leaves Jeeves two good gameweeks, rather than one, from being able to overhaul Big Steve at the top. Had he started those two and captained Mane, the white Stormzy would be just 28 points from closing what was once a seemingly-impregnable lead.
The Man Who Would Be King.
Thus concludes this week’s round-up of the League of Gentlemen, one in which Johnny Lundstram exposed the folly of the madmen who still refuse to own him, one that saw King Ding return to title contention, and one where the Geord’s Lords, finally, started to give their fans a reason to be hopeful. Until next time, may all your transfers be successful, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.