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.

Recently, we emphasised the importance of the defensive midfield position in Ryan Lowe’s system, and how the player there can act as a vital link between defence and attack. The wingers, or wing backs if you’d prefer, have the same responsibilities. Given they are the only wide players in the formation, they hold the key on the flanks in both defence and attack. Here are ten wide men who are available.

Junior Brown

Club: Coventry City
Status: Released
Age: 31
Appearances: 24 (on loan at Scunthorpe)
Goals: 0
Assists: 3

Is it just me who feels Junior Brown is linked with Argyle in every transfer window? Regardless, let’s make that a self-fulfilling prophecy and have a look at Brown’s credentials this summer. He’s enjoyed football league success, most notably at Shrewsbury, across his career. But, having spent last season on loan at Scunthorpe from Coventry, he was released by the Sky Blues this summer.

That’s not to say he wouldn’t be a good fit at Argyle. Quite the contrary. On talent alone, Brown seems like the perfect choice to play on the left for the Greens. Across his career, he’s played right across the field (honestly, goalkeeper seems to be the only place he hasn’t lined up for one of his clubs). But generally speaking, he lines up either as a left back who is excellent at going forward, or a left midfielder who is committed to his defensive responsibilities. A spell as a left wing back, therefore, would suit him down to a tee.

He may be ever so slightly past his best at 31, but Brown would still be a good addition who could certainly do a job in Lowe’s side.

 

Stephen McLaughlin

Club: Southend United
Status: Offered new contract
Age: 30
Appearances: 31
Goals: 4
Assists: 6

Expected to leave Southend, Irishman McLaughlin has a proven track record at League One level and could slot nicely into an attacking 3-5-2 formation. Known for his piledriver of a left-boot, he has made a habit of cutting in from the right and slamming the ball into the opposite corner in a very budget-Arjen Robben-esque way.

In a miserable season for the Shrimpers, he was one of the few players who held up their end of the bargain. He ranked second in the team for most completed dribbles, big chances created, key passes and completed crosses and shots on target.

It may be hard for him to adapt to the defensive responsibilities of a being a wing-back but playing inside a creative midfielder like Mayor or Camara he should thrive offensively.

The main hang-up would probably be wages. There’s a reason Southend are forever being chased by HRMC: they overpay their players and, amazingly, have had one of the league’s biggest budgets (top six reportedly) in the past few years. Mansfield – that’s right, big spending Mansfield – are struggling to agree terms.

 

Sean Scannell

Club: Blackpool
Status: Released
Age: 29
Appearances: 18 (12 for Blackpool, 6 for Bradford)
Goals: 2 (1 Blackpool, 1 Bradford)
Assists: 0

Scannell enters this list with quite a high pedigree, although he has suffered a slight downfall in recent years. The Croydon-born winger burst onto the scene after a string of impressive performances in the academy for Crystal Palace where he notched 23 goals before graduating to the first team.

His debut came in 2007 as he came on as a substitute for Franck Songo’o (yes, he is a relation), and after a successful first year Scannell was awarded with the young player of the year award at Selhurst Park. His success continued as he won the Championship Apprentice of the Year, and he continued to improve, with his most productive season in football during 2011-2012.

After this year of productivity, Scannell arrived at newly promoted Huddersfield Town, where he amassed a total of 158 appearances at the Terriers before his career took a turn for the worse.

He has since endured a loan spell at Burton Albion and two spells at Braford and Blackpool. These three spells have seen the winger’s pedigree taking a hit, as he has only managed to record 2 goals across his time with all three clubs.

There is, however, undoubtedly talent there. A player who won Huddersfield’s players’ Player of the Year would be an interesting prospect for Lowe’s side. If Scannell could adapt his game to add a defensive edge to his undoubted attacking talent, he would surely become quite the asset for the Greens.

 

Scott Wagstaff

Club: AFC Wimbledon
Status: Released
Age: 30
Appearances: 30
Goals: 2
Assists: 4

Scott Wagstaff probably represents a cheaper option who would perhaps capture less attention given he’d be coming from Wimbledon and doesn’t have a slew of goals and assists to his name. Nevertheless, scratch beneath the surface and there are signs that he could be a very astute signing.

