Since coming on as a substitute to make his Argyle debut in a goalless FA Cup draw with Newport in December 2016, it’s been a tough couple of seasons for forward Alex Fletcher. The 20-year-old found opportunities hard to come by last season and after signing a new contract will be hoping to enjoy a breakthrough season under the much more attacking stewardship of Ryan Lowe. Fletcher made just four League One appearances last season, totalling only 30 minutes and featured another three times in the EFL Trophy without scoring a goal.
Under Derek Adams, Fletcher found it difficult to fit into the Scotsman’s plans. The 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formations deployed during his tenure focused on a single forward who needed to possess strength and hold-up play attributes. This played a vital part in the former Torquay loanee playing fourth fiddle behind Freddie Ladapo, Ryan Taylor and Luke Jephcott despite Argyle suffering from a lack of goals as they were relegated to League Two last season.
Making 23 appearances in total for the club, 14 of which came in the 2017/18 season, Fletcher looks much more likely to thrive in a more attacking minded 3-1-4-2 formation deployed by Lowe. The formation focuses on overloading the opposition in the final third which will create gaps to run into. Forwards play a much more free role as opposed to coming in deep to hold up the ball, a role which rendered Fletcher virtually ineffective. Instead this will play to his much more quick and direct playing style which has been evident when Fletcher has come off the bench, usually in losing positions as Argyle looked to salvage something.
Fletcher’s standout performance in a green shirt came in the 2017/18 campaign during an EFL Trophy tie with Chelsea U23’s with his two late goals salvaging a 2-2 draw at Home Park. The clip below displays his excellent poachers instinct and space awareness to get into both positions in order to receive the ball. With limited appearances under Adams he was unable to produce such performances on a more regular basis. His one and only league goal for Argyle came in similar circumstances, scoring a consolation effort with header from a Graham Carey cross in a 2-1 defeat against Fleetwood. Despite not possessing great aerial ability, it is Fletcher’s awareness and ability to run into goalscoring positions that can often atone for this.
Argyle’s forward situation for next season remains unclear with last season’s top scorer Ladapo looking likely to leave the club amid interest from Sunderland and Portsmouth and Taylor not being a suited match for Lowe’s 3-1-4-2. With this in mind, a positive pre-season could well thrust Fletcher right into his new manager’s plans for the season. Despite Argyle being the only club in League Two yet to make a signing, it is likely that Lowe will have his own players in mind. Last season’s duo of Nicky Maynard and Dom Telford have already been the source of much speculation with Bury’s ongoing off field troubles and with the pair having played for Bristol City and Bristol Rovers respectively, location shouldn’t be an issue should a move for either materialise. With the attributes that Fletcher possesses, he should find himself further up the pecking order regardless, especially over the likes of the returning Calum Dyson.
At 20-years-old, Fletcher needs to be playing regular first-team football whether that is with Argyle or at another club. Depending on incoming signings, a loan move could prove to be beneficial with a club like Torquay United a likely destination following their promotion to the National League at the first attempt. Under the careful eye of Gary Johnson they look less likely to struggle as they did during Fletcher’s last loan spell at Plainmoor in the 2017/18 season which saw him make three appearances during a month-long loan spell. Should Torquay not require his services once more, Yeovil could be another realistic option following their relegation from League Two last season.
The upcoming season will undoubtedly be a massive season in terms of Fletcher’s career. Should he manage to force his way in and prove to be a useful part of the side or do well elsewhere then his future will look to be secure. However, another season in which he fails to break through and make an impact could put his future in jeopardy, especially with the likes of fellow youngsters Luke Jephcott and Khaidi Lolos also waiting in the wings to take an opportunity.