With one week to go, The League of Gentlemen has reached the Endgame of the season. Jeeves simply cannot hold anything back now.
Another tumultuous week in the League of Gentlemen seemed set us up for, well, a pretty tame finish to the season. The top seven all posted similar scores, and there’s enough distance between the teams that there seems to be no real drama, no real stakes going into the final gameweek. What promised to be a day of heartbreak, of ecstasy, of devastation and of glory appears to have set itself up for a damp squib, where there are no real changes to any of the situations. It seemed almost pointless writing a hype essay because, well, there seems very little to hype.
But then, Tuesday night was meant to be in a predictable damp squib, and Liverpool tore up the script, overcoming a 3-0 deficit to beat one of the greatest teams in the world, featuring perhaps the best player ever, 4-3 on aggregate. Then, last night, Tottenham were 3-0 down with only 45 minutes to go away at Ajax, but somehow overcame months of poor form to take a dramatic victory in the 96 minute. This is proving to be the week of remarkable, unlikely, impossible comebacks. Is it really unthinkable that one, two or more of the teams in the League of Gentlemen could find their own last-death moment of glory?
Well, for the Last Stand, it certainly is unthinkable. Another week of disaster saw both my goalkeepers benched, saw Son receive a red-card, and saw the defender we took a hit for, van Aanholt, not play a minute. While everyone was celebrating Vincent Kompany’s wondergoal, we were cursing the fact that blanks for Sterling and Aguero meant only Alexander-Arnold gave us a return, with two assists against Newcastle. The minus-eight we took, like the vast majority of hits this season, blew up in our face spectacularly, and meant that we finished GW 37 with a net score of just 17 points. Even without it, we would have had the lowest score in the league, with even perennial-wooden spooner Andrew Helling registering a higher score, but with it, we had no chance. A season that started with the intention of winning the league, which saw us clear at the top after eleven gameweeks and sitting comfortably inside the top 68k overall, spiralled into a disaster of our own panic hit-taking making. Instead of aspiring for the title, we sit 25 points off seventh. The only potential saving grace is that, should we get 58 points on the final day, we will achieve our highest-ever FPL score. It would be scant consolation, but we have learned a lot this season, and we’ll spend the summer preparing for, and dreaming of, next season’s title challenge.
The battle for fifth place is between Big Steve and The Ox, although Jie gave himself an opportunity with a strong GW 36. The problem for Jie and Ox is that they both scored less than Big Steve, albeit only by a point or two. With only one gameweek left, The Ox needs to outscore Big Steve by 32 points to secure fifth, and Jie needs to outscore him by 51, and neither of those outcomes are very likely due to the make-up of the three squads. Jie is only 19 points behind The Ox, and their squads are different enough that the right captaincy choice and a couple of high-scoring players may enable Giroud Not To to pip Oxymorons for top six on the last day, which would be a great achievement given where Jie was just a few weeks ago. Whatever happens, both can take a lot of positives from their performances during the run-in.
The race for third is pretty similar, although Who Horner has a smaller gap to overcome than those chasing Big Steve. Who Horner made small inroads, outscoring Flash by three points to cut the gap to sixteen. The problem Who Horner has is that, in doing so, he threw away the initiative. See, he had his Triple Captain chip still to play, which mean the gap could be overcome by one player, should the right player be triple-captained. If he had played his triple-captain on Doherty this week, he’d actually be four points ahead of Flash right now, but he didn’t. Who Horner gave Aguero the triple-captaincy, and Aguero rewarded that with a measly six points. Throwing in the fact that he used two free transfers, it means Who Horner has one transfer to find a squad that can outscore Flash by sixteen. Flash, on the other hand, rolled his transfer over, which gives him two free transfers for the final day. This proved to be a wise move, with Son’s red card and Robertson’s midweek injury meaning Flash can replace both with no cost to his overall ranking. Whether he does so, or whether he trusts the Southampton lads on his bench, remains to be seen. Flash has the upper hand in the race for third, but Who Horner has proven a wily competitor, and he may well have one last trick up his sleeve.
