As things stand, Adam Randell is the first backup option for the defensive midfield position at Plymouth Argyle this season.
The position is one of vital importance in Ryan Lowe’s system, with the “1” in the 3-1-4-2 required to link up play between the defenders and the creative, more advanced midfield players. He is also required to organise the defence to deal with the inevitable counter attacks that Argyle will face. The Greens may yet make another signing for this position, but the fact that Randell is so far up the pecking order even at this stage is testament to how highly rated the 18-year-old is in Lowe’s eyes.
In fact, the indications of Lowe’s trust in Randell have been present for a little while now. As we mentioned in our article on Klaidi Lolos, Lowe mentioned very early on that two 17-year-olds had impressed him, with Lolos and Randell seemingly those two. Again, we’ll forgive the fact that the new manager seemingly got the players’ ages wrong.
Despite the noise surrounding Lolos right now, it’s actually arguable that Lowe has shown even more faith in Randell than he has the Greek. After all, Randell was handed the captain’s armband as he led Argyle out for their first game of pre-season against Truro.
It would appear that there are exciting times ahead for Argyle fans and Randell. It must be said that this is an incredibly bold move from Lowe, showing a willingness to rely on a player with just one senior appearance to his name as backup in one of the most important areas of the field.
Joe Edwards, Argyle’s first choice defensive midfielder, missed over half of Walsall’s games last season due to a long-term injury. It’s therefore not out of the question that Randell will be required to play a significant number of games during the forthcoming campaign. Fortunately, he has done enough on the pitch across pre-season to show that he is worthy of a chance.
We should perhaps caveat this with a little warning. Randell’s best performance of pre-season, by far up to this point, has been against Plymouth Parkway. With Parkway playing in the ninth tier of English football, Argyle were always likely to dominate, and Randell was a part of that. This shouldn’t be used as a stick to beat him with as we go on, however. Indeed, it would be much more of a concern if Randell didn’t perform in this game.
As it was, Randell didn’t just perform, he shone. He did well on occasions to get himself in the way of Parkway’s attempted attacks, but his passing was the big takeaway from the game. In truth, he had the Parkway midfield on strings, regularly finding avenues to pass straight through them and set up opportunities for Argyle’s creative players to take advantage. His game was almost topped off with an assist from this superb pass. Sadly, Joel Grant’s resulting effort was well saved.
Overall, Randell can say that he has had a very successful pre-season thus far. However, that’s not to say his time on the pitch has been seamless. During his appearances so far, a few weaknesses in his game have been exposed, and these are the areas he will need to work on in the coming weeks and months.
Generally, his weaknesses were more on show against Torquay. This is perhaps unsurprising considering their team is stronger, at least when compared to Parkway, and they were on top in the game. And it certainly is worthy of note – after all, this is much closer to the standard of opposition Argyle will be facing this season.
Primarily, Randell’s issue in that game came from the fact that he has been unable to run them from a deep midfield position. Torquay, and to a lesser extent Truro, both used their greater physicality and energy to press him in possession. Against Parkway, he had ample space and time to pick his passes. Just look at how little pressure he was under when picking out Joel Grant in the highlight we’ve just covered.
Meanwhile, Torquay were on him like a flash whenever he retrieved the ball. Gary Johnson’s side knew if they won the ball quickly, they’d be able to counter against a very attacking Argyle side, and so it proved. Randell struggled to assert himself on the game, and on a few occasions he had to rely on the calming influence of Scott Wootton, of all people.
The improvements Randell will have to make in this area are twofold. First, quite simply, he will need to become physically stronger. This will help to ensure that he is able to hold players off more effectively whenever they decide to pressure him on the ball.
Secondly, the mental side of his game will have to improve, particularly with regards to his composure. He will know that he has the skill to play out from the back, yet against Torquay he looked like he panicked when they closed him down. If he is able to keep a cool head when under pressure, he’ll have much more of an opportunity to continue to spray around the passes we know he is good at.
Both these improvements will undoubtedly take time, and it would be unfair to expect the player to step up to such a level straight away.
What does this mean for the here and now? Well, Joe Edwards will, fitness permitting, start the season. That’s much more a reflection of his skills than Randell’s – Edwards has had a very strong start to pre-season. As for Randell, it’s a tough one. It almost feels like this should be a season of consolidation, where he bulks up, works on his skills, and comes back before the 2020/21 campaign ready to challenge for a first team spot. However, Lowe clearly has a substantial degree of faith in the player already, and minutes in the first team this year are surely inevitable.
Randell will also bring his arsenal of set pieces to the first team next season. With only Conor Grant appearing as a set-piece specialist in the squad, this might help him accumulate more minutes next season. Randell largely took set-pieces for Argyle’s reserve and apprentice teams last season, scoring directly from four free-kicks and picking up further assists from corners.
Hopefully, Randell will grab the forthcoming opportunities with both hands, and prove his worth once the campaign begins. In the event of that, Argyle might be looking at a player set to breakthrough and develop into the new heartbeat of the engine room for years to come.