This bloody game.
It’s hard to assess GW 30. On the one hand, the Last Stand extended the gap on seventh-place Jie by three points, while clawing back ten points on fifth-place Big Steve. Within that context, it could be seen as a successful week, especially for a team lacking Raheem Sterling and who only had four players return, with two of those being single assists. Plus, the gap to Dinga at the top was only extended by a single point.
However, the gap to Jeeves in third was extended by 21 points, and we’re another week down, with only eight to go. Liverpool deciding to stop defending cost the Last Stand big, with only 3 points collected by Van Dijk and Alexander-Arnold. Manchester City and Crystal Palace conceding meant my defence brought in just 6 points from four players, or just 2 points when the hit taken is factored into account. An absolute disaster. Don’t even get me started on Son, who epitomises the adage, ‘shite when you have him, great when you don’t’. The only consolation for the Last Stand was being justified in trading out Salah for Mane two weeks ago.
The League of Gentlemen, as it stands:
As you can see, it’s looking like a four-way fight for the title between Dinga, Jeeves, Flash and Horner. For the Last Stand to overcome a 70-point deficit will take a Herculean effort, mixed with some blessings from the FPL gods. There are reasons to be hopeful, but first, let’s evaluate the title contenders:
Martin ‘Dinga’ Bell
The League of Gentlemen’s Mr. Consistency. In four years, he has never finished lower than second, and has a top-46k and a top-87k finish in his locker. Less prone to emotional reactions to bad gameweeks, Dinga plans ahead and sticks to his formula, one which has brought him two League of Gentlemen titles. Only takes hits in an emergency, which means he normally starts a gameweek with a four or eight point advantage over his rivals. Dinga probably has his GW 38 team planned out already. At 218,238 overall, it’ll be a challenge to beat his previous best finishes, but there’s every chance his third-best total will be enough to be crowned champion for the third time.
Craig ‘Flash’ Whear
Another man that demonstrates the power of focus and planning. Flash had a couple of early dabbles in FPL at the start of the decade, but wasn’t hooked enough to return the following season. In 2016, he decided it was time to enter the fray properly, but found his re-debut a struggle, finishing with an overall position of 1,030,754. For the first time, Flash remained in the league for consecutive seasons, yet 2017/2018 was a cruel mistress and Flash dropped to 1,310,412 overall. This season, though, Flash has been a revelation. With new advisors guiding his selections, Flash has risen up the ranks, and has been in the top three of the League of Gentlemen all season. To overcome the crafty Dinga may prove a step too far this year, but his improvement inspires the Last Stand for next season, and should give hope to any floundering FPL player. Barring a complete disaster, should comfortably record his highest-ever overall position, and by some margin.
Jamie ‘Jeeves’ Ayers
Another two-time winner of the League of Gentlemen, Jeeves is the League of Gentlemen’s Tinkerman. His brash, transfer-heavy strategy sets him at a disadvantage points-wise, and he normally enters the Christmas period languishing in mid-table. Yet, somehow, he is always there or thereabouts at the end. To beat Jeeves, you need a big advantage at the turn of the year, because once that Juggernaut train starts rolling, it’s very hard to halt the momentum – as shown by him slicing an 89-point Dinga lead to just 20 in five gameweeks, and by lying just eight points behind at present. Has to be expected to overhaul Flash in the next two gameweeks, especially given he has built towards the blank gameweeks. Completely denies Dinga’s FPL credentials, despite losing the league to him twice and only once (just barely) breaking into the top-300k. Currently on course for his best-ever overall finish, standing at 253,458 overall.
Laurence ‘Who?’ Horner
I don’t know anything about this lad, and his profile gives nothing away. The only other league he’s in features no other League of Gentlemen contenders. Yet, he’s quietly going about making a name for himself and proving a worthy adversary. From a mid-season placing of seventh by a distance, he’s gone on a Jeeves-esque trundle to put himself right in contention to win the title in his first season. Hasn’t taken a hit all season, though used his wildcard last month, a decision which could haunt him in the run-in if he sticks to a no-hit policy.
‘Big’ Steve Allison
A butcher by trade, Big Steve made mincemeat of the opposition in the early weeks of the season. At one point, it looked like a three-way fight for the title between Big Steve, Flash and the Last Stand. Unfortunately, much like the Last Stand, Big Steve lost momentum and used his wildcard in early January, in an attempt to re-establish himself at the top. At 46 points behind, he’ll know one big week can put him right back in the fight. The question is whether he will break his no-hit policy to chase the glory, or whether he keeps faith in what brought him to the dance. 30 points off fourth, but with the Last Stand only 24 points behind, that choice is what will ultimately define Big Steve’s season.
Gameweek 31: All or Nothing
The plan, originally, had been to use Free Hit in GW31, but that went out the window with the realisation that GW 33 is likely to lose several fixtures. I still can’t believe I was so foolish as to not keep an eye on that, but it is what it is. Adapt or perish, survive and overcome.
The strategy this week has involved six hits, for a twenty-point deduction. This may seem crazy, especially given the fixtures available, but there’s actually a lot of sense to it. A conversation with Jeeves is what led to this approach, after he pointed out that, if you transfer out players with no matches for players with guaranteed matches in GWs 31 and 33, what appears a big hit is actually a free hit, as long as they play 60 minutes in both gameweeks. For example, if you take a -4 to bring in Vardy for Rashford, Vardy is guaranteed to score 4 points over the two gameweeks – assuming he plays 60 minutes and doesn’t get carded – whereas Rashford is guaranteed zero points. Minus four plus four equals zero, therefore it is, essentially, a free hit. As long as nothing goes wrong. Which, given my season so far, is very likely to happen.
So, Vardy for Rashford is my first transfer. Son, Mane and Schlupp have also gone, to be replaced by Hazard, Tielemans and Robertson. Losing Mane was a wrench, because he’s been very successful for the Last Stand. However, the triple-Liverpool defence of Van Dijk, Robertson and Alexander-Arnold have brought big points for owners. Can they keep a clean sheet against Fulham? You would have to think so. My entire season could depend on it. Owning Harvey Barnes and bringing in Tielemans and Vardy is another gamble, but with fixtures against Burnley and Huddersfield in GWs 31 and 33, there’s every chance it pays off.
The biggest cause for optimism is that the Last Stand have got the band back together. The main drivers of the early-season charge were Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser, who both seemed to be getting double-figure hauls every other week. Now Wilson is fit, and Bournemouth’s fixtures almost mirror those early-season successes, both have been brought back. They say lightning never strikes twice, but they also say fortune favours the brave. These lads have never let the Last Stand down; if Wilson can stay fit, and the Scottish Shaqiri can keep providing, they could lead us to a miraculous comeback.
Big hits, big decisions, big gambles. Seventy points behind Dinga becomes ninety without a ball even being kicked. If ever a man needed his FPL team to produce, it’s now. These next three gameweeks will define the season. If they prove to be this season’s Last Stand for Lawes, at least I’m going down swinging.
Gameweek 31 team: