Welcome to the latest One Team In Devon – coming at you after a truly rollercoaster week in the Championship.
From the bruising in Bristol to the Joy of Six (and it could have been Seven Heaven) at Home Park, perhaps nothing encapsulates the madness of the second tier more.
Argyle were as good on Saturday as they were dreadful on Tuesday at Ashton Gate.
I’m not going to dwell on the City game.
Or talk at length about Whittaker (and the first Home Park hat trick since Vincent Pericard in 2006) having the potential to be an Argyle great.
Or how Hardie and Whittaker are the league’s top two goal contributors (goals AND assists).
I’m all about looking forward and making sense of things. So let’s get into it.
Joy of Six
Off the back of the Bristol City game, I spoke on the Green and White podcast about a few points – some of which aged very well and others pretty badly. Those were:
- Not catastrophising about the result. Some of the social media rhetoric after City and Preston was severely over the top, regarding the team not being good enough. In my eyes, Argyle have a pattern under Schumacher with producing that kind of display, and they’ve always come back stronger. And they did once again. 👍
- Norwich – the division’s top scorers – presented a perfect opportunity for those who played at City to put things right. And that happened. 👍
- Finally, I wouldn’t want Schumacher to revert to last season’s system based on one awful performance. I’m very happy to be wrong about the formation – but how wrong remains to be seen. 😬
Schuey revealed after the game that the tactical switch to last season’s 3-4-2-1 was built specifically for Norwich, who threaten when overloading the center thus leaving space behind.
“We changed shape today; we went to a back three system that we were comfortable with last season, because the way that Norwich play, that was going to give us the best chance to intercept the ball in the middle of the pitch,” Schumacher said.
It was brutally effective, and tactically, night and day from recent performances.
Possession was a miserly 31%, while often in the 60% range for much of this season.
Playing out from the back was in the bin, but when we got a sniff of possession we surged forward on goal – with Hardie’s pace spreading chaos throughout the back line.
Looking back, we rarely averaged less than 50% possession in League One even in defeat. So it wasn’t simply rolling out last year’s tactics board. It was tweaked.
But it often morphed into a back four when out of possession with Gibson at LB, or picking up that position to enable Mumba to attack their RB. It also saw Gibson pop up in absurdly advanced positions on more than one occasion.
But much of the performance didn’t quite feel Norwich specific – and seemed to address so many of our recent failings, it was hard to believe that it wasn’t the result of some frank discussions after the City display.
Most of all, it seemed that by and large, the players (who were largely selected for playing the system last season) were enjoying themselves
It was refreshing to see how many men we had back as Norwich broke forward, a long way from the PTSD of constantly being outnumbered after being caught in possession. There were few (if any) heart-in-mouth moments playing out from the back.
Put simply, it felt like the old Argyle was back.
Naturally, the 3-4-2-1 put Whittaker and Azaz into positions that suited them, likewise, Randell looked more effective in the deeper lying position. We’re sure Callum Wright and Luke Cundle will also enjoy those two “numbers 10” slots.
But Ryan Hardie might not score quite so many in the 3-4-2-1, and he reprised his role of channel running and chasing.
Schuey’s New Headache
Three in @LowerTiers TOTW!
— Argyle Life (@ArgyleLife1886) September 25, 2023
It’s interesting now how much the Norwich performance is a headache for Schumacher.
If it’s true that the system was built for Norwich, will we see us revert to a back four at Hull next week? With Schuey roulette, I wouldn’t be surprised.
On the one hand, the system was so effective, it would be crazy to drop it for the next game.
And should it become our de facto formation going forward, would we ever see the four at the back again? Perhaps it could be rolled out to teams that might want to sit back against us at home, as our home record should start commanding some respect eventually.
But also we should remember that a 3-4-2-1 got ripped apart on several occasions last season – so let’s not get carried away. That was why I assumed Schumacher/Dewsnip changed the system in the first place – but it’s back with a bang.