Thrilling action in the League of Gentlemen, with one of the highest-scoring gameweeks of the season. With the title race intensifying and the second leg of the Gentlemen's Trophy Quarter Finals, everything was on the line.
With only seven weeks remaining in the season, Gameweek 32 was so important. Not only did it feature the second leg of the Gentlemen's Trophy Quarter Finals, King Ding was seeking to close the gap on Big Steve at the top for the fourth successive week. With several players closing in on their highest-ever overall rankings, even those out of the trophy picture still had plenty to play for.
The big winners this week were those with either of the two Saint Superstars, Danny Ings and Allan Saint-Maximin. Both players have been flying under the radar recently, with managers opting for bigger names in their place, but they rewarded their managers with massive double-figure returns, including a hat-trick of assists for the mercurial Newcastle winger. With such a low price, it seems inevitable his secret weapon qualities will be picked up by other managers. Indeed, it is no coincidence that every semi-finalist in the Gentlemen's Trophy holds 'Saint-Magicman' in his ranks. Ings is owned by half of the semi-finalists, and it's a good job Deadly Daz had him, with Helling's captaincy of the Ingstant Classic putting him on the verge of another remarkable upset. The other two semi-finalists opted for the Gabonese Goal Machine Aubameyang, and were rewarded with a massive 16-point haul.
In the end, it was the King's option of Bruno Fernandes that proved decisive in the title race. Big Steve took a hit to bring in Martial instead of the Portuguese Plunderer, hoping to extend his lead and regain some momentum. It backfired in spectacular fashion, with the 15 points of Bruno bashing the Butcher and cutting the gap at the top by a further ten points. With six weeks to go in the title race, the distinct aroma of 1996 pervades through the division, and it will take all of Big Steve's ability to cling on against the defending champion. Never before has a 22-point gap looked so small.
The Gentlemen's Trophy provided its usual drama, though there were no last-minute heroics required from the Lawes brothers this time out. Despite both entering Wednesday evening behind in their ties, Saint-Maximin steered them both into the lead, their rivals failing to predict his Bournemouth bonanza. For Lord Geord, his captaincy of Aubameyang meant he scored 47 points with just two players, meaning he could relax knowing that Jockin' Jeeves' only chance was Salah scoring seven goals. Deadly Daz had to wait a day for his captain to shine, but shine he did, with King Kev de Bruyne smashing in 28 points to wipe out any slim hope that remained of some Helling heroics. Big Steve was never under any threat from Jie, whose woeful first-leg performance left him needing a miracle. King Ding started the week in front of Big Time Birkett and never looked like relinquishing it, the League of Gentlemen's master front-runner sealing a comfortable victory in the end.
QUARTER FINAL, FINAL SCORES:
Jockin' Jeeves 138 - 174 Lord Geord
Deadly Daz 146 - 100 Wooden Spoon Helling
Big Time Birkett 121 - 157 King Ding
Jie 122 - 145 Big Steve
SEMI FINAL DRAW:
Deadly Daz vs The Butcher, Big Steve
Lord Geord vs King Ding
Two titanic clashes in the final four, with every team believing they can win it and having evidence to back it up. Big Steve has topped the table for several months, has a Free Hit and a Wildcard to play and holds the highest Overall Ranking the League of Gentlemen has ever seen. King Ding is the three-time league winner, the defending league champion and won June's Manager of the Month award, and also has a Free Hit to play. Deadly Daz is fifth in the table, closing in on third place and retains a Bench Boost which gives him fifteen players active whenever he deems fit. Lord Geord also has his Bench Boost to play and, since his Wildcard in Gameweek 27, has the highest accumulative score of everyone remaining in the competition. The next two gameweeks promise massive drama, as the two teams that make up the inaugural Gentlemen's Trophy Grand Final are determined.
With so much drama in title race and the Gentlemen's Trophy, the focus has shifted from the rest of the division. There are still many sub-plots and developments below the surface, with a lot of drama still to unfold. With that in mind, it's time to look in-depth at how fortunes changed in Gameweek 32.
The League of Gentlemen:
Just when it was looking like Mad Mikey P could rise off the bottom, he went and made seven transfers for a 24-point penalty and blew his opportunity. Like a junkie chasing the dragon searching to recapture that first successful hit, Mikey P's ever-increasing hits are doing nothing but ruin his chances of success. The sales of Bruno, Foden and Kane, in particular, did so much damage it's hard to see how he can recover. With 52 points needed to overtake Metal Marc, there remains a chance of avoiding the Wooden Spoon, but the likelihood is he'll continue to hamstring his potential. Tits Up Thompson remains third-bottom, likely too far ahead to be caught by Metal Marc, but too far behind to catch Wooden Spoon Helling. With his exit from the cup confirmed, Helling's season looks over too. The only question in The Also-Rans is whether Jie, 78 points ahead of Helling, can find the 35 points needed to end the season outside of the division's darkest depths.
