- Argyle without Taylor are impossible to replicate. The fantastic performances of Ryan Taylor are self-evidently impossible to fully replicate for Argyle as the big striker remains out injured. The Northampton and Rochdale games both taught us this lesson: but in different ways and for different reasons.
Against Northampton, when we ever even got the ball, we persistently attempted big hoofs upfield, the kind of which Taylor would tend to gobble up for breakfast. All of our defenders would put long balls into the channels as usual, the only problem being that Joel Grant was completely ill-equipped to win them. Not only is his physical statute just not strong enough to win the physical contests, regrettably there were occasions where he scarcely even entered into them. As such, Argyle created virtually nothing.
Against Rochdale, we were taught a similar lesson for a different reason. We played an altogether different style of football, playing along the ground more to Grant’s strengths (incidentally, far more like the system in which he was used as a central attacker for Exeter last season) and swapping his position with Ruben Lameiras at times. It worked a lot better, if not perfectly. Argyle controlled the majority of the game and created several chances, though often Grant still came short when he should have been making defence-stretching runs. What it did re-enforce though, is that it was pointless going for the long-ball (targeted or otherwise) without Taylor in the side.
- Remi Matthews continues to thrive since coming back into the side. It wasn’t an easy time for Remi Matthews up to his brief paternity leave. He was suffering a slight dip in form after previously establishing himself as Argyle’s firm first choice keeper. His command of area was not quite its best and there were two notable occasions where he was caught taking too long on the ball before clearing it. It seems however, that his time out of the starting eleven has potentially worked in his favour when it comes to reminding him of what able competition is on the table. Kyle Letheren did well in his two games deputising and Derek Adams admitted it was a tough choice deciding which keeper to start against Northampton.
Matthews since then though, has more than proved his worth in the side with two fine performances. Against Northampton, he made save after save to keep the score down in what was a very poor Argyle performance on the day. Against Rochdale, it may be said that he was somewhat caught in no-man’s-land for their goal (though in truth, I don’t think anybody was stopping that bullet of a header) but that one moment of indecision aside he had another very good game. He was a commanding presence at every other set piece and his distribution was excellent, outshining Letheren in the latter’s weak area during his two games in the team.
- Sonny Bradley’s questionable form continues. There is no doubt that Sonny Bradley’s place in the team is no in threat for Saturday’s colossal game against Rotherham. He continues to be a far better bet than Yann Songo’o who made three big blunders (and a few small ones) during his three games in the side and was by no definition a left-centre-back. But all that said, it cannot be said that Bradley is in the best of form following the kidney illness that kept him out for nearly a month.
Against Northampton, quite aside from converting the ball into his own net, he was beaten as the last line of defence on several occasions, forcing Remi Matthews into the aforementioned saves. Against Rochdale, he was not so notably below par but there were still a fair few occasions where he showed lapses in concentration, not perhaps marking attackers as tightly as he may have. Additionally, his passing, whilst never Vyner-esque, was positively poor for most of the game. It is understandable (indeed, his own business) that Argyle have never gone into depth as to what exactly what the nature of his illness. But, nearly a month since coming back into the side, he does not appear quite back to his imperious best just yet,
- Argyle do not have adequate strength in depth. Letheren, Miller, Songo’o, Taylor-Sinclair, Ainsworth, Rooney, Fletcher. That was the subs bench that began the game as Argyle’s options-in-waiting at Spotland in what was at the time, one of if not the single biggest games of the season..at the end of April, with just four games to go. No disrespect is intended to any of those players, but that is not a subs bench fit for standard for a team targeting promotion to the Championship. Yes, Argyle have a few injuries. Yes, you could perhaps critique Derek Adams’ methods of double training that (whilst apparently good at getting Argyle firing on all cylinders) have the disadvantage of drawing more burnout than most.
Questions also have to be asked, however, of the level of Argyle’s backing. In the January transfer window as we began to push for the play-offs, we had a potentially historic opportunity to invest significantly in the future of the club: a speculation that would be accumulated if we were promoted to the Championship. Argyle have the fifth highest crowds and the third highest ticket prices in the league. Why, then, do we have a budget that would appear to all intents and purposes as though we are at the lower end of the league? When Charlton bought in Michal Zyro, an established player in a respectable European league, and Sully Kaikai who has proven himself more than good enough for this level, we gambled on a half-fit Simon Church (a cast off from another play-off rival) and a 22 year old who had never played professional football before. This is not to denigrate the players we have: far from it, they’ve done the best they can. But surely next season (if, as is now likely, we are not promoted) has to be the occasion where Argyle’s backing is of a higher level for Adams to be able to sign a few more of his first choice targets.