Welcome to the latest One Team In Devon, off the back of defeat at Deepdale.
I couldn’t be at the game, as I’m caring for a two-week-old member of the Green Army – but huge kudos to those traveling in numbers this week, with over 3,000 sold for Bristol City on a Tuesday night.
After watching the game back – here are a few takeaways from another encouraging yet fruitless performance at Deepdale.
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Three points for pragmatism
The better we play, the less we seem to get out of the game. That’s the dispiriting takeaway after the loss at Preston, which saw Argyle control most of the game – and play football with even more swagger and liquidity than at any point this season.
We don’t need to state the obvious, about being more solid at the back or not conceding goals in the first or last minute. But the more this season has gone on, it’s clear that good football doesn’t get you too far in the Championship.
Lowe’s identity football
It’s ironic that when Lowe went to Preston, he talked up football identity. (Read our Ryan Lowe piece from last week).
If you remember: Argyle had no identity before Lowe arrived at Home Park (allegedly), and he was set to bring his brand of all-attack football to Deepdale.
Well, after one season in the Championship, that’s all out of the window.
Unbeaten Preston have only managed more than 45% possession in one of those five games (against Wednesday who are terrible). But they rarely have more than 35% share of the ball.
Their stat of 365 v 529 passes in the Argyle game is actually typical for them. They sit back, they defend doggedly and aggressively. And they have quality up front and go for the jugular. New signing Liam Miller looks like an incredible pick-up on the left – and gave Kesler-Hayden a grilling in the first half.
That’s not the style of play that Lowe left Home Park playing – and I doubt it was the “identity” he spoke of at his unveiling press conference. But after one year at the coalface of Championship football, he’s using it to great effect.
And in many respects, Argyle got worked over by the new-look Lowe-ball.
Preston rarely pressed our back line with much intensity, and we played out from the back with ease. They allowed us to have possession. But they had bodies back when we got to their box and smothered every shot.
So for all the domination, it’s three points for pragmatism and a long drive home for attacking dynamism.
A couple of weeks ago we asked whether Miller would offer more dynamism on the left – and he’s certainly backed up that idea.
In the second half, Miller delivered an onslaught of excellent whipped-in crosses – two that flashed through the danger area without an Argyle player anticipating (infuriating), and one that made it to Hardie saw him well-tackled.
Having a left footer behind Mumba made that side more dynamic than we’ve seen in recent weeks, and being able to deliver dangerous crosses offers a wider range of threat. We’d like to see it more – and preferably better anticipated by our forwards.
But there were defensive liabilities. Argyle seem more defensively solid with KKH on the left and Edwards on the right – so what we add to our attack could take away from the defence. And that’s something we might not be able to afford right now. I’m glad it’s Schuey making the decisions.
While Preston were more willing to give up possession than most teams we’ve faced this season, there were some pleasing performances in midfield.
Azaz put in his best performance this season – perhaps his best in Green given the level.
And Cundle, who seems to be thriving since the Palace game, looks to be striking up an excellent understanding with Hardie. His assist for the goal is an obvious example, and it took a piece of one-touch brilliance to unlock Preston.
There were a few excellent interchanges, with Hardie deftly playing back to Cundle on a number of occasions.
There’s a lot to be excited about, if we can get the balance right. This game perhaps called out for Randell and a more solid double-pivot – but it would have certainly made it a far less entertaining game.