Another night under the lights for the struggling greens which unfortunately resulted in another lacklustre performance from Plymouth Argyle. A strike in either half was the difference between the two sides, with Argyle offering very little in the form of an attacking resurgence.
Using the ball effectively
One of the main factors behind Argyle’s bad performance was the use of the ball. The midfield was not short of opportunities to get the ball under control, but with Fox under pressure by Shrewsbury’s diamond midfield things felt more hectic than they had to be. Numerous times they gave the ball away or passed it backwards only to play it long to Freddie Ladapo, who boasts a very poor aerial duel success rate of 31%. The former Crystal Palace frontman is a good finisher but Luke Waterfall dominated him in the air throughout. There were times when Argyle broke free into space, but Ladapo spurned both chances to fall his way.
Derek Adams switched things up in the second half and matched the Shrews with a 4-3-1-2 formation of his own. This enabled Argyle to have a more dominant approach throughout the second half, including a 20 minute spell where Argyle had a large majority of the ball but were unable to carve the opposition back four open. The quick interchanging football seen last season was severely lacking, with players spending far too much time on the ball individually and not distributing effectively.
Many people may look at that 20 minute spell of dominance and think that Adams half-time changes were effective, but this would not be accurate. Despite struggling to command possession throughout the first-half, Argyle restricted Shrewsbury to chances from outside the box, which is a credit to Argyle’s midfield positioning in defence. This was also aided by the support of Argyle’s wingers, who protected Moore and Smith-Brown from incursions by Shrewsbury’s attacking full-backs Bolton and Beckles.
Once Argyle changed the system to match the Salop’s diamond and stepped higher up the pitch, much of the defensive control was lost. Once Moore lost his protection, he was left extremely vulnerable to the overlap and seemed unsure of how to deal with Beckles’ well-timed runs. Something similar occurred on the other side of the pitch where Ashley Smith-Brown struggled once Alex Gilliead was introduced. Gilliead was able to counter-attack down the right to great effect, with as little as three passes required to find him in space due to the lack of cover for Smith-Brown. Full-back has been an issue for Argyle this season, so making them more vulnerable at half-time was perhaps not the best decision.
STOP TAKING SHORT CORNERS.
Set pieces are a large part of today’s game and have always been important in the more physical, less technical lower leagues. Yet, Argyle failed to capitalise on any set-pieces throughout the game. On a number of occasions, this was because Lameiras took the corner short, only to waste the opportunity. Playing it short did little more than allow Shrewsbury push out and effectively press Lameiras and Grant in a congested area. A set-piece is a free opportunity to deliver the ball, yet we are making it into a situation where we can be pressured. Argyle have scored 5 set-piece goals this season, three of which came by playing the ball directly into the box, another from returning the cross into the box after the first delivery was part cleared. Only one short corner has led to a goal, this came against Wimbledon, but if you compare the position Carey found himself in to the normal way a short-corner plays out, you’ll see that is an exception rather than the rule.
Ladapo and Taylor in the same line-up?
A big question circling around Home Park this week was if Argyle could play with Freddie Ladapo and Ryan Taylor, whom was so pivotal during Argyle’s resurgence last year, in the same team. The second half of this evening game was the first time we were able to see the two play a decent proportion of a game together. Yet, the lack of width proved a great problem when incorporating the two into the same line-up. What is the point of overloading the box if you have nobody to cross it in? The formation we used to accommodate the two forwards was flawed due to the fact that the Pilgrim’s main weakness was left severely exposed. A good team is built off defensive stability and when your fullbacks are a weakness they clearly need to receive protection in order for it to be a functioning line-up.
Yes, Ladapo and Taylor may be an exciting proposition in attack, but when considering the rest of the team it will either leave a glaring hole elsewhere or force Adams to drop some of his best attackers. Indeed, defensively Argyle are very inconsistent and this needs to be addressed prior to the exploration of the inclusion of the two forwards in the same starting eleven. As Adams said himself: “it didn’t work”.