With Salah running rampage for the second week running, choosing another captain was not an option. Could this be the week Mikey P climbed off the bottom? And how would the top of the table be affected?
With the Premier League introducing a winter break for the first time, Gameweek 25 assumed even more significance. In FPL, when you have a bad gameweek, you want to get right back at it and start picking up points; with Gameweek 26 not finishing until February 17th, those who performed poorly would have fifteen days to dwell on their poor scores. Conversely, those who were successful would be able to bask in their glory, knowing the pressure was off, even if only for a short while. In Gameweek 25, there was one clear key to success: captaining Mo Salah. With a second-successive 16-point gameweek, failure to captain him would gift a massive advantage to those who did.
In what might be a first in League of Gentlemen history, every active manager who owned Salah gave him the armband, leaving those unlucky few without him needing to make up 32 points just to match one player’s score. One or two were able to redeem the situation. Most, however, suffered an FPL Nightmare as a result. The problem facing those managers now is, with Liverpool having a dream run of fixtures, how they work their transfers to get Salah into their team - especially as he is comfortably the most expensive player in the game. Without money in the bank, those managers will be forced to either Wildcard, take a hit or go without Salah, a situation that will surely only lead to disaster.
You'd think, with so many managers captaining Magic Mo, it would limit the amount of movement in the table. Yet, strangely, we saw one of the most volatile league tables of the year. With so many FPL favourites underperforming, it meant those players that produced plundered plentiful points, procuring prime positional power per player. Indeed, we even saw movement in the Also-Rans, which had been in a state of stasis for many weeks. While the top six remained steady, there were seven positional changes among the Chasing Pack and Lower Mid-Table, and those managers who dropped in rank now face a tricky challenge to get back on track, especially with Gameweek 26 taking place over the course of ten days.
The winter break promises to make Gameweek 26 one of the most unique in all of FPL. Unlike the double-gameweeks, where you can be relatively sure your players will play at least one fixture, this week you have to select players knowing they may not start until ten days later. A lot can happen in ten days. An injured player could regain fitness, knocking your man out of the starting XI. A regular starter could get injured in training on day eight, resulting in a key player not playing and you having no avenue to replace him. Those players that play in the later fixtures may come in fresh, ready to bag some serious points. They may, however, come in rusty, half-a-yard off the pace, against fresh opponents, and may underperform as a result. They could contract coronavirus, or even just have one too many Coronas on holiday. Managers have big decisions to make over whether to select players who feature in the first weekend, or whether to prioritise those who star in the second. These decisions could be truly season-altering, especially for those teams in tight positional battles.
While this means there will be no round-up next week, breaking up the monotony will be the live draw of the Gentlemen's Trophy. The head-to-head two-legged knockout cup between teams in the League of Gentlemen promises to add excitement to the remaining gameweeks, meaning every team has something still to play for. With the second leg of the first round taking place in Gameweek 28, where several teams have no fixture, every manager will be hoping their team gets one of the eleven byes to Round Two. For the unlucky ten who have to play Round One, it's just a further complication to an already testing run of gameweeks.
With all that in mind, let us look in closer detail at the fallout from Gameweek 25; who had a weekend to savour, and who had one to forget.
The League of Gentlemen:
Hard work and persistence, along with a more restrained transfer policy, finally paid off for Suicide Squad this week. Captain Salah was the hero, backed up by Henderson, van Dijk and Alexander-Arnold, as Mikey P managed to fashion 70 points from a tight gameweek. While it was reduced to 58 after transfer hits, it was enough to take him off the bottom spot and consign Farcselona to the foot of the table. With Metal Marc having left the building long ago, Mikey P can safely focus on overtaking Rodallega Bombs as his next goal.
In sixteenth, Ginger Ben was able to hold off Wooden Spoon Helling who, despite not captaining Salah, was able to make up the difference through the eighteen points of Snodgrass. Cuthben87 won't be too focused on Walney Utd, however; their 64 points has decimated the gap to Lower Mid-Table. Once almost 70 points off, they are now just three away and, had they started Baldock over Lundstram, they would be out of the Also-Rans right now. Though their ascension is delayed, it is surely just a matter of time before they start climbing the table again.
