One manager who had a dream weekend was Birkett, whose 81-pointer fired him nine places up the table to fourth, just ten points – one player getting a good score – off second. It was just rewards for his faith in Bernardo Silva, who fired in a hat-trick to show just why it’s important to stick with your big players. The Silva lining for Birkett was the Portugeezer taking the place of Sterling in the Manchester City team, which meant not only did he benefit, but so many of his rivals suffered. It was also, finally, an above-average weekend for the Rising, who began their comeback with a solid 67 points for a two-position rise in the table. Only 21 points off sixth with two games until the international break, we remain right on course for our quarterly-season target, and we thank the FPL Gods for shining on us this weekend, by engineering the introduction of Lundstram off the bench. The Lords taketh away, but every so often, they giveth back.
The weekend belongs, however, to the Butcher, Big Steve Allison. We’ll analyse his performance in-depth through the weekly round-up below. For now, though, we’ll let a picture say a thousand words, and request particular focus on that Overall Rank. Never before has the League of Gentlemen seen a number so low. We said in the pre-season preview that this was the toughest mini-league around. The Butcher is showing just why that is.
The League of Gentlemen:
Little movement in the section of the Can’t-Be-Arseds, with Tits-Up Thompson, Wooden Spoon Helling and Metal Marc Farquhar all making no adaptations to their team and continuing their pointless fight for last place. Right now, Tits-Up Thompson holds his position, though Wooden Spoon has made a real push for last place, posting a dismal 35-point score. For comparison, Birkett beat that with two players, and neither were his captain. Above the Tedious Three, Jie overtook Pointless Parvesh by two points. At least those two are still trying to win, and are just struggling. Nothing worse than a zombie team in a competitive league, and we’ve seemingly been lumbered with three.
The FPL Nightmare has intensified for two of the early high-flyers, with Suicide Squad and the Dazzlers dropping to fifteenth and sixteenth respectively. Pep rotation was what caused the disaster for Deadly Daz, with Sterling’s benching meaning two-point Mane became his Triple Captain. How he must regret not choosing seventeen-point de Bruyne as his vice-captain, as that one tiny, seemingly-inconsequential choice would have left the Dazzlers in sixth, rather than sixteenth. Suicide Squad lived up to their name, making a remarkable eight transfers for a 28-point hit, then seeing their top-scoring player of the weekend being their first, non-playing substitute. True disaster of their own making, and with all chips used, the question is whether Mikey P has the stomach for the fightback when at such a huge disadvantage.
Above them, both Lawezarus Rising and Cows Arse Shovel began their delayed assault at the table. Starting in joint-fifteenth, they posted the same gameweek score to rise to joint-thirteenth, while also narrowing the gap on three of the four teams directly above them. Last season’s early frontrunners have suffered a woeful start in comparison this time out, but they are digging deep and getting themselves back into contention. Both teams benefitted from having fully-functional substitute’s benches, with five players coming in between the two teams, including twelve-point Lundstram for the Rising. Flash had started Jackhammer Johnny, yet was rewarded for his faith in Robertson, who stepped up to the plate as vice-captain with an assist and bonus points. The Rising had vice-captained Salah, who also provided an assist, but both managers regret not naming de Bruyne as vice-captain. Had they done so, the Rising would be top ten right now, with Cows Arse Shovel right behind. With both teams just ten points off Iceman Dale, they’ll be looking to make the Chasing Pack next time out.
Above them in lower mid-table lie the Tiptoppers in twelfth and Cuthben87 in eleventh. Both teams scored just above the weekly average, but saw their positions fall by virtue of being outscored by those around them. Slick Rick saw Sterling replaced by Demarai Gray, who only played eight minutes and somehow picked up a booking to return zero points. Returns from Ederson, Dunk, Alexander-Arnold, Son, Firmino and captain Kane gave him a solid 55 points, but only owning Sterling from the Manchester City attack came back to haunt him. Ginger Ben finally saw Jota offer a return – in the last minute of injury time, no less – but a minus-three from Maitland-Niles undermined the rest of his team’s performance. If he had started Pereira ahead of him, the twelve-point swing would’ve seen him remain in the top ten, albeit barely.
With only twenty points separating the Dazzlers in sixteenth from Oxsmorons in ninth, every team in Lower Mid-Table will fancy their chances of hitting the top ten next week. We know the Rising will achieve their goal. The question is, will anyone else be joining them?
The Chasing Pack.
