A Ruben Lameiras double, including a superb solo effort, helped Plymouth Argyle to a much needed victory on New Years Day. His two strikes, alongside an early Sarcevic rebound saw the Pilgrims take all three points in emphatic fashion, showcasing that the squad has what it takes to survive this season. A strong showing from multiple players across the pitch enabled Argyle to comfortably beat an Oxford team featuring a potentially problematic pair of former Pilgrims, Jamie Mackie and Curtis Nelson. A very good win to start 2019, hopefully signalling what is next to come.
Ruben Lameiras and Graham Carey were at their best in the victory against Oxford, and were instrumental in the creation and conversion of Argyles best chances. Both players seemed to be brimming with confidence as they consistently beat players at will, (showcased by Lameiras’ exceptional second goal), as did a number of other Pilgrims, including Ladapo and a lively Ashley Smith-Brown. However, it was the duo of Lameiras and Carey who spearheaded the Argyle attack and they caused havoc among the Oxford back line all game long.
This begs the question – why aren’t the two being played together? In 26 league games for Argyle this season, the two have started just 10 games in the same side, and for Argyle to continue up the table to safety, I feel this has to change. The two players can excel on their own; both are incredibly talented players, but are most effective when playing together. As well as linking up well; passing, moving and seeming to know where each other are at most times, Carey and Lameiras also take attention away from each other on the pitch. As Argyles top creative outlets, opposition teams naturally look to nullify their effectiveness, as a large part of the play will come through them. Both players being on the field of play will give the opposition problems, as they now have two dangerous threats to try and snuff out.
This should open up more space for each player to operate in, as they take defensive attention from each other. Both players are capable of a moment of magic, and can win the game by themselves if the striker is not firing, as was the case on New Years Day, (though Ladapo contributed well in other ways). If Derek Adams is to continue starting both players, it should lead to better results.
Another staggering stat is that the 3-0 victory against Oxford was only Argyles 3rd clean sheet in the league this season. In 26 games, we have only managed to keep the ball out of the net 3 times, and with a record like that it is easy to see why Argyle, are where they are. However a very strong performance from the defence limited the Oxford attack to a number of speculative efforts at goal. Argyle were let off the hook early as Marcus Browne failed to convert from very close range in the 19th minute, but tightened up soon after and Oxford rarely troubled again.
I’d like to mention Ryan Edwards as the standout player, who arguably had his best game since his return from his illness, comfortably restricting the effectiveness of the former Pilgrim Jamie Mackie. He was great in the air as well, showcased by a good header to turn the ball away from goal as Oxford had a rare period of pressure later on into the second half. Had Lameiras not had the game he had, Edwards would have likely ran away with the man of the match award; a very solid and polished performance. Whether Argyle invest in defence in January or not, (some support could definitely still help, especially with this seasons track record), Argyle could have stumbled onto their strongest back 4 for the timebeing. I for once, could not fault them this week – besides maybe that headed back pass.
Versatility and Options
On the subject of that suspect header, it was one of the very few mistakes Kyle Letheren made throughout the game. I doubt many would have even considered Letheren a viable option in goal to start the season but with a somewhat decline in Matt Macey’s recent form, the gaffer has opted to start Letheren in the last 2 outings. Fans are asking for Cooper to be given a chance, but I feel that this could hinder his development and harm his confidence playing behind an inconsistent defence. Though Letheren wasn’t overly tested on his shot-stopping against Oxford, and is likely not up to Macey’s level; his command of the box and leadership were skills that the team was lacking.
Furthermore, I have always been a fan of Ashley Smith-Brown, and though maybe he lacks in some areas, he is a very talented prospect who is close to being a very good player. He showed his ability and his versatility, by playing at right-back against Oxford, though he has played his trade at left-back. He helped to create the first goal, receiving the ball from David Fox, turning one player inside out and firing a shot at goal, which ended up in the path of Sarcevic who made no mistake. His excellent first touch and ability to use both feet makes him a versatile defensive option who can be used at multiple positions. As the January transfer window in now open, I still believe that we need to bring a number of players in, but the performance against Oxford showed that there are players in the squad that some had written off, who can still do a job for our team.