With Cuthben87 hot on their heels, the White Warriors needed a big gameweek. Alas, they were one of the few teams not to own Salah, and without him or teammate Firmino, they found points hard to come by. Their three strikers let them down, including captain Aguero, and although their goalkeeper and three defenders each scored six points, a solitary attacking return from Son was not good enough to overcome their non-Liverpool deficit. With only one free transfer and a staunch no-hits policy, sacrificing de Bruyne is their only way to get Salah; should Who Horner opt against such a move, his days in Lower Mid-Table could be numbered. Others under threat are Jie, just nineteen points clear of the Also-Rans, and Iceman Newton, who has a 32-point cushion but is seeing his season melt away to nothing. Jie's triple-Liverpool defence paid off with three clean sheets, including one for captain Alexander-Arnold, but in denying himself the option of Salah, he has seen his season fall apart. The Iceman saw four players get returns, but his failure to register transfer paperwork in time meant Mane was on his bench, as opposed to Salah being in his starting XI. Talk among the Madelaine Milan dressing-room is that the Iceman has lost interest; he'll need to re-find focus immediately if he wants to save his season.
Replacing him in thirteenth are the Tiptoppers, who will be hoping the Iceman's indifference means they can focus on those teams ahead of them. No Salah meant this gameweek would be a challenge, but five returns - including ten-point Henderson in goals and sixteen points from captain Son - saw them pull eleven points clear of fourteenth. Their next challenge is to overtake Geord's Lords, who they beat by five points this week. The Lords entered the gameweek on a high, having finally broken back into the Chasing Pack, but suffered a disastrous gameweek with only two players getting returns. The only thing stopping it being a true FPL Nightmare was their captaincy of Salah, but it has been two months to forget since winning November's Manager of the Month took them to sixth. A succession of poor transfer decisions has seen them slide down the table, none more so than removing Jimenez and Pope a few weeks ago for the Brighton duo of Ryan and Maupay. The gamble on Almiron failed to pay off, with the Newcastle man contriving to head wide from four yards with an open goal at his mercy. Overtaken by two teams, they need a strong gameweek in the winter break to regain momentum. The Ox moves into eleventh, only a point ahead, thanks to one additional return from Allison. The fight between these two teams to enter the Chasing Pack promises to be one of the stories of Gameweek 26, and it's Oxsmorons who have the momentum.
The Chasing Pack
One of the most intriguing stories in the League of Gentlemen is the inability of teams coming up from Lower Mid-Table to hold onto their place in the Chasing Pack. With several teams fighting for position, none of them can gain a solid foothold and, rather than continue to climb the table, they tend to slip back into Lower Mid-Table, as the Lords did this week. It was Cows Arse Shovel who took their spot, courtesy of a 64-point week provided through returns from Henderson, Robertson, Alexander-Arnold and captain Salah. Impressively, they achieved this while only having ten players, after four of their outfielders failed to play any minutes. They will be pleased to have reached tenth position, but with four non-playing outfielders and only a seven-point gap, they remain vulnerable to slipping back down over the winter break. Also at risk are PKG FC, just eleven points ahead of Oxsmorons and twelve ahead of Geord's Lords. Another who failed to get paperwork finalised to remove Mane, they now have two free transfers, which they need to afford Salah as they have no money in the bank. While Private Parvesh and Flash occupy ninth and tenth, with just twelve points separating them from twelfth position, there is a chance both teams could find themselves in Lower Mid-Table after Gameweek 26.
While the teams around him change places on a weekly basis, All-Star Vogt has made eighth position his own, steadfastly refusing to rise or fall. His team had somewhat of a nightmare this week, with only captain Salah and Aurier getting returns, while also seeing thirteen-point Jordan Henderson waste away on his bench. After bringing him in with spectacular results last weekend, it's mystifying as to why he failed to make the Boom Xhakalaka starting XI this week; his benching proved the reason why Big-Time Birkett rose two places to seventh with a 67-pointer. Even more impressively, Really achieved this without Salah in their team, though 22-point captain Firmino minimised the damage. 28 points from his defensive four, plus six points from Moura enabled Big-Time Birkett's rise, though the fourteen points of Norwood and Aarons on his bench will eat away at him. With a sizeable 36-point gap to Hitman Hodgson in sixth, Big-Time Birkett can ill-afford to make similar errors in judgement, nor can those teams behind him. The Hitman achieved his 70-point week with just four players returning and despite a minus-two from Ogbonna; double-figure returns from Henderson and Firmino, a clean sheet from Robertson and Salah's swashbuckling scoring proving vital. With a very comfortable lead over the rest of the Chasing Pack, the Hitman's focus is solely on finding the four points required to join the Title Contenders. Inspired by the birth of his new son this week, there would be no finer icing on the cake than a glorious Gameweek 26, one where he has two weeks to focus on his family without needing to think about FPL, and which has every chance of a rise in the ranks.