An option at right wing-back but also as cover in midfield, Wagstaff brings versatility to the team as well as experience. He was no slouch in his prime – he’s won promotion from League One twice in his career, though admittedly he wasn’t a first-choice player in either of Charlton or Bristol City’s squads.

Notably, though Wagstaff has been predominantly a winger in his career, at Bristol City he played as a wing-back. Given City used a more orthodox (read, defensive) 3-5-2 formation than the one Lowe has favoured, full-back Malcom Little was favoured to give extra defensive cohesion. Wagstaff, a winger by trade, acted as back-up but still racked up hundreds of minutes in the position as City won promotion.

The biggest drawback to Wagstaff would be his lack of resale value. Luke McCormick represents a long-term investment given he will probably transition to a coaching role in the long-term, while Argyle’s other two signings have resale value to a Championship club if they make waves next season, particularly Camara.

Yet, with cover at wing-back and midfield likely needed, Wagstaff represents a neat package who can tick multiple boxes without breaking the bank.

 

Joe Bunney

Club: Bolton Wanderers
Status: Released
Age: 26
Appearances: 8
Goals: 0
Assists: 0

Remember Rochdale away in 2013? Nail-biting scenes were the order of the day in the away end of Spotland Stadium as Argyle supporters spent more time frantically refreshing score apps than they did watching the game. We waited for other results to see if we were going to retain out football league status, and we were ok in the end due to Barnet’s loss at Northampton. But we were made slightly more nervous when the hosts took the lead late in the game thanks to youngster Joe Bunney.

Bunney was actually making his professional debut against Argyle that day and couldn’t have made a finer start with a good headed finish. Goals were very much part of his repertoire at Rochdale, bagging 16 in total. He had a pretty poor game at Home Park in October 2017, where he was given twisted blood by Graham Carey and was promptly subbed. But who could cope with Carey at his best?

Bunney has not had good luck since leaving Dale. He joined Bolton last summer, and sustained a broken collarbone following a car accident just a week after signing. He was injured for months and only played two games before the lockdown. He was let go for financial reasons and as such his career is at something of a crossroads. One of the more natural wing-backs on this list, he could be a pretty good fit for Ryan Lowe.

 

Lloyd Isgrove

Club: Swindon Town
Status: Offered new contract
Age: 27
Appearances: 32
Goals: 0
Assists: 5

Lloyd Isgrove is a player who would help expand Argyle’s options at wing-back, having also been successfully promoted out of League Two with Swindon Town. He came through the excellent youth academy of Southampton, going to spend the first 5 years of his career there and making one first team appearance.

Isgrove is a player who’s been around for a while and whose name we have often suggested on lists like this, but he is still only 27. Indeed, he has plenty of time left to develop his skillset and improve as a player.

He primarily plays as a winger or wide forward but as we have seen under Ryan Lowe already, it is not impossible to convert such players to the role of wing-back. Look at Bryon Moore.

Isgrove’s career probably peaked in 2016 where he won promotion to the Championship with Barnsley (also winning the Checkatrade Trophy) as well as gaining his first cap for Wales. We’d love him to rediscover the old magic in a green shirt.

 

Luke Garbutt

Club: Everton
Status: Released
Age: 27
Appearances: 30 (on loan at Ipswich)
Goals: 6
Assists: 3

“Who?” was the reaction of Carlo Ancelotti when a journalist asked him about Everton’s decision to release Luke Garbutt this summer. He hadn’t played for the club for over five years and was out on loan with Ipswich – it was maybe understandable that Ancelotti didn’t know who he was, even if those sharing the clip on social media didn’t necessarily agree.

The 27-year-old Yorkshireman played both as a left-back and at left midfield for Ipswich last season. He performed well in both positions and Paul Lambert is believed to be keen to take him back to Suffolk, while Sunderland are also sniffing around.

