Should We Be Worried About the EU Kings of LoL Esports?
No one’s used to seeing LoL esports EU teams G2 Esports and Fnatic fumble their way around the Summoner’s Rift. The “kings of Europe” are the most dominant and commanding champions Europe ever fostered, hence the “kings” moniker. It’s well deserved. Both of these organizations have managed to persevere regardless of meta and line-up. They’ve had ups and downs, but they always found a way to leave a mark and are already etched in the competitive League’s pantheon.
However, the 2020 Summer Split is proving to be quite a challenge for both. It’s hard to understand why fully. The fact that they have just 13 wins combined (across six weeks of play), with an equal number of losses is not something you’d expect from two line-ups stacked with so much talent and experience. They do not lack in any way, shape, or form. Experience of playing at the highest of levels? Check. Some of the best and most seasoned players in the West? Check. A metric ton of mechanical prowess? Check.
So why have they been losing so often recently? To lose is one thing — it happens to the best of us. But to lose in such emphatic fashion is not only worrying but also baffling. It’s like both LoL esports EU teams regressed, and there’s very little rhyme or reason why that’s the case. Their abysmal performances have everyone talking. Is this just a one-off thing, a brief detour from the script before their triumphant return? Or is it a sign of the things to come? A sign that changes in the status quo is — at least to some degree — inevitable?
History Can Be Deceiving
Both of these LoL esports EU teams have earned our benefit of the doubt, but they weren’t always perfect in execution. We mustn’t forget the Fnatic from 2016, or the way G2 crumbled after Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez left for Team SoloMid. Granted, both LEC giants found their footing in what felt like record time, but they were far from infallible.
A big reason they’re held in such high regard is because of the sheer dominance that was so often on display. Historically speaking, they’ve played some of the best League we’ve ever seen both regionally and internationally. So, it’s easy to forget that they weren’t always exceptional.
A Most Vulnerable Champion
G2 were able to snap a four-game losing streak against Rogue last week, but they didn’t look good. The biggest reason they won in the first place was that Rogue imploded at the most random moment in the game, giving the defending champs a window of opportunity. They’ve lost against Schalke, MAD Lions, Origen, and Excel Esports beforehand. They’re by no means entering the seventh week of play with momentum.
Luka “Perkz” Perković has been one of the worst-performing AD carries in the region and is a pale shadow of his former self. Now, the fact that he recently had to deal with a family tragedy obviously affected him in more ways than one. His performance isn’t up to snuff, and G2 no longer have the luxury of dropping games. The playoffs are right around the corner, and if they don’t pick up the pace there’s a very real chance they could miss out on Top 6.
It might seem impossible, but such a thing already happened to Team Liquid mere months ago.
A King No More
One could argue that Fnatic is one of the LoL esports EU teams that looked even worse. They’ve got a few wins on the board recently. Things aren’t as dire, but their level of play was downright abysmal. This has been pointed out by both casters and analysts alike. Still, it’s worth repeating: Fnatic doesn’t look like a team but rather a strange roster with incredibly talented players who have no synergy whatsoever.
They engage on different terms, they have differing ideas on how they want to play the game out, and their performances are baffling. Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek goes from “abysmal” to “exceptional” in the blink of an eye. Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov can look like an unassailable genius in one moment, while Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau is as volatile and coin-flip as he was back when he first subbed in for Paul “sOAZ” Boyer.
If everyone thinks and performs as an individual, there’s no unity or team-wide cohesion. Their drafts and in-game calls have also been suspect. Mithy, their current head coach, may or may not be the best possible fit for the boys in black and orange. The players have praised the former Origen alumni for his openness and player-centric approach. Fnatic’s results aren’t all that impressive, and it’s not for lack of trying.
We rarely know what’s going on behind the scenes, and Fnatic have generally given us but a few bits and pieces of information to work with. We’ve known for long that their in-house atmosphere generally isn’t all that great. It’s quite clear that this line-up isn’t evolving at a fast pace, nor is it performing as well as it needs to.
