Klaidi Lolos may well have been cursing his luck as the 2018/19 season drew to a close. Now 18, he’s at the age where he’d be hoping to break through to, at the very least, the first team squad. Under Derek Adams, he seemed like the ideal candidate to do so. The Scot’s system was perfect for a striker who could hold up the ball effectively and bring others into play, as we saw with Ryan Taylor. Lolos could surely have slotted into the central striker role splendidly well.
However, as we know, there has been a seismic regime change at Home Park over the summer. Whilst Adams’ defensive, long ball style of football has departed, Ryan Lowe’s much more attacking way of thinking has arrived. His bold 3-1-4-2 system relies heavily on creativity in the attacking midfield positions to break through defences. The role of the striker, meanwhile, is based much more on finding the back of the net rather than holding the ball up in attacking areas, something Lolos excelled at playing at youth level.
Having to adapt to such a different set of principles, Lolos effectively had to prove himself all over again. To the surprise and delight of many, he certainly appears to have impressed his new manager. A lot.
We’ll start by looking at a telling quote from Lowe himself. The Liverpudlian mentioned recently that he was mightily impressed with “two 17-year-olds” in Argyle’s ranks. Whilst he may have stated their ages incorrectly – a forgivable misdemeanour given his limited time in the job – it’s becoming increasingly clear that Lowe was referring to Lolos and Adam Randell.
Realistically, he could only have been talking about Lolos, Randell or Michael Peck, considering the game time the trio have had this pre-season. And whilst Lolos and Randell have impressed during their time on the field across the last couple of weeks, Peck has experienced a few struggles in comparison. The squad numbers are also worth remarking upon too – whilst Peck has been wearing 28, Lolos and Randell have been wearing 19 and 20 respectively, a clear suggestion they are higher up the pecking order.
We can therefore safely say that Lolos has impressed Lowe in training. And recently, the positive vibe surrounding the player has followed him onto the pitch. Lolos has been deployed up front and in attacking midfield across the last two games, and he has shown he can be competent at the very least in each of those roles.
Against Plymouth Parkway last weekend, the Greek forward started as a striker before moving back into midfield in the second half. Perhaps surprisingly, his goal against Parkway came whilst he was in a midfield position. After receiving a quality ball around the corner from Ryan Taylor, Lolos demonstrated his striking abilities with a highly accomplished finish.
Does this show that Lolos has the ability to finish chances that would make him a success in the striker role across the season? Not necessarily. In truth, the sample size for us to judge that is rather small at the moment, at least at senior level. We should of course mention the 25-yard strike against Torquay that saw Argyle briefly take the lead, but Lolos may be disappointed that he doesn’t have even more goals so far in pre-season. For instance, he should have at least challenged Parkway’s goalkeeper with this headed opportunity.
Against Parkway, Lolos took the chance to demonstrate his qualities as a striker from a midfield position. Conversely, against Torquay, he showed he had the potential to excel in midfield whilst playing up front. Confusing, indeed, but perhaps this is an indication that Lolos is no conventional player.
His exploits against Torquay were admittedly more down to circumstance than choice. Argyle’s attacking midfield duo of Joel Grant and Antoni Sarcevic were bitterly ineffective, and as a result Argyle were often forced to go long. A long ball to Alex Fletcher was never likely to be effective – we’d seen enough of that last season to conclude as much. Lolos recognised this, and could therefore often be seen dropping deeper. This allowed players to pass to his feet, and Lolos showed a good ability to turn and link up play with Argyle’s other attacking players. It wasn’t perhaps the way Ryan Lowe envisaged his team getting forward, but it was a necessary move to make at the time.
Once he’s had the ball in attacking midfield positions, Lolos has been able to demonstrate a variety of skills. Long range shooting? Check. His goal against Torquay showed us all we need to know in that regard. Quick feet? Check. Admittedly, this came against Parkway, but Lolos showed that he can be clever, creative and confident under pressure. The more he learns and the physically stronger he becomes, the more he should be able to do things like this against higher ranked sides.
So, we’ve seen that Lolos has strengths that could benefit Argyle in attacking and midfield positions under Ryan Lowe’s system. Does this mean he should be starting against Crewe in just over a fortnight? I’d be tempted to say no. At least for now. The attacking midfield positions are too vital in Lowe’s system to take such a risk, so unless Lolos can demonstrate even more of an ability to be creative from this position, Danny Mayor and Conor Grant ought to be starting. Up front, I’d still say he needs to work on his finishing. The signs are good, but it’s certainly arguable that he should have even more goals to his name. If he does start the season as a striker, the pressure will be on him to make it to the 20 goals mark before May.
That being said, Lolos has certainly earned the right to be involved in the first team squad. On current evidence, I certainly wouldn’t be against him providing versatile backup for both the attacking midfield and forward positions. He should certainly start in some of the lesser important cup games and, providing he continues to improve both technically and physically as the season progresses, Argyle could have quite the player on their hands.