Opposition View: Plymouth Argyle v Burton

Plymouth Argyle take on Burton Albion this weekend, with both sides looking to taste victory after a troublesome fortnight. Ahead of the encounter, we had the pleasure of talking to Burton fan Edward Walker, who can be found on Twitter, who gave us an insight into the Brewers’ side and his thoughts on the game itself.

First of all, how did you get into supporting Burton?

It goes back to around 10 years ago when I first got into football. It was my Dad who suggested that we go and check out a Burton Albion game because it was a local team and one that I could form a connection with.

We went, it was a 3-2 win over Hereford United with Burton scoring the winner late on in a really entertaining game. For a first match that attracts your interest in the team, you cannot get much better in my opinion! I would go to games sparsely for the first few seasons, but over time the love for the club grew as the team performed better and better in the league. By the time they won the League Two title in 2015 I was fully hooked on the club and that is the way things will remain.

Are there any Burton players in particular we should be looking out for this weekend?

There are a fair few faces that should be familiar to any Plymouth fans who watched the game at Home Park 2 seasons ago.

The standout name is without doubt Lucas Akins (Squad Number 10), who is approaching legend status at this club if he has not got it already. Akins is in his seventh season here now and in that time, he has been almost ever present and always amongst the goals. Not only is he the fittest player on the team, he is also the most versatile footballer I have ever come across. Akins has played in every single outfield position for Burton Albion across his time here, from centre-back all the way up to centre-forward. His physicality, technique and general attitude makes him a model professional and a player at the heart of everything good at Burton Albion.

Another two I’d pick out are John Brayford (2) and Joe Powell (8). Brayford is another one who has icon status at this club. He’s been at the club over two spells having originally been one of the first graduates of Burton’s youth academy, and his consistency is what makes him such a valuable player. Naturally a right-back but equally capable at centre-back, Jake Buxton is showing preference towards using his physicality and composure in the centre of defence, and he’s deservedly taken the captain’s armband as well. He’s also easily our biggest threat from set pieces despite not being one of the tallest players in the squad.

Joe Powell is on his way to taking over the role in the team that Scott Fraser has had for the last two seasons. He’s incredibly similar to the Scot, a left-footed attacking midfielder who likes operating in the half-space between full-back and centre-back but can also play more centrally as well. He’s still just 21 but is on his way to matching the goals and assists numbers that Fraser put up for Burton over two seasons in Staffordshire. Powell will definitely be at the heart of everything creative in the Burton midfield.

There are a few others that are worth looking out for as well. Energetic midfielder Ryan Edwards (4), giant commanding defender Michael Bostwick (5), the experienced and intelligent deep-lying midfielder Stephen Quinn (7), emerging midfielder/full-back Ben Fox (12) and skilful winger Charles Vernam (18). Whether all of them feature though I’m not sure!

How has the club been impacted by the COVID-19 situation?

The most obvious impact of the pandemic has come in the managerial department. During the summer, Nigel Clough and his team stepped aside from the club after 4 and a half seasons so that Burton could put together the wages to keep as many staff on as possible. That’s what has led to Jake Buxton being in charge and a new era beginning in Staffordshire.

Transfer business has been done quite early for Burton Albion, with chairman Ben Robinson giving Buxton good backing so that players like Michael Bostwick, Neal Eardley (23) and Steven Lawless (11) could be brought in with other players signing new wage-cut deals. Whether anyone else comes in before the window shuts seems unlikely, probably a loan deal at best, but even still, fans have been encouraged by transfers being done early rather than late.

How is Jake Buxton getting on in his first full season in management?

It’s been a very steep learning curve for Buxton. Just the two wins for him so far in all competitions, both coming against Accrington Stanley in the League and League Cup.

Fans and the board will of course be patient with Buxton and want him to do well in his first job, but the recent defensive issues are creating early concerns. His relative managerial inexperience has cast doubt from neutrals, but considering Nigel Clough, Paul Peschisolido and Gary Rowett all had their first managerial jobs here whilst under Ben Robinson, he does have plenty of good examples to take inspiration from.

Will take something truly terrible for him not to be at the helm of Burton this time next season.

What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Saturday?

It depends. Buxton has shown tactical similarities to Nigel Clough with Burton, which is understandable when you consider how much influence Clough had on Buxton’s playing career. Burton have often lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, though a 4-2-3-1 has also been in use. The main aim with these is to get the wingers wide and taking on their direct opponent one-v-one, with full-backs pushing forward on the overlap and the midfielders making late third-man runs into the box.

It’s possible though that Buxton may switch to a back three for this game as he’s talked about it before. The Plymouth wing-backs are the biggest threat in my eyes and it’s something Buxton will need to focus a lot of attention on if Burton are going to get anything from this match.

And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?

