On Monday, Plymouth Argyle made a signing that left some in disbelief. Danny Mayor, arguably the most important player in each of Bury’s past two promotions, completed his transfer to the south west. As Ryan Lowe builds a new home-from-home for himself, his players and the Argyle family, the excitement continues to build.
With Mayor’s signing, Argyle and the Green Army can certainly make a strong argument that they have the best player in the league on their books. After the departures of Graham Carey and Ruben Lameiras, a proper replacement was needed to signal the Greens’ promotion intent, and that’s exactly what we received.
Virtually all of Mayor’s player history is tied to Bury, so much so that his last goal for them proved to be the one that promoted them. 70% of his career appearances have come at the Greater Manchester based club, who he joined permanently from Sheffield Wednesday after a season on loan in 2013/14.
Mayor started his career out at Preston and made his debut on loan at Tranmere. After a breakout season with the Lilywhites in which they were relegated from the Championship, the winger stepped up in League One, winning the club’s young player of the year award and goal of the season.
During the summer his head was turned, culminating in a transfer to Sheffield Wednesday, but the move didn’t work out. After nine appearances in the first season of his three year contract, he joined Bury on loan and excelled, winning the players’ player of the year award. An fee was agreed to see him permanently relocate.
His first season back was a success; the club won promotion and he picked up a whole host of accolades. Indeed, during Mayor’s last two seasons in League Two (2014/15 and 2018/19), he has won promotion twice, been named in the team of the season twice, been nominated for the player of the year award twice and won it once.
In between those years came questions about his ability to step up to League One. Bury came 16th and 19th before they were relegated in humiliating fashion in 2017/18. Throughout that time, Mayor failed to set the league alight in the same ways he had League Two. This was no doubt hindered by major injures that saw him miss half of 2016/17 and 2017/18.
Yet, with Lowe getting him back to his best, and another superb season behind him, he will now have his sights set on a third consecutive promotion from League Two.
Style of play
Danny Mayor has been heralded by some as something like the new Carey, but it’s not quite that simple. Let’s start with the obvious similarity: distance shooting. Like the Irishman, Argyle’s new #10 loves a shot from range. In fact, if you were to compare their most recent seasons in League Two (2015/16 and 2016/17 for Carey, 2014/15 and 2018/19 for Mayor), you’ll find that the latter has scored more goals from outside the box.
Mayor’s poise and control of the ball when dribbling allows him to add extra accuracy to his shots, even when on the move. But this won’t be of surprise to anyone who has been on social media since his signing, as snippets and highlight reels of his best goals have been swamping #pafc.
However, Carey was a balanced attacking midfielder, largely an all-rounder: he was just as likely to score from distance as he was to trick his way past someone, pick an incisive through ball, whip in a cross or slot home a neat finish. Unlike his predecessor, Mayor is far more specialised in just one key skill – dribbling.
It is rare to see a highlight that features Mayor creating a chance without him gliding past at least one defender. If you’re looking for a Premier League comparison, Hazard is probably your closest bet stylistically. Mayor uses his agility, intelligence, spatial awareness and close control to create spaces and then exploit them, much like the Belgian.
One of the most common sights last season was Mayor using his dribbling to draw in defenders and create space for a teammate who could be released to shoot at goal. Just take this goal scored against Swindon, created because Mayor drew the attention of five defenders, creating the opportunity for Jay O’Shea to fire a clean shot at goal.
During this attack, Swindon had eight players inside their own box against Bury’s four, and yet Mayor cut through them so easily that it was almost embarrassing. Indeed, one of the most pleasant aspects of Mayor’s game is that he keeps it simple. He knows that his dribbling threat will create space for others, so rather than always strive for a picture-book goal, he’ll constantly draw in defenders in order to release his better placed teammates.
This can either be to directly create space for a shot…
…or to release a teammate in space to create a chance.
Another key thing to take out of this goal is that Mayor was neither the goalscorer nor the assister, yet he was the player most involved in its creation. For those who have been counting, Mayor was involved in 28.6% of his sides goals when he was on the pitch last season, but that number jumps above 35% if you were to include goals like these:
Simple pass and move has been Mayor’s style for a long time now. If you go back to the goal that won Bury promotion on the final day of the season in 2015, it had Mayor written all over it. Knowing his side needed a win to stand a chance of automatic promotion, and with the scores locked at 0-0 after an hour, Mayor tore a hole on Tranmere’s left wing. Nicky Adams exploited the space created on the flank, squaring for Soares’ winner that sent them back to League One.
None of this is to say that Mayor cannot thread a through ball – he has showed on a number of occasions that he has that in his locker. Against Accrington, he produced a sublime defence-splitting pass while running at full-tilt.
Yet, his primary mode of attack is to draw players in and release a simple pass into space for others to exploit. Whereas Carey had a number of modes of attack, expect to see Mayor carrying the ball more than anything else.
Throughout his career, Mayor has been largely used as a winger. In particular, he was deployed on the left-wing, allowing him to cut in and shoot on his stronger right-foot. It was from this position that he won the League Two player of the year award in 2015.
However, Lowe changed this by shifting him into central midfield. The thinking behind this move was to involved him more in possession. Whereas Mayor could be marginalised on the wing without service, Lowe could guarantee his star man time on the ball by putting him in the engine room of the team.
Additionally, instead of merely focusing him on completing dribbles in the box to directly create goals, Lowe designated that Mayor should balance this with carrying the ball in midfield as part of the transition from possession play to attack. We saw this in the highlights we just watched: Mayor is just as often seen carrying the ball forward to initiate the attacking phase as he is actually involved in the final stages of the attack.
Just as Pep Guardiola utilised two attacking midfielders – often Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva – in central midfield to help his players carry the ball forward with purpose into the final third, Lowe sacrificed defensive structure for attacking threat. Mayor was principally deployed in central midfield to ensure his fellow attackers received the best service possible, rather than deny the opposition from attacking themselves.
Yet, this actually balanced itself out. Because most sides went into games thinking first and foremost about how to stop Bury scoring, they posed less of an attacking threat themselves, and therefore Mayor and Bury were afforded a higher share of possession and spent less time having to defend.
Now, with Lowe and his star player now transplanted into Plymouth Argyle, it only makes sense that Danny Mayor will take up the exact same role as the one he starred in on the way to promotion and a place in the team of the season last year.