Garbutt hasn’t quite lived up to his early potential – Everton gave £600,000 to Leeds to sign him as a 16-year old, and he played in every England age group from U16 to U21. However, he failed to ever usurp Leighton Baines as the Toffees’ first choice left-back.

He would be a good addition to the squad, taking over the currently vacant left-wing-back position, but with Ipswich and Sunderland fighting it out for his signature, it is difficult to see him coming down to Devon.

 

Callum McManaman

Club: Luton Town
Status: Released
Age: 29
Appearances: 26
Goals: 4
Assists: 2

What connects Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Kevin de Bruyne, Alexis Sanchez and Callum McManaman?

10 points if you got this question: they were all named man of the match in the FA Cup Final. McManaman, at 22, was the youngest of the four when he received the accolade, but seven years later finds himself without a club, having been released by Luton Town.

The winger played just 20 times in the Premier League after winning the FA Cup, failing to add to his two goals he scored in the top division for Wigan. He does not obviously fit into Ryan Lowe’s 3-1-4-2 system, but would likely be converted into a wing-back, a la George Cooper.

Despite his lack of success in recent years, McManaman’s pedigree is obvious. You don’t sign for West Brom for nearly £5m if you’re a talentless hack. He would be an ambitious signing for Argyle, and maybe Lowe could persuade his fellow Liverpudlian to take his talents down to the Westcountry.

 

Otis Khan

Club: Mansfield Town
Status: Released
Age: 24
Appearances: 32
Goals: 1
Assists: 4

Although it feels like Otis Khan has been around for an age, the winger is actually only 24. Khan was initially a member of the Manchester United academy before he swapped life at the Red Devils for that of the Bladesmen at Sheffield United. A series of loans followed before he finally moved to Barnsley on a permanent deal.

Barnsley was another short stay, and it’s where Khan ended up next that started to make a name for himself – Yeovil Town. The playmaker featured 67 times for the Glovers notching 12 goals during his 2 year stay at the club. After a steady impressive spell in Somerset Khan moved to Mansfield Town for an undisclosed fee.

Despite being released this summer, Khan still demonstrates a lot to be excited about. His main asset to note is his ability from set-pieces. A large number of his goals and assists at Huish Park came from dead-ball situations. This asset is certain to be useful to Ryan Lowe after the departure of assist king George Cooper.

With the ability to be deployed in a variety of positions, Khan could offer cover for the attacking midfield role as well as either full back role. The question that must be asked is whether Khan has the potential to adapt his game to a wing-back. At only 24-years-of-age it certainly isn’t too late which makes for an exciting prospect as a potential addition to the Argyle squad.

 

Jordan Roberts

Club: Ipswich Town
Status: Released
Age: 26
Appearances: 15 (5 for Ipswich, 10 on loan at Gillingham)
Goals: 5 (3 Ipswich, 2 Gillingham)
Assists: 2 (both Gillingham)

Jordan Roberts’ career seemed to be on a downward spiral, but received the springboard it needed just before the pandemic hit. At Ipswich, he had been limited to starts in the cups to complement the single minute of league action he experienced. But a loan to Gillingham in January proved to be just the tonic. Roberts got to work right away, scoring a brace in his second game against Rochdale, and laying on a further two goals for his teammates. The only game Gillingham failed to pick up points in since his arrival just happened to be the only game in which Roberts didn’t feature.

That may suggest that the COVID stoppage came at the worst possible time for Roberts, but it seems certain that he will pick up a contract in this transfer window. Since his release from Ipswich, he’s been linked with Scunthorpe, Doncaster and Salford, as well as a return to Gillingham. Don’t be surprised to see Argyle join the hunt.

Lowe will like his versatility. Primarily a winger, Roberts has also been known to play up front on a fair few occasions. He’s hardly prolific though, and given how important it is for the strikers to be able to finish chances in Lowe’s system, Roberts would probably slot in at left wing back. And he’d be a more than acceptable option there.

 


Top 10: Free Agents – Defensive Midfielders

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