The weak link is obvious. It’s the leaky defence. 22 goals conceded in 8 games so far, including 3 consecutive 4-2 defeats. Whilst Burton are currently joint-5th in League One for goals scored, they are comfortably bottom for goals conceded. If the defensive issues aren’t sorted out, there’s no chance of them winning enough games.

The other main issue is one that’s been in place for months, a vulnerability at set-pieces, particularly corners. Around half of the 22 goals conceded so far have come from set-pieces, and it’s normally because Burton simply cannot clear their lines properly, the ball either drops to a player just outside the box, or falls loose inside the penalty area with the opposition always being in the right-place to snap it up. This problem has been in place since before the beginning of 2020 and has cost Burton so many points in games. Considering Buxton is an experienced central defender, you really would expect him to be able to tighten up this backline, but he’s yet to do it.

What first comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?

Can I use the words ‘Green’ and ‘Army’ or is that a boring answer?

Plymouth Argyle were one of the teams I covered very closely for the work I was doing last season and I stand by the belief that as long as Ryan Lowe remains in Devon, Plymouth are destined for the Championship. All the infrastructure is in place for this to be at least a second-tier club, which is something I can just about remember them being.

In Ryan Lowe, Plymouth have a passionate, very intelligent manager who may be from the northwest, but has clearly fallen in love with the place and the people down in Devon. He has got a fantastic squad of players there who I feel will have no relegation battle concerns at all and would not be surprised to see them pushing towards the top half and maybe even beyond that.

Danny Mayor, George Cooper, Luke Jephcott, Ryan Hardie, Frank Nouble and Byron Moore are all players I really like, and Plymouth fans know how annoyed I am that you’ve got Panutche Camará, easily one of my favourite EFL players and he will show you why.

Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?

You already know who I’m saying from the last question, Panutche Camará. I went to watch him at Crawley Town during pre-season 19-20 and loved him. His long-limbed frame makes him absolutely perfect for winning the ball deep, carrying it through midfield and up to the final third. He’s not a player you can expect to get amongst the goals, but as a midfield ‘shuttler’ I don’t think you will find many better at this level.

A trio of him, Joe Edwards and Danny Mayor offers you everything you could ask for in midfield, and Plymouth’s depth in the central areas means that they’ve got great alternatives to those three as well. I would definitely say it’s the strongest area of the Argyle team.

What are your predictions for League One in general this year?

League One feels very much like it could be a Championship season this year. It’s very difficult to pick out many sides that look miles better or miles worse than everyone else. Listening to fans in pre-season it felt like there were around 12-15 clubs who all felt capable of pushing for the Play-Offs or at least finishing in the top half, so that tells you how close this league table could be.

We had a crazy relegation battle in League One two seasons ago and a crazy promotion battle last season. I’m expecting another very close league table again this year, where it could be the matter of a few points between 7th and 18th for instance.

In terms of teams, I had Peterborough United and Oxford United to earn automatic promotion, with Portsmouth, Fleetwood Town, Sunderland and Blackpool making up the Play-Offs.

The bottom four was even harder to pick, but I went with Rochdale, Northampton Town, Wigan Athletic and AFC Wimbledon.

Plymouth Argyle I had in 16th, which knowing this season will probably be about 5 points off 6rh.

At this stage of the season, I’m sticking with what I initially said, and I imagine we’ll see the table start to take shape after 10 games played.

And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?

Generally, I’m quite an optimistic person when it comes to football. I always look for the positives in things, but it’s difficult to find them with Burton Albion at current. The team is on an atrocious run of form and it needs to be sorted out quick or fans are going to get very, very concerned.

I’m well aware of the threat Plymouth Argyle possess, particularly Ryan Hardie who is the kind of striker this Burton defence does not like dealing with. If he gets the opportunity to get in behind, we are in a lot of trouble. The same goes for Cooper and Moore at wing-back as well. Burton need to cut out their deliveries or else people like Frank Nouble are going to be finding a lot of goalscoring opportunities, especially from corners which Burton seem incapable of dealing with at the moment.

This is a game I’ve been dreading for a while, the 3-2 at Home Park 2 seasons ago was a very fortunate 3 points where Burton were bailed out by Kyle McFadzean turning into prime Sergio Ramos. He’s not here anymore, and there needs to be a new man stepping up in his place.

We’re a much weaker team than we were in 18-19, whilst Plymouth are a much better team than they were in 18-19. Regrettably, I cannot see Burton getting anything from this game, maybe one or two goals if lucky. Ryan Lowe against Jake Buxton is a battle of a very promising manager against one yet to prove his ability, and even without fans present, I see the Green Army coming on top here, and by a good margin too.

Plymouth Argyle 4-Burton Albion 2. It’s been that score line for the last 3 matches, so why not go with it happening a fourth time. This could be a long season…

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