It's Slick Rick who ends Gameweek 32 most at risk of being caught by Jie. From the highest score in Gameweek One to the verge of ignominy, it was defensive disasters that cost the Tiptoppers and left them on the brink. Just four points gained from five defensive players left them a mountain to climb, and even double-figure hauls from de Bruyne, Greenwood and captain Kane couldn't save their manager from slipping ever lower. Overtaking him by virtue of making fewer transfers is Who Horner, who scored 79 points despite two players scoring zero. Pope, de Bruyne, Aubameyang and captain Bruno were the main contributors to their excellent score, one which leaves them just seven points off Ginger Ben. Last week's high of becoming the only manager to enter the Hundred Club in a single gameweek could not be sustained, with the rookie managing just 56 points this time out and dropping a position as a result.
Overtaking him into thirteenth is Iceman Newton, whose 61 points ensure a four-point cushion against dropping back down. It was a fortuitous performance from the Iceman, who abandoned his team in Gameweek 24 and may not return next season. Leaving the armband on de Bruyne proved critical, given only Ings, Patricio and Tarkowski provided further returns. Nine points ahead in twelfth is The Ox, who scored 62 points following the use of his Wildcard. Patricio, Son, Ings and captain De Bruyne were the only players to return, cutting the gap to Flash but seeing the distance to the Chasing Pack grow ever further. For Flash, only Bruno, De Bruyne and his two Wolves defenders secured returns, with nine-point Pope benched for three-point Guaita. Placing the captaincy on Jimenez meant none of those returns were doubled, which meant a drop back to Lower Mid-Table after working so hard to escape.
The Chasing Pack
Knocking Flash back down was Private Parvesh, who used his Free Hit to devastating effect, securing his best single-gameweek score since Gameweek Fifteen. De Bruyne, Foden and captain Ings secured 52 points between them, with Doherty, Pulisic and Son enhancing the score to an excellent 79 points. Now he has made the Chasing Pack, his next target is finding the twelve points needed to overtake Big Time Birkett, who only managed 51 points this time out. Bruno's 15 points, supported by Patricio, Coady and Kane, ensured he just beat the FPL average score for the week, but with only Bench Boost remaining and no decent subs, Big Time has work on his hands to ensure a top ten finish. His hopes of catching All Star Vogt have drastically reduced following Boom Xhakalaka's massive 97-point week, the second-highest in the division. Captain de Bruyne's 28 points were supplemented by further double-figure hauls from Bruno, Ings and Saint-Maximin, with further returns from Pope, Doherty and Pogba. If Jez Messing's report last week was true and All Star Vogt has shut up shop for the season, his team looks in good condition to handle the run-in.
One man hoping to have seen the back of the All Star is the Masterchef, who dropped a place this week and is only five points away from dropping again. Double-figure returns from Bruno, de Bruyne and captain Aubameyang, supported by one from Almiron, left him with an excellent score of 79 for the gameweek, but when you're sandwiched between the two highest weekly scores in the division, even excellence looks mundane. All is not lost, however, as he remains just three points off Lord Geord and an achievable 34 points off the Title Contenders. It was another excellent week for Lord Geord, who saw double-figure hauls from Bruno, de Bruyne and Saint-Maximin enhanced by a 32-point bonanza from captain Aubameyang. Further returns from Pope and Boly left Geord's Lords with a massive 98 points, the division's highest score of the gameweek and one that obliterated Jockin' Jeeves in the cup. Since Lord Geord's Gameweek 27 Wildcard, nobody has scored more points in the League of Gentlemen, a run he hopes to further through activation of his Bench Boost in Gameweek 33. Whether this form is sustainable remains to be seen; if he can keep it up, the Title Contenders could yet be in reach.
