It’s been a peculiar week to support Plymouth Argyle. A matter of days ago, all of Argyle’s loanees from last season were back at their parent clubs. We were left to rely on crumbs of speculation for any hint on their next destination. Sure, a few people had bleated some unverified claims about Argyle chasing permanent deals, but they were never likely to amount to anything, right?

Wrong. Fast forward a few days and Argyle have brought back both Morgan Whittaker and Bali Mumba on four-year contracts. They’ve both signed for £1 million, smashing the transfer record of £500,000 that stood just days prior. Spare a thought for Steve MacLean, who was Argyle’s record signing for 15 years before Monday, and now finds himself down at third on the list.

Mumba is a player who delivered for the entirety of last season. Whilst Whittaker’s Argyle spell was cut prematurely by a brainless recall, Mumba’s contribution to the title winners bordered on ever-present. Only James Wilson and Joe Edwards played more minutes in an Argyle shirt last season, so we’ve got a great sample size to go off when considering just how Mumba might handle the step up to the Championship.

The most attacking of defenders

Bali Mumba has always been billed as a wing back. A defender. Having watched him for a year, we know he’s a defender in name only.

In reality, he was as crucial to Argyle’s attack last season as anybody else in the side. When we analysed Whittaker, we ranked Argyle’s squad on goal contributions. Mumba’s figures held up very nicely. His six goals and seven assists got him a total of 13 goal contributions in 2022/23 – only four players had more. Not bad for a wing back.

But I think I was most fascinated by how well he attacked in general, including his unwavering willingness to get forward. Whenever Mumba got the ball, his first intention was to put the opposition on the back foot. He was a dazzling dribbler, completing more dribbles last season than any other Argyle player. And it wasn’t even close; Mumba’s total of 61 was over double the figure of Danny Mayor, his closest challenger. Mumba actually accounted for 23% of all dribbles Argyle completed last term.

Player Dribbles Completed
Bali Mumba 61
Danny Mayor 25
Finn Azaz 24
Morgan Whittaker 20
Niall Ennis 19
Jay Matete 17


When you’re getting yourself upfield with regularity, you’ll have plentiful opportunities to shoot. And we know Mumba has a quality shot in him. An excuse to watch that goal against Exeter again? Go on.


That may have been an astonishing strike, but I’ve also been pleased with how well he shoots when presented with more conventional chances. Seven Argyle players attempted more shots than Mumba last season, but not a single one of those had a better shot accuracy. In fact, Mumba had the fifth-highest shot accuracy of all Argyle players, with none of the four above him attempting more than two shots overall. Mumba attempted 39.

Player Shots Attempted Shot Accuracy
Ryan Hardie 87 39%
Morgan Whittaker 78 36%
Finn Azaz 57 37%
Niall Ennis 55 42%
Joe Edwards 47 26%
Sam Cosgrove 44 36%
Adam Randell 42 21%
Bali Mumba 39 54%


Yes, he’s listed as a defender. But he must be one of the most attacking defenders Argyle have ever signed. And if he can keep those numbers up in the Championship, he’ll be a primary attacking threat again.

A magnet for fouls

Mumba can be absolutely terrifying to face, and therefore electrifying to watch.

I was struck last season by just how often he was fouled. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising; when you have a player who dribbles so regularly, the opposition will want to stop them. It can be humiliating to be dribbled past so often – how many defenders were made to look stupid by Diego Maradona in 1986? That they’ll occasionally take the law into their own hands is no shock.

Still, it’s impressive that Mumba won more fouls for Argyle last season than any other player. It’s a testament to the level of panic he causes in opposition defences, and has the added bonus of creating a healthy number of set-piece opportunities.

Player Fouled
Bali Mumba 57
Joe Edwards 46
Jordan Houghton 41
Finn Azaz 39
Adam Randell 35
Sam Cosgrove 34


And let’s not forget that some of those fouls were in crucial areas of the pitch. In the first three league games of Argyle’s season, Mumba won two penalties, both of which were converted by Ryan Hardie.



Mumba’s ability to draw in defenders could prove vital in the Championship. No matter how well Argyle play, chances will be tougher to create against second tier defences. Don’t rule out a couple of games being decided by Mumba’s ability to win a penalty.

Signing too good to refuse?

I am ecstatic by the signing of Mumba, and with Argyle’s week as a whole. Which Argyle fan wouldn’t be? A few days ago, the club had never had a million-pound player – we’ve now got two. When you consider the circumstances though, you’d have to conclude that this doesn’t appear to be a move that was part of Argyle’s summer plan.

It never really appeared that Norwich City would consider selling Mumba, at least until very recently. He’d been involved for the Canaries across pre-season, which isn’t something you think they’d sanction if they were actively pursuing a sale, particularly when you consider they have a larger squad size than most.

Argyle also appeared to be strategising for their campaign without having Mumba on their minds. Kaine Kesler-Hayden has already joined on loan from Aston Villa, and Saxon Earley was showing signs of promise before his recent knock. And that was playing in a back four, with no room for conventional wing backs. Given Mumba’s attacking prowess, which we’ve already explored, he’s clearly more of a wing back than a full back.

So, this didn’t appear to be a world in which Bali Mumba could sign for Plymouth Argyle until…well…Bali Mumba signed for Plymouth Argyle. It’s come so out of the blue that you have to wonder how much thought was involved. Did Argyle set aside money in the hope Mumba would become available? Have they considered how he’ll fit into their newly-constructed team? Well, frankly, who cares?