But it’s the race for the title that matters the most, and here we are. The final week. It all comes down to this. Who’s philosophy is better, the steady, tactical one of Martin ‘Predicta’ Bell, or the sign-everyone-a-week-late approach of Jamie ‘Hitmaster’ Ayers? Will King Ding take his throne for the third time in five years, or will Jugganaut Jeeves find a way to finish ahead of Dinga for the fourth time in six years, to become League of Gentlemen champion for the third time? Thirty-seven gameweeks of struggle, of chip-playing, of wildcards and wild transfers, of captaincy punts and momentum shifts, and it will all be settled in a straight-shootout.
It’s King Ding that has the advantage, with a lead of 36 points and a Triple Captain chip seeming to confirm that there is just too much for Jeeves to do. Jeeves fought hard to cut the gap in GW 37 but, despite outscoring Dinga in the points, the hits he continues to take meant he ended the gameweek further behind than when he began. His transfer of Son to Babel provide wise, with Son’s red card meaning Babel outscored him by 4 points. However, Yoshida to Shaw and Firmino to Aguero, who he captained, resulted in a result of minus-two points. Now, he finds himself stuck with Shaw, a player who he has no faith in, and Aguero, who has a great fixture but, if Jeeves chooses him as his captain, could be completely negated by Dinga’s triple-captaincy. He also has Babel, a player who has been in decent form, up against one of the strongest defences in the league. Given that it appears to be between Babel, Jota and Redmond for two places in his team, there’s a chance that Babel may not even be selected. Robertson’s midweek injury has made the situation even worse; should he miss out at the weekend, it would be three from Doherty (away vs Liverpool), Shaw (untrusted), Femenia (often rotated) and Valery, who at least seems a solid option up against Huddersfield. However, Salah’s fitness also seems to be a doubt, which complicates matters further.
If there’s one thing we know about Jeeves, is that he will try to hit his way out of trouble. He simply refuses to enter a gameweek without an XI he is happy with, however many hits it costs him. He could, in theory, allow Valery and Redmond to come into his starting line-up, bench Doherty and Jimenez or Jota, and hope that, should Robertson and/or Salah not make it to the field, the Wolves players will come off his bench and take advantage of a weakened Liverpool. That may, strangely, be his best hope of clawing back Dinga, especially if Dinga also benches the same Wolves players. Yet, we know Jeeves just won’t do that. He’ll take hits – likely a minus-four, potentially a minus-eight – to get the strongest team he feels he can play. He’ll bring in Alexander-Arnold, because he got some points last time, or he’ll bring in Laporte, or he’ll bring in both. He’ll bench Doherty and either Jota or Jimenez, and he’ll watch Doherty assist Jimenez for the Mexican’s customary return against a top six club. He’ll watch the title slip away, because he’s the Tinkerman, the Hitmaster, and he doesn’t have the minerals not to try to hit his way out of trouble.
But maybe I’m wrong. Happy Gilmore learned how to putt, and he beat Shooter McGavin in the most unlikely of circumstances. Maybe Dinga will get complacent. Maybe he’ll make a crazy transfer, or use his Triple Captain on the wrong player. Maybe Jeeves’ hits will pay off, and the players he brings in will both get double-figure returns. Maybe he chances the captaincy on Salah, and the Egyptian fires in a hat-trick, while Dinga sticks the triple on an Aguero who gets injured inside ten minutes. Maybe Dinga’s players miss penalties, get red cards, and are the victim of mass rotation. Maybe Vardy has one of his famous parties against Chelsea. Maybe Redmond bags two goals and an assist in a 3-0 win over Huddersfield, and Ward-Prowse does nothing. Maybe Jeeves throws us all a curveball, takes a hit to replace Sterling with Hazard, Sterling doesn’t return and Hazard ends his Premier League career with his 12th double-figures return of the season. Maybe, instead of not having the minerals to avoid hits, maybe what the Revolutionary needs to do to overthrow the King is take three or four.
