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 the new summer signings so far. This includes players who were here last season but have either moved back on loan or permanently. Today, the last instalment, I’ll be assessing how Mustapha Bundu, Bali Mumba and Morgan Whittaker have performed. I’ve weighed up each player’s season so far and included some base information about their performances, followed by a rating out of 10. All statistics are solely for Championship games.
Mustapha Bundu – ST/W – Undisc from Anderlecht – 7 Appearances – 1G – 1A
Bundu wins the ‘most obscure transfer of the window’ for Argyle, if such an award exists. A rogue, deadline day signing brought in to plug an obvious gap in squad depth in the forward positions. Having watched all of Bundu’s cameos so far, I’m not really convinced he’s a striker at all. His attributes look far more suited to a wide position as a player who likes to receive the ball with defenders in front of him rather than his back to them. Someone who wants to turn and run, not receive back to goal or make runs behind (like Hardie).
Still, I think as time has gone on Bundu has looked more assured within the team. Featuring in only fairly brief cameos until recently, he scored a fantastic free-kick against Sheffield Wednesday and then looked excellent against Ipswich having come on as an early sub. It’s still very early days and we are yet to see him have a real run of games, but he looks like a capable squad player at this level. With depth having been a major concern, Bundu looks to have helped solve that issue somewhat and I look forward to seeing if he continues to get even better with more time. 7/10
Bali Mumba – £1m from Norwich City – 14 Appearances – 1G – 1A
It’s been a slightly weird season so far for Bali Mumba. He scored an outstanding goal against Huddersfield on the opening day and has had very little goal involvement since then. While Argyle have broadly played pretty well this season, I do wonder about the thinking behind paying big bucks for your star player from the season previous, only to completely shift the formation so you no longer have his best position.
I think Mumba has struggled somewhat for consistency this season, but it’s been difficult for him. His best attribute was his ability to drive with the ball from deeper positions but by playing him in a front three, you negate a lot of that side of his game. At full back, there are plenty of questions about his defensive ability too. He is, to me, an obvious wing back playing slightly out of position. I think he’s been more good than bad this season, but I’m not entirely sure questions about whether he’s been worth the money paid out are totally unreasonable. 6/10
Morgan Whittaker – £1m from Swansea City – 14 Appearances – 6G – 3A
I’m ultra-high on Morgan Whittaker’s season so far. I don’t just think he’ll go down as Argyle’s best transfer this window, I think he could go down as Argyle’s greatest signing of all time. This is a footballer who is performing extremely well in a number of statistical metrics. Compared to his Championship peers this season, Whittaker is in the 85th percentile for non-penalty goals, the 81st percentile for successful take-ons and the 97th percentile for defensive actions that lead to shots. Collectively, he is performing well in possession, in the final third and out of possession, too.
So why do I think he might be Argyle’s greatest signing of all time? Well, it’s not so much that he’s going to lead us to the promised land of the Premier League. But, if his performances continue at the level they are already at, he is the sort of player who will command a large transfer fee. He is over performing his xG, but given his quality as a finisher that could well be a trend that continues. He is also a player who can produce match winning goals from nothing, a trait that is extremely valuable at any level but one that good teams will pay a lot of money for.
In a sense, that trait reminds me of Gustavo Hamer. A very different type of player to Whittaker, but one capable of producing incredible moments from nowhere – as he already has this season in the Premier League. Sheffield United paid £15m for him. I am not suggesting Argyle can expect bids shortly from Premier League teams for a fee in that region, but if his current trajectory continues then there’s no reason to think why he couldn’t command a huge fee in the future. After all, he’s still only 22. Six goals and three assists at his age and only £1m paid? A steal. Signing of the window, easily. 10/10
Verdict – 8/10
I’m fairly content with the three forward signings so far and am fairly confident that two of those three will get even better. I mean, if Whittaker gets better too then he’s going to end up with about 35 goal contributions this season. If that happens, we can expect to be either really successful or suddenly a lot richer. The big reason this is not higher than an 8/10, however, is because they simply did not sign enough forwards. Another striker is essential in January, and probably a winger too. It does not mean the current players are not good, but one of our biggest weapons in League 1 was to rotate players and still win games. At this level, the depth just currently does not exist to do that. In terms of what we did bring in, it’s a definite thumbs up so far.