Across the last fortnight, Plymouth Argyle’s summer has sparked into life. We cast our eye over the free agents available to pick up during this transfer window.
In Ryan Lowe’s system, the central and attacking midfielders act as the creative hub. In Danny Mayor, Panutche Camara and Conor Grant, Argyle have a very good base in those positions to work with, but you can never have too much creativity in the squad. Here are ten available players who could hold the key to Argyle’s attacking success this year.
Kaylen Hinds is a player whose career so far has been either feast or famine without much in between. Argyle could be the perfect middle ground for Hinds to thrive without finding himself either out of his depth or a flat track bully.
The promising youngster started his career at Arsenal where he hoped to make a name for himself. His professional debut was slightly less glamorous: a loan spell at Stevenage. Yet there’s no denying he impressed. He was part of their successful run of form at the back end of the 2016/17 season that saw them almost break into the promotion picture.
Big moves to Wolfsburg and then Watford followed, but he couldn’t get any kind of foothold in either of those teams. One slight concern could be homesickness, as his Wolfsberg contract was terminated due to a period of absenteeism. Still, an attacking midfielder who can also cover as a striker would be a valuable addition if he can get his head in the right place.
Club: Doncaster Rovers
Appearances: 9 (5 for Doncaster, 4 on loan at Crawley)
Assists: 1 (for Doncaster)
Kiwomya started life at Rotherham United before he swapped life in South Yorkshire for South-West London in the form of Chelsea. The playmaker joined up with the infamous ‘loan army’ at Chelsea; he was dispatched on loan 3 times before making a permanent switch to Doncaster Rovers.
It was Kiwomya’s spell at Crewe Alexandra prior to his arrival in Doncaster that really caught the eye. Operating as a winger, Kiwomya was often able to demonstrate his terrifying pace and ability to glide past opposition players with ease. He scored 7 times during his spell with the Railwaymen.
He’s struggled a little more in recent years, but it’s the attributes mentioned previously which intrigue me. When I utter the phrase “glides past players like they’re not even there”, who does that remind you of? I hope you were thinking of Danny Mayor. Mayor was previously a winger before Lowe innovated his career by moving him to a more central position. Could Kiwomya adapt and provide the skills that Mayor does alongside the ball carrying ability of Antoni Sarcevic? The prospect of a ball carrier who is electric whilst on it certainly makes for an exciting concept.
Club: Burton Albion
Don’t be fooled – Fraser’s official status may well be “released” from Burton Albion, but that’s not necessarily at the will of the Brewers. In their official retained list, Fraser was listed in the “still talking to” section, but he appears to have been let go after a deal just couldn’t be agreed. That’s no surprise – across the last few weeks he’s been linked with a move to the likes of Sunderland, Barnsley and Hull.
It’s easy to see why there is so much interest in Fraser. Nobody in Burton’s squad notched more assists than the Scotsman this season, and only two scored more goals. At 25, he’s still unlikely to have reached his peak, and any League One club worth their salt would at least hold an interest in the player this summer.
With all that in mind, then, why would he choose Argyle? Well, that’s a very good question. One would suspect many other options would be closer to the top of his list. But there’s no doubt he’d be just perfect for Lowe’s system, and if the Argyle manager can convince him to buy into that project, the Greens may end up with a superb signing.
Club: Fleetwood Town
Appearances: 22 (17 for Fleetwood, 5 on loan at Shrewsbury)
Conor McAleny is a player who will surely look back on his professional career with some regret. He made his Premier League debut against Arsenal aged nineteen and nearly scored in the game. Then, as with most young players, the loan spells kicked in. Injury knocked him back as he looked to make an impression with Brentford but eventually, five years after his debut, he settled at Wigan.
After a successful short loan spell with the Latics, he flourished at Oxford, scoring ten goals in 19 appearances. This attracted Fleetwood, who swooped for his permanent signature. Yet, McAleny never settled at Fleetwood, forever in and out of the team as he struggled to nail down minutes.
McAleny may not be a traditional attacking midfielder, but one thing that people often overlook is that a player should be matched to a position by their skillset, not their history in a position. Deft at dribbling, eye for a long-shot and sufficient at creating in the final third, there’s no reason he couldn’t be converted into an attacking midfield option under Lowe’s system, while bringing the versatility that could see him operate up front or on the wing too.
Club: Milton Keynes
Ben Reeves is a player who has been around the block a bit when it comes to the Football League and, like some others on these lists, actually made his football league debut against Argyle. A drab 0-0 draw with Dagenham in the Carl Fletcher era, to be precise, where Reeves was on loan from Southampton.
He has since paved his way bouncing between the Championship and League One, proving himself as an attacking midfielder for Milton Keynes in what was a reasonably successful spell for their club as they got promoted to the Championship.
Like Ryan Lowe, Karl Robinson is a manager who tries to get his teams to play the game ‘the right way’ so there’s every chance he could be a perfect fit for Argyle. Robinson also took Reeves to Charlton where he had a successful spell and once again got promoted out of this league.
