Lewis Gibson must have been a Plymouth Argyle player for, what, at least a week? He’s been strongly linked with the Greens for some time, and a picture of him at Home Park had already been shared widely on social media. Finally, on Monday, Argyle confirmed what we all already knew.

Perhaps the Argyle media team delayed Gibson’s announcement to give him as much publicity as possible. And who am I to question that team? This isn’t the half-witted Argyle media effort of a decade ago, you know. Indeed, Gibson has been unveiled to much fanfare, with manager Steven Schumacher waxing lyrical about his abilities as a ball-playing defender.

Will he live up to the hype? As ever, that’s one of the questions we’ll try to cover. He spent last season on loan at Bristol Rovers, making him the first signing this summer to have played in the same division as Argyle last year. We therefore have the perfect opportunity to compare him like-for-like with Argyle’s players and see how his numbers stack up. Let’s see what he’s all about.

From the Pleguezuelo playbook

It’s clear to me that Argyle had a profile in mind when lining up defenders this summer. Because Gibson appears to be a remarkably similar player to the Greens’ first recruit of the window, Julio Pleguezuelo.

Think back to our analysis of Pleguezuelo. I won’t regurgitate the whole piece now for everyone’s sake. But in summary, one of the conclusions drawn was that Pleguezuelo was excellent on the ball, but a little lacklustre in the air. At Bristol Rovers, Gibson displayed similar traits.

For example, his number of completed passes, and indeed his passing success, were top notch. Last season, James Bolton was the only Argyle defender to have a better success rate than Gibson. And as we discussed in the Pleguezuelo piece, Bolton’s numbers come with some heavy caveats.

Player Passes Completed Success Rate
James Bolton 159 86%
Lewis Gibson* 1122 78%
Nigel Lonwijk 1227 74%
Dan Scarr 1120 73%
Macauley Gillesphey 1389 72%
James Wilson 1240 71%
Brendan Galloway 292 67%


That’s not all. Going by the number of passes Gibson completed per game, he’d be 3rd best at Argyle amongst players who played at least ten games last season. And his long passing range is excellent. In fact, his long pass success rate of 42% even beat Pleguezuelo’s solid figure from the Eredivisie last season (41%).

But (and you knew this bit was coming), Gibson aerial duel success rate isn’t terrific. Last season it came in at 58%. That’s not abysmal by any stretch, and is a better figure than Pleguezuelo posted last term (54%). But a centre back will have any weakness in the air exposed more than most, and compared to Argyle’s main starters his numbers seem just a little deficient.

Player Aerial Duel Success Rate
Macauley Gillesphey 71%
Dan Scarr 70%
James Wilson 67%
Lewis Gibson* 58%
Nigel Lonwijk 56%
Brendan Galloway 56%
James Bolton 52%


I think one could cautiously conclude that Pleguezuelo is a slightly better passer than Gibson, and Gibson is slightly better in the air than Pleguezuelo. But in both disciplines they’re practically separated by a whisker. With Gibson left-footed and Pleguezuelo competent at right back, you suspect they’ll regularly play as the two wide centre backs at Home Park. That’d allow someone burlier (I’m looking at you, Dan Scarr) to flourish in the middle.

And if that is the case, expect to see plenty of diagonal balls sprayed across the pitch.

Ground work a plus

Gibson strikes me as a player that Argyle fans will enjoy watching. He certainly endeared himself to the Bristol Rovers faithful, narrowly losing out to Josh Coburn in the vote for the Gas’ young player of the year award.

A strong run of form at the end of the season undoubtedly helped his cause. The first half of his campaign was injury-hit, with a thigh strain keeping him out for around six weeks from January. And I hate to say it, but that’s been something of a theme across Gibson’s career. He spent the 2021-22 season on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, but made just six appearances for the Owls in a campaign plagued by injuries. There’s every chance that he’d already have been playing in the Championship if he’d been able to stay injury free, and Argyle will have to keep a close eye on his fitness.

The good news is, once he returned for Bristol Rovers, he was terrific. He started every game between the last weekend of February and the end of the season, and was even trusted to captain the team on a couple of occasions. Decent clout indeed for a loanee. He also notched his only goal for the Gas (and indeed his only senior goal for anyone) in that time, bundling home an equaliser on Easter Monday against Fleetwood Town.


Ok, so he was well liked at Rovers. But I’m sure we’d all agree that convincing the Green Army is a different task to convincing a fanbase that idolises Joey Barton and is willing to welcome Jevani Brown. Luckily, there are further aspects to his game that I think will endear him to the Argyle faithful.

