Plymouth Argyle stumbled in November. Though they progressed in the FA Cup, only one league victory in four saw the gap to safety increase to five points. Yet, a handful of players enjoyed good months and deservedly feature in the top three.

Player of the month archive

How we calculate the score

Each player receives a match rating from 1-10 and one player from each match receives a man of the match bonus. The players are scored by a variety of of individuals who have witnessed every match this season. The scores are aggregated and weighted against the number of appearances, before the man of the match bonus is added.

Player of the Month: Niall Canavan (10.10)

Niall Canavan had an excellent month for Argyle. Indeed, the fact that the top two players played every meaningful minute in centre-back says it all about where Argyle’s strengths lay in November. As part of a general shift towards a stronger centre-back pairing, the duo only made one defensive error throughout the month. Indeed, the debacle against Luton aside – the faults of which lay far more with Adams and his midfield set up than the defence themselves – Argyle became much tougher to break down and conceded just three goals from open play taken inside the box.

Canavan in particular was often calmness personified, with and without the ball. With it, he once again demonstrated his range of passing, superior to any of Argyle’s other defenders. His passing accuracy this season (67.5%) is higher than any other centre-back, while he also averages 26.6 successful passes/90, more than Scott Wootton (24.5), Peter Grant (24.1),  Songo’o (22.8 as a CB) and Ryan Edwards (21.1). Not only does he average more successful passes at a higher completion rate, he also has the highest ratio of high-to-low risk passes (0.024:1), with more than double the ratios of Songo’o and Wootton (0.010:1). Unsurprisingly, he also has the highest high-risk pass completion rate (minimum of ten high-risk passes) at 85.7%, compared to Edwards’ 55.6% and Songo’o’s 66.7%. His return to the side, along with that of David Fox and Jamie Ness, has allowed Argyle to finally exert some control of possession and translate that from stale passing into tactical, sustained pressure.

Canavan has also been dominant in the air. In November, he won 83.9% of his aerial duels, a rate far higher than any other player and more than double that of his partner, Songo’o (40.0%). In fact, on the basis of his strong month, he has now overtaken Edwards as the player with the best aerial duel success rate. Given that the majority of all defensive actions are contesting aerial duels, this is no small deal.

To sum up, Canavan barely put a foot wrong all month and certainly wasn’t at fault for what turned out to be a disappointing month. His performances since his reintroduction to the team have been consistently positive and he is a worthy winner of the award this month, perhaps the first worthy winner we’ve had all season.

2nd: Yann Songo’o (9.89)

As detailed above, Songo’o also had a good month. Though his stats are less positive than those of Canavan’s, he was part of a much stronger rearguard than we have seen all season. No doubt, Argyle will need things to stay this way if they are to pull away from the relegation places.

Moving back into defence, Songo’o was afforded the midfield protection he had yet to afford the defence this season as a midfielder himself. This helped to contribute to a stable central-defensive pairing alongside Canavan. Not dribbled past once all month, and with no defensive errors to his name, the only issue in his performances were his inability to dominate in the air as much as he had as a midfielder.

However, though his passing as a midfielder is not good enough, with the extra time and reduced pressure as a defender, his superior technique to the likes of Edwards paid dividends as Argyle exerted extra control with the ball all across the pitch to reduce the pressure on lone-striker Freddie Ladapo to win aerial duels from long passes.

All in all, Songo’o experienced his best month this season and built the foundations of a successful pairing that has the potential to last the rest of the season.

3rd: Joel Grant (9.68)

Joel Grant had a very good month for Argyle, as he showed signs of improvement across all facets of his attacking game. However, rather than detailing how impressive he was here, I recommend you read an excellent analysis piece written by Sam Down on Joel Grant’s tactical evolution.

Young Player of the Month: Mike Peck (17, CB)

Peck has emerged as a strong candidate for a contract at the end of the season. Mistakes still very much a part of his game at centre-back, but his excellent performance against Aston Villa demonstrated once again that he can hack it, despite only transitioning to the position to cover an injury crisis at the start of the season. Given this, the progress he has made has been commendable.

Alongside two very assured performances against Bristol City and Villa in the Premier League Cup, he also made his senior debut against Newport County in the Checkatrade Trophy. Yes, it wasn’t a great display, but it would hardly be fair to expect fireworks of a second year apprentice who had been thrown into the heart of a team made up of second string players and academy products.

At this stage, it will be a surprise if he isn’t offered a professional contract at the end of the season. That makes two of them, as he joins Tom Purrington – Ben’s younger brother – in the almost guaranteed list, pulling ahead of a series of maybes including Rio Garside and Klaidi Lolos.

Other nominees:

Dan Rooney (19, CM)

Rooney has continued to succeed at Truro. He started every game for them this month and has continued to form a vital link between midfield and attack. Fellow loanee Jordan Bentley has recently broken into the team too, so keep an eye out for him in December.

Meanwhile, with Argyle’s reserves, Rooney has returned to appear twice in the Premier League Cup and Central Leagues, performing well in each. He’s fast overtaking Alex Fletcher as the outfield reserve with the greatest potential to succeed at Argyle. Indeed, the likes of Fletcher and Alex Battle need to find a club to join on loan, and relatively soon.

Ryan Law (18, LB)

Like Peck, Law made his debut against Newport and impressed more than any other youth or reserve player on show. Yet, even better was two excellent performances against Aston Villa and Bristol City in the Premier League Cup. Against very good opposition, he was solid and composed in defence while offering a real threat in attack.

Since returning from injury, Law has been consistently impressive and looks like he is making real progress, physically and tactically, as part of Derek Adams’ new reserve set up.

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