We’re already nearly a third of the way through Argyle’s return season in the Championship. It’s been an interesting start, and many Argyle fans will feel that the team should have picked up more points than the 15 currently attained. Argyle sit 19th at present, six points above the bottom three but only eight away from the play-offs. The Championship is a competitive league, and there’s much to be optimistic about still.
With that in mind, I’ve taken the time to review all ten new summer signings and their performances so far. We’ll split this into three different articles, each focusing on defenders, midfielders or forwards. This includes players who were here last season but have either moved back on loan or permanently. I’ve weighed up each player’s season to date and included some base information about their performances, followed by a rating out of 10. All statistics included are solely for Championship fixtures.
Conor Hazard – GK – £150,000 from Celtic – 11 Appearances – 2 CS
It’s a difficult situation for Conor Hazard, now, who appears not to have done enough to make the goalkeeper position his own. With Michael Cooper’s return in recent weeks, it looks as though Hazard will have to settle for cup games or injuries to play again. I’ve been more bullish than most about Hazard’s performances so far this season and quite critical of two elements in particular: the use of his feet and his inability to palm the ball away from danger.
He is a fantastic shot stopper but has caused problems by losing the ball cheaply while we have conceded soft goals due to him palming shots back into dangerous areas as opposed to away from goal. He’ll be a competent backup in this league, but I am not convinced by his long term potential as a Championship goalkeeper should Cooper move elsewhere. Of course, fairly crucially to the way Schumacher wants to play, Hazard’s issues with his feet are too big to ignore long term. A clear upgrade on Callum Burton, nonetheless. 6/10
Kaine Kesler-Hayden – FB – Loan from Aston Villa – 13 Appearances – 0G – 1A
KKH is a player who looks as though he had a better start to life with Argyle than he has been doing recently. It’s easy to see why he is a Championship footballer, certainly his technical ability is more than competent at this tier. However, inconsistency and some defensive lapses have been ongoing issues.
It’s important to remember that KKH is only just turned 21 and is very young to be on his fourth professional loan. It is evident why Villa would have high hopes for him and it’s hard to see him as anything lower than a Championship full back longer term. On the occasions when Schumacher moves to a 343, I expect KKH will look even more comfortable at wing back. 6/10
Julio Pleguezuelo – CB – Free from FC Twente – 8 Appearances – 0G – 0A
It’s been a mixed start for Pleguezuelo this season. The former Arsenal academy man was one of the higher profile moves for Argyle, having made 23 appearances in the Dutch top flight last season. Due to fitness issues, he only made limited appearances until the fifth game. However, he played in six out of seven games after, including the important wins against Blackburn and Norwich.
Since Lewis Gibson’s return after the international break, Pleggy has had to deal with a return to life on the bench. I am not as high on him as many at Argyle, and while he is visibly our most technical centre back, he leaves something to be desired in other departments. His outright defending looks less competent than Gibson and Dan Scarr’s, the latter of whom seems to be Schuey’s preference as Gibson’s partner. I think he has a role to play this season and given his ability on the ball, I would be interested to see how he copes in a defensive midfield role. Though, given Jordan Houghton’s fantastic season so far, that one seems unlikely right now. 6/10
Lewis Gibson – CB – Free from Everton – 11 Appearances – 0G – 0A
The less impressive on paper of Argyle’s two centre back signings, Gibson has been a revelation so far. A left footer who has looked completely natural in the second tier in both a back three and a back four. Despite signing on a free from Everton (one of many it feels) and having only been on loan at Bristol Rovers last season, Gibson has been a fantastic and very shrewd addition to the team.
He is outstanding aerially, looks good on the ball and seems to read the game befitting someone well beyond his years. He is easily a contender for signing of the season and you could make the case for him having been player of the year, too. Argyle did not win any of the three games he missed with an injury this season, shipping six goals in the process. His performances appear paramount to Argyle’s success. For a free transfer he has been a truly exceptional piece of business. 9/10
The Verdict – 7/10
A pretty solid collection of signings at the back that have complimented the existing group already at Home Park. Gibson is clearly the standout performer of the four, but all of them have had their moments. Even the toughest of critics would have to agree that they all seem capable squad players. Surely there is plenty more to come from Kesler-Hayden and Pleguezuelo, too.