It’s tight in the Chasing Pack, although the gap from sixth to tenth has extended from six points to eleven. It was a good week for almost every team in this section of the league, with only Boom Xhakalaka failing to achieve a green arrow, and every one of them closing the gap to the Title Contenders. Iceman Newton saw Sterling being replaced by Schar and, although he’ll be happy the second-best centre back in the league kept a clean sheet after a virtuoso goal-line clearance, he’ll be disappointed to miss out on the Manchester City goals bonanza. With five of his six attacking players also offering returns, he’ll be pleased with the progression. The injury to Maddison, who is set to miss out this weekend, is a cause for concern, though it may enable him to start Schar, knowing Leicester’s attacking threat will be weakened anyway. His other option is Guendozi, with two returns in three games, unless he uses his two free transfers to freshen up his team.
Just one point separates Oxsmorons in ninth from Boom Xhakalaka in eighth, yet The Ox will be ruing the rotation of Guardiola. With both Sterling and Zinchenko missing out on some monster returns, he saw them replaced by Ake and Wan-Bissaka, who returned nine points between them. Had Ake not managed to score, it would have been a true FPL Nightmare, but it ended up just a manageable bad dream. The Ox will be grateful for having two free transfers, because his team looks horribly ill-equipped to handle the selection whims of Piss-Taking Pep. Only four players returned for All-Star Vogt, though the inspired decision to bring in David Silva last week and captain de Bruyne meant he got 45 of his 66 points from just two players. He needed it too, as his gamble on a minus-eight didn’t really work, with Kane outscoring his replacement Aubameyang, and Pukki and Marvelous Nakamba failing to offer anything. All-Star Vogt was shown the folly of having such a weak defensive bench, with Zinchenko’s omission meaning that Boom Xhakalaka had nobody to replace him. Had he taken the advice offered every week to bring in Lundstram, he would be joint-fourth right now. As it is, all he has is a big fat red arrow. Surely, surely, he’ll address the situation in the transfer market this week, even if it means another hit. With the relative underperformance of all his starting defenders so far, Aurier and Lundstram, say, for Zinchenko and Simpson would be common sense that could – and would’ve done this week – reap worthwhile rewards.
Above them, the wily Masterchef has cut the gap to the Juggernauts in sixth to just one point and, given Jeeves’ propensity for a hit in an unnecessary situation, is likely to start gameweek seven ahead of him on points. Masterchef won’t be concerned by his three-pronged Chelsea attack’s lack of returns, given they were against Liverpool and they have a run of six green fixtures. Indeed, he benched Pulisic for this fixture. What will be a concern is that Pulisic has played no minutes in two gameweeks, Maddison is out, Maupay is away at Chelsea and Willems is away at Leicester. If Pulisic continues to be omitted, Hugh G. Rection XI will have no playing subs next week. With £2.6m in the bank, spending £0.4m of it upgrading the perma-injured Reid to Lundstram seems a no-brainer, though the maverick Masterchef will like cook up an ingenious alternative solution to his predicament.
The Juggernauts were kept locked in the dressing-room for two hours at full-time, as Jeeves read them the riot act. Insiders say doors were punched, holes were put in walls and assistant manager Hot Rod was told to “fuck off back to the car boot sale for another cafetiere,” though these rumours remain unconfirmed. There was even talk of a massive bust-up with star midfielder Sterling, with flies-on-the-wall suggesting the midfielder was told that, “despite the assault rifle tattoo,” he’s apparently “nothing compared to Argie Assassin Aguero.” Many would look at his team and think it just needs minor tweaks, but experienced Juggernauts followers expect Jeeves’ reputation as the Hitmaster to lead to major changes in the coming weeks. The green arrow will be scant consolation to a man who expected his team to top the table, yet find themselves out of the Title Chasers section, and he will want to dispel the growing notion that he has morphed from his team’s version of his hero, Alex Ferguson, to the Juggernauts answer to David Moyes. Indeed, at 90 (ninety) points off the title, it’s amazing he’s been so reticent with his transfers up to this point.
The Title Contenders.
In a surprising twist, every one of the Title Contenders received a green arrow this week, with the exception of King Ding. Indeed, with only 57 points scored, the defending champion found himself with the lowest gameweek score in the top ten, and even suffered the ignominy of suffering the first defeat to the Rising in the private three-way head-to-head league they compete in with the Juggernauts. Were it not for the magical Lundstram on his bench, he could even be as low as ninth. Still, the King won’t be too concerned at this stage, as he has some favourable fixtures for his starting XI next week. The relegation of Zinchenko from the matchday squad may be his biggest, if not only, concern, though a midfield that features Cantwell, McNeil and Felipe Anderson does look a touch weak. With all his chips still in his back pocket and six gameweeks’ worth of data, there’s every chance the King utilises his Wild Card this week and really ups the ante on the five teams above him, while cutting those from the Juggernauts down even further adrift.
