We’re already approaching the halfway point of the LEC Summer Split and it’s been interesting to see how teams have lived up to expectations. You could argue that biggest surprises so far have been Team Vitality and Fnatic, though for very different reasons.
Both teams came into the split with the same goal: Redeem themselves following their performances in the Spring Playoffs. Team Vitality hardly put up a fight when Fnatic breezed past them 3-0 in the opening round, while Fnatic themselves were later frustrated by a semi-final loss to Origen.
Despite those results, there were high hopes for both teams coming into this split. Last year’s World’s finalists Fnatic still had a roster packed with talent and without a rollercoaster start, you had the feeling they could be dangerous with momentum on their side. Meanwhile, Vitality had also impressed at Worlds last year and after spending time in China scrimming with Royal Never Give Up, many felt the team could challenge Europe’s best once again – Andy “Vedius” Day even put Vitality up high with an A-tier rank along with Origen and above Fnatic in his pre-split rankings due to the meta.
So far, Fnatic have completely exceeded those expectations while Vitality have struggled with the pressure. However, both teams battled to 2-0 records in Week 3, though the teams were in opposite scenarios.
Fnatic took down G2 in convincing fashion for a crucial win that gave them sole possession of first-place. Most people expected Fnatic to recuperate this split but the rate of their improvement has been remarkable; nobody would have seen them coming close to G2’s level this soon.
Meanwhile, Team Vitality had to wait until Week 3 to secure a win after opening the season with losses to Origen, Splyce, Rogue and G2. While most of those were tough match-ups, the nature of the losses had Vitality fans concerned. Still, the team bounced back in Week 3 with wins over Excel and SK Gaming which will be an important confidence boost for the team going forward.
Those wins came at the perfect time too as it gave the team positives to take into the two-week break for Rift Rivals. With a solid base to work from, Vitality can finally progress and begin to climb back up to the level we know they can reach.
While Vitality’s heroics at Worlds last year may come to mind, it’s easy to forget that for the majority of the Spring Split, Vitality were above Fnatic in the standings. In fact, at one-time Vitality were in contention for a top two spot while Fnatic were fighting to qualify for the Playoffs.
Of course things have changed a lot since, but that means things can still change now. If Vitality really want to return to the top then they will have to start building momentum – but a game against Fnatic is a massive obstacle to try and overcome. However, Vitality have never been scared of an opponent and that won’t change this week.
The match-ups to watch
Most eyes will be on the top-lane with heavy hitters Gabriel “Bwipo” Rau and Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Menslet squaring off. Last split, Cabochard was the main man for Vitality as his dominant performances almost single-handedly won the team a lot of their games.
That was why the Frenchman was voted as the best top-laner in the league during the All-Pro Team vote but Bwipo will be eyeing that spot for Summer. The Belgian was inconsistent in Spring, with overextending being a recurring issue, but he has since returned to the top form that saw him overtake Paul “sOAZ” Boyer as the starting top-laner last year.
Bwipo’s monstrous performance against G2 was a large factor in the team’s win as he dominated Rasmus “Caps” Winther in lane and managed to outplay any ganks with help from Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen.
Speaking of Broxah, the jungler had one of the best performances of his career in that same match. The Dane has been in impeccable form so far this split and has emerged as an early contender for the Summer MVP vote. It has been an incredible recovery, especially considering Fnatic promoted academy stalwart Daniel “Dan” Hockley to offer him a second perspective but more importantly, competition for his place.
With his current form, there might not be a jungler in the LEC who could displace Broxah from the starting line-up at the moment. If Vitality want any chance of winning, it will be crucial that Lee “Mowgli” Jae-ha is able to shut him down. Fortunately for Vitality, that’s the Korean’s speciality as he loves to invade early and track his opposing jungler – effectively removing both of them from the game at times.
That would then leave the game in the hands of the laners and it’s likely that the bot-lane will have a particularly big impact. Amadeu "Attila" Carvalho has never been shy to make his feelings heard and show his confidence in his own abilities. Coming up against Martin “Rekkles” Larsson will be a challenge that he relishes.
However, the lane will likely come down to the support match-up, as Jakub “Jactroll” Skurzyński will have to step up and find some consistency. Especially considering Fnatic support Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov has been in scintillating form. You only have to look at his Pyke plays against G2 to see how confident he is right now.
The Bulgarian is extremely aggressive, having the most kills (11) and highest first-blood rate (60%) of all supports in the league. Meanwhile, Jactroll currently has the joint-most deaths (23) of all players in the league this split.
We’ve seen in the past that Jactroll has the ability to carry games and he will have to find that kind of form if he wants to stop Hylissang from taking over the game. Both supports are known for Thresh so perhaps that will be a contested pick to look out for.