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.
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.
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.
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.
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.