As it stands, both Dinga and Jeeves own Sterling, Aguero, Jimenez and Jota. For Jeeves, whose top-100k target is most likely out of reach, those four big players are meaningless. They are dead-weights. His ownership of them means the advantage goes to Dinga. In Sterling and Aguero, Jeeves has £23.6m tied up in players that simply cannot help him overhaul Dinga. But Eden Hazard might help Jeeves overthrow Dinga. Hazard has 11 double-figure hauls to Sterling’s nine. Sterling has scored three points or less in eighteen gameweeks. If he made that 19 this weekend, and Hazard grabbed a brace and 3 bonus points, that’s a twelve-point difference. Even accounting for a minus-four, that’s almost a quarter of the gap. If Hazard added an assist to that brace, and Jeeves captained him, that’s over half the total Jeeves needs to beat Dinga by from just one player.
If Jeeves doesn’t take the hit, if he keeps Sterling, then he has no chance of gaining an advantage from his premium midfielder. If he takes the hit, he could realistically half the deficit from that one move. If Dinga throws the Triple Captaincy on Sterling, and this scenario came to pass, that’s two problems solved. If Dinga goes, as expected, with a double-Southampton defence, and Jeeves takes another hit to bring in Alexander-Arnold and Laporte for Doherty and Valery, and then Laporte keeps a clean sheet, Huddersfield score, like they did against Manchester United, but this week against a team who have just conceded three goals, then Laporte will outscore two-thirds of Dinga’s defence alone. If Jeeves chances Robertson’s fitness, and Robertson starts, and Robertson and Alexander-Arnold run wild, both getting clean sheets and multiple assists for Salah, well, that’s the difference gone, however many hits Jeeves has taken. And he’d need to make another transfer, in order to afford Alexander-Arnold and Laporte. He’d probably need to generate just under £3m. And the question is, why keep Aguero? He cannot help Jeeves win the title, because Dinga owns him, and the top-100k is gone. Normally, you would keep a player of Aguero’s class. But this is the Endgame. This is shit or bust time. Of Manchester City’s 18 away matches so far, Aguero has returned a score of 2 or less eleven times. Of the other seven matches, he has only scored more than six points three times. Fifteen out of eighteen away matches, Aguero has returned six points or less. Callum Wilson, in his last two away matches, returned scores of 15 and 16. He has five double-figure hauls from 14 away matches. He’s up against a Crystal Palace defence that have just conceded twice to Cardiff. Aguero has no upside for Jeeves. Callum Wilson just might.
This is the Endgame of the League of Gentlemen, but in FPL, there are no time-travel devices, there is no reversing the snap. You only get one chance to show what you’re made of. It’s hard to see Dinga making any wild decisions, which means Jeeves has to look at his squad and he has to weigh up the odds. For all the grief he gets for taking hits, realistically, it’s his only chance of victory. He simply must take the brave decisions. On paper, Valery, Aguero and Sterling are great options for this week. For Jeeves, they are the worst possible options. He has to take chances. He has to chance that Robertson and Salah will be fit, and he has to chance a quadruple transfer of Valery, Doherty, Sterling and Aguero out, Alexander-Arnold, Laporte, Hazard and Wilson in. Even if Robertson fails to make it, there’s still a good chance Shaw, on his bench, will keep a clean sheet and maybe even sneak an attacking return. Four transfers would put him 48 points behind at the start of play, but he’d be giving himself the best possible chance of eclipsing the comebacks of Liverpool and Spurs and pulling off the greatest of victories.
At 2pm on Sunday, May the twelfth, the teams will go in, and we’ll know whether Jeeves had the cojones to go for the King. If he doesn’t take the chance, he’ll fade meekly back into the mist. If he does, and he takes the King’s head, the Revolution will reverberate for years to come.
'The FPL Nightmare: How to Lose the World's Greatest Mini-League in 38 Simple Steps'
Available now on Kindle and the Kindle app on smartphones, only £1.99: