With the January transfer window finally concluded there was certainly a deflated feeling amongst the Plymouth Argyle fan base as deadline day saw two departures and just the one incoming.
Additions wise, the club have brought in players in the key areas that they needed, most importantly in Remi Matthews who is with little doubt the best goalkeeper at the club currently. His heroics have earned Argyle points on numerous occasions this season and with the likely departure of Angus Gunn following his return to Manchester City at the end of the season, many Norwich fans are expecting Matthews to be their number one in the Championship next season.
Loanees Zak Vyner (defender) and Moses Masaki (midfielder) from Bristol City and West Ham are a different kettle of fish entirely with little known about what to expect from the pair. Vyner arrives with a good reputation from City manager Lee Johnson are Argyle once again utilise their connections with the Championship club after previously taking Joe Bryan, Bobby Reid and Paul Garita in recent seasons. Aside from the one appearance with City, he also featured 16 times for Accrington last season in League Two. We have seen little of the 20-year-old who has made just one appearance in the 3-1 loss against Wigan whilst missing the 2-1 victory over Oldham with illness. With fellow defender Ryan Edwards sadly being diagnosed with testicular cancer, it was vital that another central defender was brought in whilst Yann Songo’o can also deputise which provides depth in that position.
Masaki is yet to play a competitive league fixture but will be expected to slot in and has been described as a similar player to the departed Toumani Diagouraga. His lack of experience makes him a gamble with just Checkatrade and reserve team football on his CV at West Ham at 22-years-old. With other clubs bringing in more seasoned players and paying transfer fees it once again demonstrates Argyle’s frailties financially compared to other clubs in League One. Fellow Hammer and forward Toni Martinez was also a rumoured target during the window but it appeared that the Spaniard wasn’t keen on a move to Devon.
Adams finally got his man in Simon Church with the Welshman turning the club down earlier in the season in favour of fellow league side Scunthorpe. With gametime limited at Glanford Park he left upon the end of his short-term deal which allowed him a move to Home Park. With a poor goalscoring record he needs to kick-start his career once more and will no doubt play second fiddle to Ryan Taylor. With Church and the returning Alex Fletcher, the duo will provide back-up and options as the season winds to a close.
With the exception of midfielder Diagouraga very few could argue with the departures we have seen at Home Park over the last month. The former Leeds man proved to be a catalyst in Argyle’s upturn in form following his arrival in October and with his presence in the side, Derek Adams’ side lost just twice in the 15 league appearances he made, those being against Oxford and Portsmouth. The 30-year-old provided the no-nonsense style that the midfield sorely needed and as his confidence and fitness grew, so did Argyle’s as their goalscoring problems subsided as the 4-1 win over Oldham and 3-0 win over Bury both showed. These were also games Diagouraga scored in and whilst many might criticise the club for only handing him a three month deal, it was clearly a deal that suited both parties at the time. The Frenchman was looking to regain fitness following failure to join another Championship/ high-end League One side following his release from Leeds and Argyle, rock bottom of the league needed a capable player who wouldn’t demand too high a wage. The deal provided Diagouraga with a chance to earn fitness and enhance his reputation whilst it gave the club a cheap gamble on a player who may or may not be the difference in our season.
Other departures made more sense, particularly with wide-man/ forward Jake Jervis. Although a loyal servant during his three years at the club it became clear that the former Birmingham man wasn’t the best fit for our squad in League One. Whilst a quality and reliable scorer in League Two last season it often looked at times as though this division was possibly a cut above him as well as our system not suiting his style. With his likely departure following the end of his current deal in the summer it made perfect sense to allow him to leave with both Walsall and his eventual buyers Luton meeting his £125,000 release clause. Whilst it was disappointing that no replacement was brought in, the likes of Joel Grant and Lionel Ainsworth can provide cover in his position and of course, Adams will likely be looking actively across the free agents market.
The likes of Gregg Wylde, Nathan Blissett and Jakub Sokolik were examples of dead wood in the squad with the former two failing to prove themselves in the division and struggling for game time, something that was evident in that fellow League One sides didn’t take a gamble in taking either one loan and why they have ended up in League Two with lowly Morecambe and non-league high-flyers Macclesfield Town respectively. Whilst Wylde has a slight chance of returning should be prove himself and recapture some form as his quality is there, but he needs to perform consistently , it certainly looks to be the end for Blissett. Sokolik was a different matter. He performed well following his arrival last season and provided a reliable partnership with Sonny Bradley at centre-back. It looked likely that he would be fighting it out with Edwards for a place in the starting line-up, but instead following a supposed falling out with Adams just himself regularly on the bench or not in the matchday squad at all. At the end it made sense for both parties to release the Czech from his contract so that he was able to find another club.
To summarise, it wasn’t a fantastic transfer window but it was by no means tragic either. There is still the chance of further additions being made via the free agents market and we are covered in virtually every position on the pitch. Whilst it looks as though we certainly won’t be pushing ahead for the play-offs, it certainly doesn’t look as though we should be fearing relegation either. A mid-table finish is on the cards and after a decade of either fighting for promotion or fighting off relegation, perhaps an average season is exactly what it needed to stabilise the club.