Saturday’s outing between Plymouth Argyle and Accrington was an end to end match that saw both teams create a number of chances. However Argyle failed to convert any of their opportunities and were unable to keep their opponents out at the other end.

Take Your Chances

There is a common theme cropping up in Argyles recent outings, and Derek is noticing as well, with the boss noting that “we are not scoring enough goals with the opportunities that we are creating”. The team is indeed creating chances, often more than the opposition but we rarely come out on top. There are two factors to this problem, clearly we are not finishing the chances that we do create but we also aren’t creating enough quality chances.

8 of our attempts at goal on Saturday were blocked, and a number of chances came from Carey firing at range. Some of these will go in every now and again but we should not be settling for speculative efforts. We had 11 corners in the match, 4 or 5 that came in quick succession after an extended period of pressure to open the second half. However the majority of them were poor and a number over hit, and it came to nothing as Accrington regained a foothold in the game.

I feel that this issue again comes down to the team selection. Ladapo has played fantastically this season, his goal return is evidence for this. However his hold-up play is still nowhere near the level of Ryan Taylor’s, which is what the team is missing going forward. Taylor brings other players into the game far better (especially Carey – I feel Taylor’s absence this season has had a big impact on Carey’s performances); and we create better chances when he is in the team. This was shown not 5 minutes since Taylor had entered the field of play, winning the ball in the air, knocking it to Sarcevic, leading to Argyles best chance of the game, with Lameiras firing narrowly over.

I maintain my stance that Ladapo will score more goals than Taylor, yet a team led by Taylor will score more goals than a team led by Ladapo. He is still a fantastic option to have, but with the ankle injury he sustained in the loss, or a possible transfer on the horizon, Derek may be forced into playing what many will agree, is his best team – a bizarre statement when you think about it.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

I feel like I keep rehashing the same points, as the team selection this season has me and a large proportion of fans completely astonished; why change a winning formula if you don’t have to? Argyle began the game with what looked like a 4-2-3-1, with Carey central of an attacking trio behind Freddie Ladapo. Carey did thrive in the first half in his central role, proving the main creator for Argyle, while Grant, Ladapo and Jephcott all had above average first-half performances, as Argyle managed to create a number of good opportunities.

However, this formation fundamentally does not work especially with the personnel selected. Fox does not have the pace to play 90 minutes as part of a midfield duo, and this is why we have had much more success with a 3 man midfield in the past, as it distributes the load amongst another player, while allowing Fox to maintain his influence in our passing game. Another body in the midfield alongside Fox and Sarcevic could have made a huge difference, as I don’t feel that it is coincidence that all of Accrington’s goals came in the second half, as the midfield started to tire. The 4-3-3 formation with an attacking trio of Carey, Lameiras (or Grant) and Taylor has been proven to work consistently in previous seasons, and was a large part of our ascent from the depths of the table last term; I believe the same is possible this season.

Defensive Deficiencies

Yann Songo’o and Gary Sawyer completed the 90 minutes at centre-half and. prior to Saturday’s fixture, looked like our strongest pairing. Despite some solid work in the first half, including a signature Songo’o block, a number of mistakes by both players led to plenty of Accrington chances and eventually their three goals. The opener came from Accrington’s Sam Finley, who looked lively throughout, popping in the space between the two centre-halves with a headed effort which left Macey helpless. Songo’o could have closed down McConville for Accrington’s second, and uncharacteristically turned his back when the ball was struck.

Meanwhile, Sawyer got turned inside out by Jordan Clarke, who calmly slotted away the third to seal the deal for Accrington, after both centre-backs had been caught out by a goal-kick. The full backs weren’t awful but it is hard to say that they had good games, with Riley in particular seeming to struggle with McConville. It will be near impossible for Argyle to win consistently with the quality of the defence as it currently is.

January Investment

I’ve always been vocal in my belief that the squad has needed true investment. For a number of years we have struggled with squad depth, but often the strength of the starting 11 has got us through. We are now in the position where we are both struggling with squad depth, especially in central midfield, forcing us to play unfamiliar and fundamentally unworkable systems; and in defensive positions.

It is now time to put some more money into the playing staff in a bid to save our season. Derek may have had his worst window with the club last summer but he has proven his ability to recruit talent in the past, and I feel that some above-par signings in a few positions could make all the difference, in addition to correctly utilising the ability in the current squad. We desperately need to invest in January, be it through transfers, free agents or loaning players in, or I do indeed fear the worst for our football club. I still believe that it can be turned around.