With less than a week to go until the return of the Football League, fans are eagerly predicting where their clubs might finish come the end of the season. Argyle fans are no different of course and after a fantastic 3-2 victory over QPR in the Carabao Cup, optimism is rife among the Green Army.
As the debate rattles on as to whether Argyle have got what it takes to reach the Championship for the first time in more than a decade, I’ve taken a different approach by thinking about what I think some of Argyle’s key players from last season should be looking to achieve this coming year.
Target: Get accustomed to professional football and keep 12 clean sheets in the League One.
A great deal has been said about Michael Cooper in recent seasons, but now it looks like he’ll finally get his chance as Argyle’s number one goalkeeper. Hailed by many as the next breakthrough star at Home Park, a lot of pressure has been put on Cooper’s young shoulders.
That’s not to say it’s necessarily been misplaced. Cooper has won plaudits from many in the past including Argyle legend and former keeper Romain Larrieu, as well as current teammate Luke McCormick. McCormick rejoined the club this summer, in part many expect, to mentor young Cooper, so with opportunity and expert mentorship to hand, many hope he’ll succeed.
A clean sheet tally of 12 is likely to put Cooper well in the top half of the clean sheet table come May and it would be more than credible in his first season as number one.
As well as keeping clean sheets though, Cooper will be keen to learn from McCormick, and this partnership could prove instrumental in the youngster’s development. The veteran goalkeeper is one of the best to have played at this level, and will be a very useful resource for Cooper if he is to cement his position as the regular keeper at Argyle. After all, when McCormick last played for Argyle at this level he kept 21 clean sheets as the club won promotion back in 2004.
Target: Put a torrid year behind him and make 40 appearances across all competitions.
Will Aimson was one of the players to follow manager Ryan Lowe from Bury last summer. Unfortunately, a persistent groin problem that he brought with him to the club meant he missed most of the season through injury.
Having not played competitive football in almost 12 months to date, the centre back is still something of an unknown to Argyle fans. On the occasions he has played, he’s impressed, but the key goal for Aimson will be consistent game time.
Throughout pre-season he’s remained fit and healthy and has been a frequent starter which carried through to the first professional game of the season. He then was able to finish the full 90 minutes against QPR, another promising sign.
Many expect him to be a key man in defence this season, but that relies on him remaining injury-free. Nonetheless, 40 games is a more than achievable target given the club is going set to play a minimum of 52 games. Were he to achieve this feat it would certainly be a welcomed addition to Argyle’s defence, given those less optimistic fans worried that Argyle’s back line is their weakest area on the pitch.
Target: Add goals to his game and score 10 in all competitions.
There’s little doubt that Danny Mayor is Argyle’s most talented player and whilst he had a good season last time out, he didn’t hit the heights many thought he could, or indeed should have done. He sacrificed a lot for the team, playing perhaps deeper than some might have expected to make up for deficiencies elsewhere in the squad.
Mayor has the majestic talent to glide past players with ease, he can bring team-mates into play with intricate passing, and he will often force opposition teams into doubling up on him, creating opportunities elsewhere on the pitch. Nonetheless, this is a player that certainly has more to offer and he’ll be disappointed to end last season with just one goal.
Fortunately, Mayor has already matched that total with just one game played, having scored against QPR. Yet, he’s struggled before at this level, scoring only 11 in 124 appearances in League One, though he certainly has the talent to add more goals to his game. If he can add more, on a consistent basis, Argyle could be in for a comfortable season, with one of the league’s best players wearing number 10.
Target: Be Argyle’s top goalscorer and get Ryan Giggs thinking.
Luke Jephcott exploded back onto the Argyle scene when manager Ryan Lowe recalled him from his loan at Truro City part way through last season, and he ended the campaign in fine form. He looked like a totally different player from the one that left the club six months earlier, and has deservedly earned himself a starting position among Argyle’s strikers.
Despite having fellow goalscorer, and the more experienced Ryan Hardie alongside him, Jephcott’s main aim will be to end the season as Argyle’s top scorer, but it will be a close contest.
Hardie was also in fine form last season, and he is likely to get the nudge over Jephcott if Lowe is pressed pick between them. Nonetheless, Jephcott has shown he can be ruthless in front of goal and looks like a fantastic poacher inside the box. What might play to his favour is that he was the only player to show signs of being a ruthless finisher, with all but one of his goals for Argyle coming with his first touch, while Hardie’s goals mostly started with him galloping more than twenty yards from goal.
Jephcotts exploits last season have recently earned him a call up to the Welsh Under 21 squad and whilst a call up to the first team seems unlikely, national manager Ryan Giggs has handed plenty of players their international debut whilst manager of Wales. This season might come a little early for Jephcott’s debut, but with Euro 2020 delayed until the summer of 2021, why not dream of stealing a spot in the squad?
If Argyle can create chances, Jephcott showed last season he can finish them. If he can get himself among the top goalscorers in the league, with a little bit of luck, he might give Ryan Giggs something to think about.