The Title Contenders
The obstacle in his path is his little brother, Deadly Daz. After failing to activate his Bench Boost for the second leg of the Gentlemen's Trophy Round of Sixteen, the Dazzler kept up tradition by bringing in van Dijk for a four point hit, before selling him again for another four-pointer. Remarkably, the eight-point hit for Wan-Bissaka paid off, the Manchester United fullback scoring ten more points than the Liverpool defender. Further double-figure scores from Saint-Maximin, Ings, Bruno and captain Kev, supported by returns from Digne and Kane, gave Deadly Daz a gameweek score of 98 points, with only his hits stopping it being the joint-highest in the league. With luck on his side and a Bench Boost in his pocket, few would count against him going all the way in the cup, and with a 31-point cushion over Lord Geord he can focus fully on closing the ten point gap to Jockin' Jeeves. It's all gone wrong for the rap Rob Roy, who owned none of Saint-Maximin, Ings or Aubameyang. While de Bruyne and Bruno's double-figure hauls were supported by three defensive returns, the decision to put the captaincy on Jimenez meant his 56 points were no answer for Geord's Lords big-hitters. A promising cup run coming to a feeble end, a 42-point cushion over fifth becoming just 10 points and the gap to long-term rival King Ding extending to over a hundred points means, this week, the FPL Nightmare belongs to Jeeves.
Ahead of him is Hitman Hodgson, another who had an FPL Nightmare. While de Bruyne, Bruno and Doherty contributed 35 points between them, Allan Saint-Maximin outscored the rest of the Hitman's team combined. The only problem was the Hitman had left him on the bench, and had to watch as Williams came on for a meaningless substitute's appearance that prevented the Saint rising from the bench. A gameweek total of 49 was the lowest of every team in the league outside of the Also-Rans, minimising any hopes of catching King Ding in second and opening the door for Jeeves and Deadly Daz, fourteen points behind in fifth, to overtake him next time out. The Hitman retains his Triple Captain and Free Hit and is well on course for his highest Overall Ranking ever, so it remains a very good season with potential to get even better.
For King Ding, however, it could yet turn out his greatest season ever, one that will be remembered for years to come. Comfortably through to the semi-finals of the Gentlemen's Trophy and clawing back the Butcher in the league for the fourth week running, what once seemed impossible is starting to feel inevitable. Four double-figure scores, with three further returns, gave the King an 82-point gameweek and saw the gap to the summit shrink to just 22 points. The three-time champ is turning up the heat and Big Steve is starting to sweat. It could've been even better for the King, too, had he started Pope over Martinez and captained Bruno over Rashford. With those extra seventeen points, he would be just one midfield goal from overtaking the Butcher; few would bet against him doing so in the last six gameweeks.
The Man Who Would Be King
The one man who definitely would bet against the King is the one man that matters, Big Steve. The stumbles in recent weeks could've been a lot worse, and three defensive returns supplementing three double-figure attacking hauls gave him an excellent net gameweek score of 72 points. He took a hit this week, bringing in Martial and Saiss for Mings and Mahrez. While they did not score massive points, the three points gained from these transfers could yet end up being the three points that decide the league. With a semi-final berth ensuring maximum focus on the gameweek score, and with a Wildcard and Free Hit still to play, the Butcher could unleash an entirely new team next time out - one maximised to increase point potential during the run-in. Standing at 5,578 in the world, it would be a heart-breaking development if such a sensational season did not secure the title. It could all come down to how he uses his Wildcard.
That concludes the round-up of Gameweek 32, one which saw those with the Saints as the big winners, which saw the Lawes brothers smash their opponents in the Gentlemen's Trophy and which saw the King close the gap even further to Big Steve. With the semi-finals under way next time out and the Butcher's lead down to twenty-two points, Gameweek 33 promises to be the most can't-miss gameweek of the season. May all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green and, as ever, may the FPL Gods be in your favour.
"One of the most insightful works I've read on mental health problems in men ... It is very well-written and a real page-turner. I would recommend it to anyone.
Dancing With Disorder
"It communicates a deep understanding of troubled individuals who suffer from the challenges of mental disorders ... Courageous, wise, humorous and thought-provoking ... an easy-to-read, surprising and subtly moving chronicle.
The FPL Nightmare: How to Lose the World's Greatest Mini-League in 38 Simple Steps
The FPL Nightmare II:
The Crying, the Hits and the VAR Probe
The FPL Nightmare III:
The Lawes Rank Redemption
The Complete FPL Nightmare Trilogy:
The Epic Quest From A 4.8m Rank To A Top 0.1% Finish
on Kindle: £3.99
Follow Andrew Lawes on Social Media
All Lawes wants is to win The League of Gentlemen, yet the FPL Gods are bastards that conspire against him.
This column provides weekly updates of Lawes' dismal attempts to best his rivals.