The Football Manager players among you will know what I mean. How many of you have gone into a season with a clear plan on what you wanted to do, before making a move for a dream player you assumed wouldn’t be available? Sometimes a player is so good that you have to take the chance, no matter how fleeting, to sign him. That’s what Argyle have done.

This is far from a panic buy. It’s exactly the sort of opportunistic move all good clubs should be prepared to make. Credit must again go to Simon Hallett for managing Argyle’s finances in such a way that this became possible.

A word of Championship warning

I’ve spent much of this piece lauding Mumba. I’ll probably spend much of the next few months doing the same. But it’d be negligent of me not to issue the same warning I have for many Argyle players this summer: playing in the Championship is a notably different prospect to playing in League One.

For one, Mumba will need to do more defending. And cast your mind back to the numbers we looked at for Argyle’s wing backs when analysing Kesler-Hayden. In short, Mumba is a player who likes to defend on the front foot. He won’t shy away from challenging for the ball, but that’ll mean he’s dribbled past more than most. Against Championship wingers you’d expect his tackle success to falter, which could leave Argyle exposed.

For Mumba, the challenge of the Championship is even more pronounced. He spent a few months there on loan at Peterborough in the season before he arrived at Home Park, with a record that a kind soul would call ‘mixed’. A rare positive was scoring the winning goal (and indeed his first professional goal) to down Bristol Rovers and see Posh through to the fourth round of the FA Cup.


Alas, things didn’t get better from there. Of the ten league games Mumba appeared in, Peterborough won just one. That 3-1 triumph over Queens Park Rangers turned out to be Mumba’s last appearance for the club. And perhaps his first league start was a sign of things to come. He made an error leading directly to a goal when he lost the ball out wide against Coventry City. Posh would go on to lose the game 4-1.


His Championship numbers aren’t the sort to fill one with confidence. Granted, at just ten games, the sample size is disappointingly small. But some of the comparables clearly paint a picture of a player who succeeded much more at one level than the other.

Bali Mumba Championship* League One
Goals 0 6
Assists 0 7
Pass Success 75% 76%
Long Pass Success 24% 55%
Cross Success 27% 36%
Dribble Success 57% 61%
Tackle Success 82% 76%
Ground Duel Success 54% 56%
Aerial Duel Success 24% 50%


I’m not sure how much we can read into those numbers, so take your pick. This is very much a note of warning, not a whole book. Besides, Mumba was instructed to play very differently during his time at Peterborough. He registered zero goal contributions, and only took two shots across those ten games. Two shots! Does that sound like the Bali Mumba we know?

This is a very different time. In 2021/22, Mumba spent a few months on loan at a club he wasn’t particularly familiar with. Now he’s back in the same league with a permanent deal at a club he’s flourished at and knows well. That environmental disparity should mean he’s able to have a much better crack at the Championship this time around. But it also wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect him to take a month or two to resettle.

Building resale value

Mumba lining up for Argyle in the Championship this season is an exhilarating prospect in its own right. But I’m also curious to see how he’ll develop over the next four years. He fits the pattern of many Argyle signings across the last year-and-a-half, and his exploits in future seasons could be just as important as his work in the one forthcoming.

See, he’s just the latest permanent Argyle signing with significant potential resale value. Yes, it cost £1 million to bring Mumba back to Home Park, which is of course a hugely significant fee for Argyle. But, whilst it may be staggering to think about given his career success so far, he’s still only 21. Should he continue to improve and perform in the Championship, how much will he be worth when he’s 23? Or 24? £1 million may suddenly feel like a steal.

And he’s not the only one to have that potential. Whittaker is the obvious example; he’s only a year older and signed for exactly the same fee this week. But he’s far from the only one – January signings Callum Wright and Ben Waine are 23 and 22 respectively. Lewis Gibson, the ‘free’ transfer from Everton, is 23. £150,000 Conor Hazard is still very young for a goalkeeper at 25. And then there’s the remaining squad, of which Joe Edwards is the only player above the age of 28. The only new signing you’d say is around his peak is Julio Pleguezuelo, and even he’s only 26.

We have to concede that not every player will see their value skyrocket. I think the first signing that truly signalled Argyle were embracing the approach of building resale value was George Cooper. He joined for a six-figure sum after a splendid loan spell, and now plays for semi-professional Australian side Preston Lions. But that wasn’t before a spell at English seventh tier outfit Warrington Rylands. Return on investment? No chance.

But if even just one or two of those players realise their potential, it could become a huge moneymaker. We know how much money tends to fly around in the Championship. If Mumba has two quality seasons, how much will he be worth in an ever-inflating market? I don’t know for sure, but I’m certain it’d dwarf the £1 million Argyle forked out.

Some people consider being a selling club to be a dirty process. But there’s an art to cashing in at the appropriate time. Think of Luke Jephcott – around three years ago he was bagging goals for fun in League One, and was being linked with seven-figure moves away. But it wasn’t to be; he’s recently completed a free transfer to St Johnstone. If Argyle get the best out of Mumba, allowing them to sell him for a significant profit that gets reinvested in the squad, would that seriously be a problem?

Well, that’s all hypothetical. For now, Argyle have a player they know has performed for them in the past, and could be worth even more to them in the future. I reckon that’s worth celebrating. Make mine a tequila.