Don’t be surprised to see him at Oxford but if Argyle could sneak in and sign him, he’d represent a real coup and is surely one of the more exciting names on this list. Having started as a left-back, there’s no reason that he couldn’t cover as a wing-back too.
Club: Peterborough United
Appearances: 33 (26 for Peterborough, 7 on loan at Hull)
Goals: 11 (10 Peterborough, 1 Hull)
Assists: 8 (all Peterborough)
Maddison would be considered by many, including myself, as simply a distant dream that would be outside of the realms of possibility for Argyle.
First catching the eye at Gateshead, notching 13 goals in 34 appearances, Maddison was snapped up for an undisclosed fee by Peterborough He went on to make a real name for himself as a creative outlet who could make something out of nothing. Renowned for his long-range strikes, Maddison clearly has bags of ability, and you would be hard tasked to find someone who could fulfil this role better than him.
Despite this unquestionable pedigree, Maddison has recently about his frustration of life without a club. Although there is reported interest from Sunderland and Derby, his future is still shadowed by a cloud of doubt. Desperate, he has recently featured for Peterborough Sports during pre-season in a hope to maintain fitness and match sharpness in order to be ready whenever that phone goes. Peterborough Sports currently operate in the Southern League Premier Central at Step 3.
So, an immensely talented plyer who appears to long for the security of a professional contract. Could this pave way for Argyle to bring the Durham midfielder to Home Park? No, probably not. But let us cling on to hope.
Club: Oldham Athletic
Status: Offered new contract
A name that had been linked in passing to Plymouth Argyle already this summer, the skilful Frenchman would herald a welcome return to the French connection that was a feature of Home Park during the glory years under Paul Sturrock.
An aesthetic footballer, he has no issues operating in tight corners. Comfortable with being pressed, passing through teams in triangles and showing for the ball, Maouche understands space more than anything else on the pitch. The anthesis of his would-be predecessor Antoni Sarcevic; Maouche is a more beautiful player to watch, but less effective in the final third. This is something he’d need to address to step up to League One.
Should Lowe make him the final member of his midfield quartet alongside Camara, Mayor and Grant, Maouche would offer something different, making him a tactical delight depending on the opposition. Should Argyle wish to bring the ball out from the back against a high pressing opponent, Maouche could start deeper to feed his advanced midfielders. Or, if he is looking to control the middle third, his passing would do the trick ahead of Grant and Camara.
Club: Hull City
Jon Toral is one of those who would be an ambitious signing, but not an impossible one by any means. Having spent three years with Hull City in the Championship, he’d certainly be a statement of intent as Argyle look to build for their first season back in League One.
Toral has quite the career at youth level. He came through Barcelona’s inimitable La Masia, before “doing a Cesc Fabregas” and ending up in the youth ranks at Arsenal. It was through loan spells that he really made his name – he had a successful time of it at Brentford and particularly Birmingham, and it appears they’d dearly like him back this summer.
He’s always seemed to be a Championship level player, and would be quite the coup for a side just promoted from League Two. But it would be foolish to rule anything out, particularly in the current circumstances. Toral may be back in Barcelona, but could he play in England once more? “I am open to anything. I am a free agent now so I am open to anything in the world,” he’s quoted as saying. Watch this space.
Club: Forest Green Rovers
24-year-old George Williams would become the second member of Wales’ Euro 2016 squad to sign for Plymouth Argyle. Simon Church was the first – any Argyle fan would pray that Williams had more success at Home Park.
Williams’ career has stagnated a little since he reached the semi-finals in France four years ago. He was then a young prospect in Fulham’s academy, but played just 15 times for the club before he was released and moved west to sign for Forest Green Rovers.
After a successful first season with his new employers, he broke his leg three minutes into his second, playing just three more games before the shutdown enforced the season’s early curtailment.
A lack of composure in front of goal is maybe the reason this speedy attacker doesn’t have as many goals and assists as you’d expect of someone with his ability. His most obvious position in Lowe’s formation would as an advanced central midfielder, but he could also play up front, or be converted into a George Cooper style wing back.
Club: CSKA Sofia
Status: Offered new contract
This is a player who is struggling to agree a new contract with CSKA Sofia, having played just 24 times for them. Could he move across the continent and adapt quickly to living in Plymouth, or the English style of play? Would the Argyle fans take to someone with his undoubted technical skills, even if he didn’t consistently produce?
Obviously, Graham Carey is not just any midfielder. Two-time Argyle player of the season, the Dubliner became the darling of the Home Park faithful. So good were his performances, that this very website named him as Argyle’s best player of the 2010s.
A return, while romantic, seems unlikely. Ryan Lowe boldly declared last summer that Danny Mayor was a better player than both Carey and Argyle’s other departed midfield schemer, Rúben Lameiras. While Mayor hasn’t shown the consistency to back up that statement yet, it is likely he will still be the first choice attacking midfielder for Lowe next season.
Carey is not an obvious fit alongside Mayor. Both operate in a similar number ten position, and Carey could not replace the zip our midfield will lose from the departed Antoni Sarcevic.
But still, it’s nice to dream.