It took me about 8 hours to calm down after Saturday’s game a Vicarage Road. Through 90 minutes I went from being indifferent about the need for a result, to a point being the single most important goal of my existence.

We can all agree was an entertaining and heartening 0-0 draw. I skipped back to Watford station, via the O’Neill’s for a second time in the day, delighted to see zero goals in the game.

But it could have been different. At first, we were backs-to-the-wall and penned into our own half. But this gave way to a more expansive Argyle in the second half. And we looked the more likely to score as the game progressed.

The Green Army will certainly feel happier with the point. But there’s more to be positive about than just a point on the road. 

Read on for five things we learned at Watford.

James writes a weekly(ish) Argyle newsletter called One Team in Devon: Click here to subscribe.

1 – Argyle and the need to believe

Playing a top team in the Championship, away from home, was the latest “test” of this Argyle team – and they passed it with flying colours. So let’s stop calling every new game a test, and start believing, like then lads need to, that we belong here.

The second-half performance, which was built on the resolute defending in the first half, shows we can cut it with the best in this league.

After a difficult first half in which we rode our luck, we came out far more assured in the second half. We imposed ourselves, got in Watford’s faces, and it was them that blinked. When we believed in ourselves and committed to the 4-3-3, we were more than a match.

In the first few minutes after the break, we pushed forward with a silky move, in which Earley finally dropped into midfield and started an attack. Five minutes later he did it again and played an incisive pass through the heart of the Watford defence that led to Randell firing against Watford’s ‘keeper. It was easily the best move of the match, that came from us committing, and overloading Watford through the middle.

From there we created numerous openings – and forced Watford back. 

This isn’t a point about whether we should have scored in any particular instance. It’s a point about belief. Argyle proved they have what it takes. We passed the tests, now let’s express ourselves in this league.


2 – We’re not out of second gear

The most encouraging thing about this team is that we’re not even out of second gear.

Cohesiveness and confidence are growing – but we’re not quite there yet. And the team is still adapting to the pace of the Championship. Earley had a great game but could have stopped crosses. We were regularly too late with our passing.

 We’re also in a new system, and we can think back to how long it took us to adapt to the 3-4-3 in the Lowe era to know that this isn’t done overnight.

And as we mentioned in last week’s post, perhaps the best players in this team are still to emerge. Cundle looks like a starter with his assurance on the ball. Azaz sparkled when he came on. We’ll come to Pleguezuelo.

There are many improvements that Schuey and the team will be working on, with stopping the flow of attacks and crosses.

This team has so much more to give. Finding third gear against a rampant, but vulnerable Saints team would be good timing.


3 – Mumba returns to Earth

After the Mumba masterclass against Huddersfield, many of us were wondering whether Chelsea would pay £50m for him in January, or wait for the summer.

At Watford, we were reminded why he’s not the finished article quite yet.

He was feeding off scraps in a very compact press, and a good Watford defence was aware of his threat and worked hard to nullify him. 

Mumba still managed to carve out three excellent openings – but was guilty of poor decision-making, as each chance was snuffed out without even a shot fired.

He looked a little dejected at the final whistle, perhaps ruing his impact on the game and those crucial moments. He’ll certainly learn from the experience. 


4 – Where does Pleguezuelo fit?

I’m low-key obsessed with where (and how) Pleguezuelo fits into this team. How can we keep a player of this calibre on the bench? Scarr looks undroppable, so Schuey must be thinking about this himself.

I wonder if that’s now more likely to be the RB or DM position, which Pleggy himself has said are positions he can play.

Edwards struggled against Watford, although ultimately came through. Houghton is also doing well in the deep-lying midfield three. But could Schuey try Pleguezuelo in one of those positions, before disrupting the burgeoning Scarr/Gibson duo?

Ultimately, we have a situation where we are struggling to play through the press, and we have a cultured ball-playing defender at our disposal. How long until Schuey moves something around?


5 – Hazard settles some nerves

While distribution was still a struggle early in the Watford game, a more composed and assured Hazard performance has put early worries to bed.

With his feet, the performance was far superior to Huddersfield. We’re struggling to play out, and the lack of a target man to hold the ball up and bring Whittaker and Mumba into play also compounds things. But as we grow in experience and confidence, we’re sure this will improve.

But Hazard plucks aerial balls out of the sky with seemingly telescopic arms, and his imposing stature likely led to Bayo panicking and skewing a one-on-one chance wide in the 56th minute.

Things are certainly moving in the right direction.


James Stables is the author of One Team in Devon, a Plymouth Argyle weekly(ish) newsletter: subscribe here.

On Twitter? Follow @one_teamindevon.