Welcome to another One Team In Devon – coming to you live from the online fan meltdown after the 4-0 loss to Leicester.
You’d have to have been an incredible optimist to expect any points from the King Power Stadium. While I dislike any excuses around our budget size in this league (I think we’re more than capable of getting a result against most teams in the division) – this time it’s justified.
Leicester would likely finish mid-table in the Premier League with this team, and a handful of their players have Champions League pedigree and would command fees of comparative value to the entire Argyle squad.
But there’s no such thing as a free hit – and the manner of the defeat – folding in a disastrous 10-minute spell after halftime, has prompted many questions.
But really – it’s all about the next run of games.
So let’s get into just that.
Schuey spun the roulette wheel for Leicester, making some interesting changes. Rested were:
- Mumba > Callum Wright
- Houghton > Butcher
- Cundle > Randell
- Scarr > Pleggy
- KKH > Edwards
- Hardie > Bundu
It was probably the right move, and we suspect that Schuey would have liked to have gone further with resting Whittaker, but personnel options and the memory of Ashton Gate prevented it.
Callum Wright had a decent game. He dropped into midfield to progress the ball, ran channels, got some shots off, and harassed in the press. He also got the highest rating for an Argyle player on WhoScored.com and his heatmap shows he had more joy on his flank than Whittaker.
It was a tall order to ask Butcher to play in the double pivot against the league leaders with so little game time at this level – and I thought that showed. His pass success of 65% backed up what I saw in the game. His two rogue passes led to Leicester’s goals during the frenzy. But it’s good that Houghton got a rest ahead of QPR.
Pleggy gave away the penalty – a costly and needless error for a defender who has the talent. That’s a hard one to fathom right now.
Where did it all go wrong?
Argyle gave a good account of themselves in the latter stages of the first half – but let’s put any theories that it should have been 1-1 at halftime to bed. It could have been, had Bundu buried a presentable chance that he did well to create – but we should have conceded two or three more in the half.
Argyle played our style. And for a while, we were able to impose ourselves on the game. But
The three goals conceded after halftime were Argyle 23/24 all over.
The first looked like a pre-planned routine, with Mavididi lulling Butcher into a stupor with a couple of one-twos with the keeper, before a long ball over the top created a 2v1 that was promptly buried.
The second and third were poor passes from Butcher and we were promptly dispatched. Mavididi turning us inside out for his finish was painful to watch back.
The goals – to me – sum up Argyle’s issues perfectly. Too easy, of our own making, and in many ways, products of our system. The back four, with full-backs that invert is modern, in vogue, and attacking (and Man City do it.)
The inverted fullbacks are supposed to create overloads in midfield and aid possession retention, but time after time, we give the ball away far too cheaply. And when we do – it’s us that are overloaded. That was in full effect for two of Leicester’s goals, where you could see Edwards or Pleguezuelo miles up the field.
So the argument to be less expansive when we’re away from home and keep our full-backs tucked in is getting louder. That would be deviating from our style, but with 0 away wins at the halfway stage, it may be necessary.
Or we learn how to use the system to retain the ball under pressure. And that may require substantial additions in January, that we may not have the budget for.
Or we just keep doing what we’re doing – and hope that it’s enough.
It’s all about the next games
Let’s face it – Leicester away wasn’t the key to our aims this season.
But the season-defining run of games coming now, including QPR, Rotherham, and Birmingham is. We need to be switched on for it. No stupid errors. No “best team we’ve seen at Loftus Road this season 2-0). Ruthless football.
But that will not be easy.
QPR have the 23rd worst home form in the league – but have won their last three games home and away. They are currently 5th in the Championship form table. Despite being one of the bottom three all season, this will not be an easy game. It seems a terrible time to play them, but their results have come against teams in dire form themselves. I’d take a point now, but it has to be a target for our first win of the season.
Ones to watch: Ilias Chair. Plays in the 10 role. Doesn’t have four legs.
Rotherham are 23rd in the form table but have sacked their manager, and look likely to have him in place for our fixture this Saturday. What’s more, they’re the only team with a worse away record than us. While the new manager bounce will be in full swing, that form will take some fixing. Three points is a must.
One to watch: Sam Nombe. While he hasn’t set the world on fire, ex-Grecians usually find a way.
Birmingham are in freefall (and 21st in the form table) and we need to hope that they keep Rooney in place for another few weeks. They seem one of the few teams we’ll play in a form slump – so again, three points have to be the target.
One to watch: Ethan Laird: The right-back has four MOTM appearances this season.
Congrats to Argyle Women
Argyle Women are into the fourth round of the Women’s FA Cup, beating Oxford 5-3 in penalties after the tie ended 2-2. They will play Nottingham Forest at home in the next round on 14 January.