Some of the new players looked good
Matt Macey, Argyle’s replacement goalkeeper, handled the ball well and made some smart stops including a penalty save (which he was unfortunate to concede from ultimately). Ashley Smith-Brown looked sharp and very technically astute at left back, while Scott Wootton made some good interceptions at centre back and Conor Grant was good on and off the ball until he was moved to left midfield. The only immediate concern of the signings who played was Joe Riley, who was skinned continuously on the right hand side by Josh Ginnelly, was poor on the ball and made a woeful challenge to concede the penalty for Walsall’s first goal. While players take time to settle, his performance was somewhat alarming and it may not be long before we see Tafari Moore feature.
The side still struggles badly if Carey and Lameiras have off days
Lameiras was taken off after a poor first 45 against Walsall, and Carey did not have much luck before or after that. Both battled hard and battled into the game as always but were careless on the ball and turned over possession far more than you would expect of players of their quality. Walsall had little issue dealing with the two of them, and for such key players to our success last season you would hope for more. Match fitness may have played a part, but considering that 5 of the front 6 on Saturday were the same as on our excellent run in the second half of last season (with only Sarcevic of those missing) it was not unrealistic to expect more from the side going forward. Sadly, neither impressed.
The continued lack of tactical diversity is a small concern early on
After the 4-3-3 didn’t work against Walsall, Adams moved to 4-4-2 which was even less successful, leading to a period of complete domination from Walsall (during in which they scored). Going to 4-4-2 may not have been the issue as such, but how Adams went about it was. Playing a central midfielder in Grant out wide was clearly not going to work well and it didn’t. It was a half hearted formation switch, whereas really he should have gone for it properly. When the side moved to 3-5-2 after bringing Sawyer on, the play improved although it is dififcult to say if that is because the formation was successful or Walsall sat back and defended the lead they had earned.
There is a new set-piece taker on the block
In case Carey and Fox’s deliveries weren’t good enough (and they are), it was Conor Grant who took a number of set-pieces against Walsall. In particular, he took corners and indirect free-kicks. In fact, Argyle’s first goal of the season came from a Grant cross. Another left-footer, it is particularly nice to know that Adams has more options when it comes to set-pieces. This is a role that was already strong but is certainly not going to get any worse this season.
The standard of officiating hasn’t improved
Andy Haines officiated 33 games last season, so you would expect him to be one of the more competent referees in the league. How naive to think so! An awful second half saw him lose complete control of the game. The main issue aside from never allowing play to continue for either side or missing two extremely viable Argyle penalty shouts was his extraordinary corner decisions within a minute of each other. First, a Walsall shot which was skied was randomly given as a corner; shortly followed by a chance that Ladapo headed over the bar that was given as an Argyle corner. In this case, it is not bias but merely incompetent refereeing and as such is a major concern. Perhaps that is the way it will always be as a role which is effectively just a glorified hobby for football league referees.