On the one hand, they’re experimenting. They’re not going for their most potent picks. The fact that they want to diversify their arsenal is commendable. Then again, their macro and decision-making leave a lot to be desired. Is this what limit-pushing looks like? Or is this just experimentation for the sake of experimenting? If Fnatic came to any conclusions over the last couple of weeks, then great. They sure didn’t look like it, and that’s worrying.
And sure, they’re currently tied for third, but then you realize they’re tied with SK Gaming and have looked comparatively worse than most of their peers. They have experience in spades, but such virtue can only get them so far when they find themselves facing insurmountable deficits. There are five games left (as far as the regular portion of the split goes), and the margin for error is insanely small. Fnatic will almost certainly reach the playoffs. Whether they’ll accomplish much afterward remains to be seen. In any case, their Summer Split run has been quite underwhelming and void of any hype. Seeing the former “kings of Europe” struggle so much has not been a pretty sight.
Theoretically, Fnatic needs to win two more games out of their remaining five to qualify for the playoffs (barring any unforeseen twists or tiebreakers). They have G2 Esports, Rogue, Schalke 04, Excel Esports, and SK Gaming lined up. While that doesn’t seem like a particularly worrying schedule, it’s important to note that Fnatic already lost to Schalke, Rogue, and G2 Esports in the first half of the split. They need to step up now.
In any case, we’re bound to see a photo finish for the ages.
Is a Shift on the Horizon?
The most interesting question right now regarding LoL esports EU teams is rather clear. Are we witnessing a shift in the status quo? While it’s certainly an enticing question, it’s also impossible to answer with confidence. We thought so on many occasions in the past and proven wrong in quite dramatic fashion i.e., G2 and Fnatic outclassing everyone when it mattered the most. Things always panned out in their favor. So, understandably, most people are still quite reserved when it comes to handing out any grim prognosis for the “kings of Europe.”
Still, 2020 has given us a glimpse at the future.
MAD Lions represent the next breed of LEC talent and what a stacked coaching staff should look like. They’re every inch a superteam (in the making) and have shown a baffling amount of potential. Rogue has matured in the most crucial ways and currently tied for first place with ten wins and just three losses. They’re by no means perfect, but they’ve done more than enough to earn everyone’s trust and admiration. They’re more refined, more flexible, and dangerous this time around, which is the main reason why they didn’t implode all that often.
When they create a lead, they rarely let go of the steering wheel, and even if they don’t start on the right foot, they’re equipped with enough mental fortitude and resilience not to surrender. All in all, they’re a lock for the playoffs and could, at best, even represent Europe at this year’s World Championship seeing how the LEC will be sending four representatives instead of three.
MAD have already proven their worth against G2 Esports in that historic Best of 5 last Spring and have a perfect 2-0 record against Fnatic this time. They’re the real deal and have solidified their spot as a Top 3 contender, with Rogue right behind them. One could argue that Rogue doesn’t have as much potential. Their grit and dedication make up for their lack in champion pool flexibility and calculated aggression. The fact that these players still didn’t accomplish much as a unit shouldn’t diminish their valiant efforts. After all, you don’t get to tie for first by being mediocre or subpar.
We’ve long been told about the passing of the guard, a natural occurrence in both esports and traditional sports alike. But for one reason or another, it doesn’t happen all that often in competitive League. There’s still an obvious gap between the top-tier organizations and everyone else. They’ve signed the best players or have fostered them from scratch, thanks to an insanely talented and hard-working coaching staff. But the bottom-tier dwellers are catching up, and the gap is ever-shrinking.
A shift in the status quo will happen; if not this split then by the end of 2021 for sure. Taking down the former and current “kings of Europe” is by no means easy. These rookies aren’t phased by the odds or their inherent underdog status. If the “kings” don’t step up, they’re bound to lose control of the throne sooner rather than later.
Tune in to the LEC matches this week as the stakes cannot get higher for the LoL esports EU teams.