Plymouth Argyle ended August out of the League Cup and with 10 points from a possible 18 after a blinding start saw us jolt to the top of the table, only to come back down to reality slightly in the second half of the month. It was a very match-heavy month, with 8 games in all competitions, which at least gave us enough of an idea to make initial judgements on the side. Argyle’s star performers in the month are hereby listed…

Player of the Month: Alex Palmer (12.74)

Topping Argyle’s charts for August has been the loanee revelation from West Bromwich Albion. It is, of course, early days but he does seem a lot better than either of the two keepers who Argyle had at their disposal last season. His shot stopping has proven more than efficient, making a couple of game-saving stops against Crewe as well as a series of good saves across the month in general.

Further to this, he has shown himself pivotal to Ryan Lowe’s intended system which involves playing the ball out from the back. As seen with Spain, Barcelona and many other teams who favour a ‘sweeper keeper’ system, it is imperative to have a keeper who is comfortable with the ball. This is relevant in both picking out good passes to players in space as well as actually executing them effectively enough so that attacks can be built from the back. Palmer has shown this on numerous occasions and a string of man of the match displays have rightly earned him the title of Player of the Month for August.

2. Danny Mayor (12.61)

Whilst Palmer has been Argyle’s star man, there is no denying the impact that Argyle’s marquee signing has made on the attacking side of the team. When he arrived, Lowe claimed he was ‘better than Carey and Lameiras’. Has he quite shown that yet? Probably not, in all truth. What he certainly has shown himself to be is a player of great attacking quality who has been involved in so much of our attacking play.

His dribbling skills are far beyond most at this level, often leaving defenders trailing in his wake. His passing moves tend to be mostly between himself and the impressive Callum McFadzean at wing-back and are vital in chance creation. Mayor had a major part in a goal in almost every game in August, be it either a goal, assist or secondary assist, and largely shone with good general play even when he didn’t directly create a goal. The most exciting part is that the best is maybe yet to come.

3. Joe Edwards (11.84)

It is all well and good to have a team chock full of attacking talent, but teams who play as we do also need a stopper protecting the three man defence, especially with the wing-backs playing as high up the field as they do. What Edwards lacks in height, he more than makes up for in his strength and his combative nature. Reminiscent of N’Golo Kante for Chelsea, he will frequently be the man to stem opposing counter-attacks with a sharp press or a well-timed tackle to win back the ball and consequently stop the danger.

Over the month of August, it is clear that he is an upgrade on both Songo’o, who could tackle but couldn’t pass, and Fox, who could pass but not tackle. Edwards may not quite be able to pull off the raking passes in the same way Fox could, but his position enables him to realise his own limitations and quickly distribute the ball to the more creative players, something he does well.

4. Callum McFadzean (11.67)

It was somewhat bizarre to see McFadzean, who did not score with Bury last season and indeed only had four to his name in his entire career, end August with three goals under his belt already. As well as his brace on the opening day against Crewe, he also bagged a goal against Leyton Orient to ensure our progression into the second round of the League Cup. He has shown he knows how to come inside and shoot, getting himself in the right positions even when the goals haven’t followed.

He also got two assists in August, demonstrating that he has real variety to his wing play. Defenders never quite know whether he’s going to run at them or cross the ball, or even cut inside. His chemistry with the aforementioned Mayor is a joy to watch and if he can just sharpen his end product a little bit (a few crosses have gone awry) then Argyle could really have one hell of a player on our hands. His defensive work is creditable too, always providing support for the left centre back.

5. Niall Canavan (11.64)

Bringing up the rest of the top 5, Naill Canavan has proven himself (as many fans suspected) to be Argyle’s best defender of the regularly starting back three, standing out in a number of areas. Argyle conceded 10 goals from 8 games in August – a figure that would likely have been higher if not for Canavan’s positive defensive interventions. He has won the ball in the air more than any other defender, with Wootton and Sawyer finding themselves more vulnerable in this regard. His marking and positioning have both also been solid and dependable more often than not.

In addition, he has showed that he is the player most comfortable when passing out from the back, which is something Lowe expects from his defenders. Whilst this wasn’t something we saw often in the first few games, he grew into it as the month went on and was especially prominent against Walsall.

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 fixate on their positive performances while neglecting to factor in their bad performances when ranking them across a season).