The Title Contenders
The fight for fourth spot gets closer every week, and Gameweek 25 saw the Dazzlers turn up the intensity on Hugh G. Rection XI even more. While an eight-point hit meant they were unable to overcome the twelve-point gap, the Masterchef's lead has been cut to just seven points. The Dazzlers only had returns from two players, with Lascelles being the man to support captain Salah in the point-scoring. Chances taken on Bruno and Richarlison didn't come off, though Deadly Daz will be more confident with Calvert-Lewin in his starting line-up than Joelinton, especially after the Brazilian succumbed to injury in midweek. Frustratingly for the Dazzlers, had Fernandez started over Lundstram, the extra eight points would've taken them into fourth. His frustration is the Masterchef's elation, with Hugh G. Rection retaining fourth despite not owning Salah. With no attacking returns at all, it fell to Masterchef's defence to bail him out, and they did that with 33 points from four players. While it would've been 38 from five had Aurier started over Lundstram, though leaving a defender on the bench when they play Manchester City is understandable. The gap to third has been extended to 35 points, but this was a week of survival for the Masterchef, and he did just enough to hang on. A better week is needed in Gameweek 26, however, with both Deadly Daz and the Hitman within eleven points of overtaking him.
While the Juggernauts pulled up the drawbridge a little further on the teams behind them, Jeeves will be furious with himself for taking an eight-point hit. With none of his new signings getting returns, he ended with a five-point loss on where he'd be without any transfers; adding to the frustrations were only Henderson, Alexander-Arnold and captain Salah getting returns, leaving the Juggernauts with a net gameweek score of 57 points. The gains made over the Masterchef will mean little in comparison to the ground lost over King Ding and Butcher Steve, who pulled nine and eleven points further away respectively. Now 41 points behind the King in second, and a massive 90 points behind the Butcher at the top, it's looking increasingly like the title will prove out of reach for the Juggernauts. With only thirteen gameweeks remaining, they need to pull something special out of the back, and Jeeves' strategy has proved just too template so far to achieve such a goal, and even an overall ranking rise of 29 places will do little to relieve the frustration.
The King has taken more chances than his most historic rival, gambles that have seen him win back-to-back Manager of the Month awards and decimate the Butcher's lead at the top, while establishing himself as the only real contender to the title. His success continued this week, with Firmino, Lascelles, Alexander-Arnold and captain Salah combining for a 66-point week. While he did lose two points on the league leader, his new signings Fleck and Salah proved very astute, bringing in 34 points between them. With only six players in his fifteen-man squad the same as the Butcher's, there are plenty of differentials to make up the 49-point gap to the top; the key factors in the run-in will prove to be captaincy selections and how each manager copes with the blank and double-gameweeks. The King is the division's only three-time champion; with such experience, it would take a brave man to bet against him becoming the first manager to ever win back-to-back League of Gentlemen trophies.
The Man Who Would Be King
Despite moving two points further ahead at the top, despite rising to 7,668 out of 7.4m in the overall rankings, despite new signing Salah firing in 32 points, there is an element of an FPL Nightmare for Big Steve this week. Had Dumb and Dummett lined up with Chilwell instead of Lundstram or Kabasele in defence, and Snodgrass instead of Calvert-Lewin in attack, they would be a massive 22 points better off. That 22 points would've put the Butcher just twenty points off the top-1k in the overall rankings and, most importantly, 71 points clear at the top of the League of Gentlemen, a lead that would surely be insurmountable. Nevertheless, it has been a successful week for the Butcher, and the 25 points on his bench serve to remind King Ding that, while his comeback has been impressive, he still has a long, long way to reach the summit. The way Big Steve has led from the front has been remarkable; with just thirteen weeks to go, Dumb and Dummett could be just a four or five strong gameweeks from cementing their first League of Gentlemen title. What a season they are having.
That concludes our round-up of Gameweek 25 of the League of Gentlemen, one that saw Big Steve further cement himself at the top, which saw Hitman Hodgson leave the rest of the Chasing Pack behind, and one that saw Mikey P, after months of trying, finally escape the wooden spoon position. As we enter the winter break gameweek, may all your transfers be successful, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.
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