Take a look at his ground duels. His success rate of 65% is an eminently positive number. It’d put him 7th amongst Argyle’s players last season, and a number of those above him had their figures skewed either by significant injuries or by being a youth player with limited minutes – Will Jenkins-Davies is in 3rd! Ultimately, not a single player in Argyle’s squad won more ground duels at a higher success rate than Gibson.

That 65% figure also puts Gibson more or less on par with Dan Scarr, who has already established himself as a fan favourite at Home Park.

Player Ground Duels Won Ground Duel Success Rate
James Bolton 8 89%
Brendan Galloway 54 68%
Dan Scarr 64 67%
Lewis Gibson* 70 65%
James Wilson 89 61%
Nigel Lonwijk 84 58%
Macauley Gillesphey 59 54%


That’s a feather in his cap in isolation. But let’s also pair that with his rate of blocked shots. Amongst Argyle’s defenders, if we discount the heavily caveated Bolton, only Macauley Gillesphey completed more blocks per 90 minutes than Gibson last season. Gillesphey, of course, ranked last across Argyle’s defenders for his ground duel success rate. In Gibson, we see a player highly competent in both disciplines.

Player Shots Blocked per 90
James Bolton 1.40
Macauley Gillesphey 0.88
Lewis Gibson* 0.79
Dan Scarr 0.73
Nigel Lonwijk 0.59
Brendan Galloway 0.58
James WIlson 0.48


Take those numbers with a pinch of salt if you like. Indeed, Bristol Rovers’ defenders will have had more opportunities to block shots than defenders from a team that played on the front foot and picked up 101 points. But it does at least show that, when it’s imperative, Gibson is up to the task. Argyle will face more shots in the Championship next season than they did in League One, and Gibson’s presence assist them greatly.

With his ground duel success and his rate for blocking shots, we’re seeing a picture emerge of a player who is highly capable with his ground work. That ground work demonstrates that he’s adept at using his body intelligently and to his advantage, and that he isn’t afraid to put that body on the line when necessary.

Gibson will come across as being immensely committed. Does the impression of commitment automatically make him good? And does standing out in those stats automatically make him more committed than anyone else in the side? It’s a hard no to both questions. But that won’t stop Argyle fans loving him. And nor should it. We’re back in the Championship for the first time in 13 years; there’s nothing wrong with enjoying everything about it whilst we’re there.

State of the defence

Gibson’s belated unveiling made him the third Argyle signing of the summer. All of them have been across the back five, and two have been at centre back. But I’m not wholly sure that the back line is now settled. Right now, I have to admit to being a little confused as to the balance of Argyle’s defence.

Last season everything blended in perfectly. Argyle had left-sided specialists in Gillesphey and Galloway, a central specialist in Scarr, and a right-sided specialist in Wilson. Bolton was capable in the middle or on the right, and Lonwijk seemed to fill in wherever he was needed. Each base was covered, particularly given that the majority (possibly with the exception of Scarr) could move to another position across the back three in an emergency.

Right now, Argyle have five central defenders on their books. Three of them (Gillesphey, Galloway and Gibson) are what I’d call left-sided specialists. Indeed, based on everything we’ve discussed, I’d be surprised if Gibson started anywhere other than on the left side of a back three. He may move to left back if Argyle switch to 4-4-2, but surely nowhere further. Given his stats, I’d be astonished if Schumacher has brought him in to play in the middle.

So that leaves us with Scarr as the central specialist, whilst Pleguezuelo will line up on the right. If Scarr is missing for whatever reason I’d trust Gillesphey to move into the centre. But, as I see it at least, there’s a lot less versatility in the back line right now than Argyle had last year. I imagine one more signing at least is likely, and that’ll probably someone who can act as a direct replacement for Wilson, but that may not be the end of the reshuffling.

Upon signing Gibson, Schumacher was at pains to say that finding quality left-sided centre backs is particularly difficult. But looking at the balance of his squad, I’m inclined to disagree. If anything, his defence right now is left-heavy, with three players who can all do a job in the role in their own way. Is that too many? Could we see a departure in the offing for the purpose of rebalancing? Will Brendan Galloway be the next marquee signing in the Saudi Pro League? Only time will tell.

In these circumstances, it’s best just to get excited. Plenty of change is afoot at Home Park this summer, and much of it will be for the better. In Gibson, Argyle have made another encouraging signing. Let’s hope we’ll see many more.