We’ve already mentioned the wonderful performance that saw Birkett’s Really rise to fourth in the table, and what vindication it was for having faith in Bernardo Silva. His nineteen points, combined with seventeen for de Bruyne, lay the foundation for a wonderful 81-point week and a stunning rise up the table. Had either of his Manchester City men been his captain, he’d be in second right now – remarkable considering he started the week in thirteenth, and a ray of hope to all those struggling away in the Chasing Pack and Lower Mid-Table. At this stage, one great gameweek can make a huge difference. All it takes is faith in the big players, and it’s great to see a manager rewarded for that – as have several been with Jota’s late strike.
Above them, six points separate Who Horner in third from Hitman Hodgson in second. Who Horner continued his No-Hit Policy, bringing in only Rodrigo for Mount, though you have to wonder if this will prove a mistake. Rodrigo has shown little so far for Manchester City, and Mount has a great run of fixtures coming up. While there was an injury doubt over the Chelsea man, if anyone would be expected to give him every chance, you’d think it’d be the transfer-averse Chelsea fan. With seven players offering returns, including 17 points from de Bruyne and 16 from captain Kane, Who Horner will continue not to care about the opinions of those ten places lower in the table, and will most likely continue to reap success, while the rest of us continue to look at him and think, “Who?” Hitman Hodgson had a great 75-point week, fuelled by returns from seven players, though there will be a touch of regret that Pieters and Ryan weren’t selected ahead of Pope and Coleman, which would’ve boosted his score to 82 points. Does It Mata? have been rewarded in recent weeks for their selection of Aguero over Sterling, with the extra 31 points over the previous five weeks being the catalyst for their lofty position in the table. Pegged as a dark horse at the start of the campaign, Hitman Hodgson is backing up those predictions in great fashion, with four green arrows in five weeks. The question facing him is how he can take his team to the next level, with a massive 73-point gap separating him from the runaway train at the top of the table, one that’s showing no signs of being derailed.
The Man Who Would Be King.
This is turning into a very special season for Dumb and Dummett, and their manager, Big Steve Allison. We’ve never had anyone in the League of Gentlemen finish in the top-25k, yet the Butcher stands at a remarkable 516 (Five Hundred and Sixteenth) out of 6,800,610 in the world. There is a long way to go yet, thirty-two gameweeks, but this is an achievement that deserves massive applause. When you factor in that many of the 515 ahead of him in the whole wide world have already used chips, in comparison to Big Steve having used none, it becomes even more impressive. When you consider that he has done it with a double-Newcastle defence – a bias pegged as a weakness in pre-season – it becomes a simply sensational performance. A massive 98-point gameweek, featuring returns from every player bar the two Norwich attackers who have already secured him big points, has put him on 430 points, 73 ahead of his nearest rival, 84 ahead of the defending champion, King Ding, and just 19 points off being the top Newcastle fan in the whole world, with only one Magpie ahead of him not having used a chip. It seems pointless to analyse his team, when he is doing so much better than any of us have ever achieved. All we can say is he’s nailing his transfers – only four made, and all budget players – and he is getting his rotation spot-on. A true gentleman and a devoted FPL player, all we can really say is we hope the big man goes on and gives us all a season to remember. 19 points off the best Newcastle fan, 38 off being the best in England, 59 off being the best in the world, and all without using a chip, unlike the vast majority of those above him. Go on, Big Steve. Give ‘em hell, and show them all what a man from Cumbria can achieve in this game. You have all our support. Simply brilliant.
That wraps up this week in the League of Gentlemen. Even those who have had a bad week can’t help but feel joy at the performance of Big Steve Allison, raising the division to ever-higher standards. Yet, despite his massive lead, those chasing will still believe they can catch him. Hell, even 111 points off, I still believe there’s a chance, even if it’s a Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber-esque one. We all need the FPL Gods to shine on us this weekend, Big Steve to maintain his remarkable run, the rest of us to have any hope of making the competition, well, a competition. May your arrows be green, may your transfers be successes, and may the FPL Gods forever be in your favour.
516th in the world. Bloody hell.