After a very disappointing September, Plymouth Argyle returned somewhat to form in the month of October. The month saw two league victories, two league draws and just one league defeat (albeit a thumping one). The Swindon match in the EFL Trophy was arguably as good as Argyle have played under Ryan Lowe’s stewardship so far but was nullified by the loss to Chelsea’s under-23s in the same competition.
Yet whilst results were on the up, performances were not particularly good compared to August. In many ways, this month was the mirror image of September which saw some poor results but largely decent (and better) performances.
Player of the Month: Antoni Sarcevic (10.64)
Whilst he’s our player of the month, Sarcevic had a month that could best be described as good rather than great. His average rating out of ten was 6.38 and he was largely propelled to top spot by his outstanding performance against Swindon in the cup when he picked up a full slate of player of the match bonuses. The rest of his performances, whilst perfectly capable, didn’t quite reach the same dazzling heights.
The main reason for Sarcevic’s improvement can perhaps be put down to the shift in style of football that favours a more territorial system. He has to do less possession-based work and more closing down, pressing and tackling in an attempt to regain the ball. Naturally this is better for the midfielder whose gifts are not in his finesse or close control. The question of how good this style will be is yet to be determined but it will certainly be better for Sarcevic, who claims our top spot this month.
2. Gary Sawyer (10.12)
Long-time stalwart Gary Sawyer runs Sarcevic closest this month and the primary reason for that can only be put down to one word: consistency. Sawyer hasn’t had a game anything like as good as Sarcevic had against Swindon in the cup but, equally, he’s had more 7s than 6s whereas the Mancunian has had quite a few of the latter. Before the Exeter catastrophe, the main plus side of October was that Argyle looked like they had seriously improved their defence.
Only three goals had been conceded in the month up to that point, and Sawyer’s smart reading of the game was a big part of that. His composure on the ball and aerial improvement didn’t do too much harm either. If not for the Exeter debacle, he would probably be on for top spot in the month. He’s probably cemented his place in our first choice back three, for now.
3. Joel Grant (10.00)
Grant is another one whose poor showing against Exeter drags his rating down from being a first-place contender. That game aside, he’s largely had a pretty good month. He went through a highly impressive run of scoring in four consecutive games from Swindon (cup) through to Leyton Orient. His general play and holding up of the ball has not been great but in a way, that isn’t really the point.
Ryan Lowe has spoken consistently about how he wants strikers to be poaching, scavenging, making runs and getting on the end of opportunities. This is what the Jamaican has done to great effect in October and (with the possible exception of the thus far mystical Dom Telford) appears to be the best and most instinctive finisher at the club. If he continues to play like this, he will be a good bet to end the season with more than 15 goals.
4. Niall Canavan (9.72)
Like Sawyer, Canavan was the model of consistency in this month leading up to the final disastrous game. We were far stronger in the air upon his return to the side and didn’t concede a goal in over 300 consecutive minutes while he was playing after his return against Swindon. His passing out from the back (when required) has been largely pretty good, as has been his marking up until THAT game. Even at St James’, he was by some way the least bad culprit of the back three.
He frustrated many Argyle fans earlier in the season with some lost headers leading to goals. But, October indicates he’s among our better defenders and our back three would be worse off without him playing.
5. George Cooper (9.28)
Cooper comes fifth in our rankings simply because we factor in the number of games played. If we ranked players purely on average ratings then very good or bad performances across one or two games could badly distort the picture. We couldn’t have Micheal Cooper as the player of the season for 2017/18, for example based on an 8/10 performance at Blackburn. Alternatively, see the Herald’s average player ratings, which had Kyle Letheren, Niall Canavan and Joel Grant as their three best players last season.
All that said, George Cooper did have our highest combined average rating for the month. He wracked up three assists as well as creating by far the most chances and key chances. He received the most player of the match bonuses and, had he played every game, would surely have been our player of the month by some distance. Hopefully, this will be a good platform to build on in November.
How we calculate the score
Each player receives a match rating from 1-10 and one player from each match receives a man of the match bonus. Players who played fewer than 15 minutes of a match do not receive a match rating unless they made a significant impact. The players are scored by a variety of individuals who have witnessed every match this season.
The scores are aggregated and weighted against the number of appearances, before the man of the match bonus is added. In this way, we are ranking the impact of a player across the season. The more often they have played and the better they have performed, the more of an impact they have made on the team’s season, and therefore the higher they rank.
This way of ranking players enables us to be more impartial when speaking of the impact made by each player across a season, as it significantly reduces:
- recency bias (players who hit a spell of form often have their season-wide impact overstated because of their recent performances).
- statistical bias (players with lots of goals or assists relative to their position tend to be rated above those whose performance levels have been consistently superior but are not involved in goal-scoring, often because it is hard to visualise a player’s impact across a season without resorting to these stats. It explains why attackers, or defenders involved in a high-number of goals, predominantly receive most recognition throughout a season – we’re looking at you, Garth Crooks).
- conformation bias (fans who favour some players tend to fixate on their positive performances while neglecting to factor in their bad performances when ranking them across a season).