Plymouth Argyle are starting to piece their squad together for the 2021-22 season. It’s therefore time for us to start looking at the free agents who may be available to sign during this summer transfer window.
The wing back/winger (depending on how you class them in this system) positions pose an interesting conundrum for Ryan Lowe. Across much of the last season, Argyle haven’t played with what you’d describe as “specialists” in those positions. Conor Grant is more natural as an attacking midfielder, and Joe Edwards was initially signed to play a holding role.
However, both took to the task very well, with Edwards in particular impressing on the right. With both signing new deals, and George Cooper hopefully returning for the new campaign, you’d be forgiven for thinking Argyle are settled in those areas.
That being said, Byron Moore’s departure has left a hole in terms of depth. Lowe will be looking to replace him, and may look to bring in a specialist or two. Here are some options available for free.
Status: Contract rejected
There will be no lack of interested parties in Jordan Graham over the course of this summer. The 26-year-old has received interest from numerous Championship and League One sides following a season that saw the former Aston Villa man register 18 goal contributions (12G, 6A) Gillingham. The 26-year-old exploded onto the scene having only scored two senior goals prior and enduring loan spells with seven different clubs either side of a permanent stint at Wolves.
His pace allows him to make bursting runs down the wing at opponents with the skillset to either take the ball inside and shoot or create an opportunity with a cross from out wide. His 31% conversion rate in front of goal twinned with 77% passing accuracy make for very impressive reading for a player in his position. Whilst his defensive output isn’t necessarily the best, he could well be utilised as a forward option primarily which would certainly suit both his and Lowe’s heavy attacking philosophy.
Club: Wigan Athletic
Status: Offered new contract
If you were told Argyle were about to sign a player once contracted to CSKA Sofia, you’d probably get very excited.
Viv Solomon-Otabor joined the Bulgarian giants in the same summer as Graham Carey but had a less successful time in Eastern Europe. His contract was cancelled for financial reasons on the onset of the pandemic, returning to England to play last season with Wigan Athletic.
The winger, naturally right-footed but capable of playing on either side, was in the top 10 for successful one-on-one dribbles in League One last season. This eclipses Argyle’s current dribble king, Danny Mayor.
He doesn’t have an obvious position in Ryan Lowe’s preferred system. Much like George Cooper, Solomon-Otabor would have to make the transition from an attacking winger to a wing-back who can influence the game in both boxes. His pace and dribbling ability would make him an exciting wildcard in this position – the club could do worse than giving him a look.
Club: Exeter City
Status: Contract rejected
While Adam Randell was making an impression on loan at Torquay last season, a few miles up the A380 fans of Exeter City were impressed with his namesake.
Randell Williams spent time at Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Watford in his youth, but he had to leave London to get his first taste of senior football. The Grecians signed the raw 22-year-old in 2018 – 76 impressive performances later and they think he’s likely to move to greener pastures.
Named Exeter’s player of the season in 2020 after notching up 5 goals and 14 assists from the wing, he spent most of 2020/21 injured or struggling to recover his best form. Matt Taylor, Exeter’s manager, singled out Williams’ off-the-ball movement as his most dangerous attribute.
It is unlikely Williams will make the move across Devon. He is being linked with Championship clubs like Preston and Hull. Rumours are that he would prefer a move closer to London. He is likely to find a more appealing proposition than a League One club even further away from the capital than Exeter.
But cut out all of the rumours, and a move up a league to a local club would make sense on face value. And it would be a lovely signing to rub in the noses of Argyle’s geographical rivals. Think Joel Grant x100.
A youngster released by a club from Merseyside? You’d expect Lowe to be all over this one. And, standard cliches aside, Argyle could do a lot worse than making a move for Bowler.
He was a little nomadic in his junior career before eventually settling at QPR. He did actually make his senior debut for the club in 2017, in a classic “give the kids a go on the final day of the season” move. But whilst he only turned out the once, he’d done enough in his junior career to earn a move to Everton.
He continued to impress at youth level, and also spent a season on loan in the Championship with Hull City in 2019-20. But the Tigers were relegated that year, and Bowler has more recently spent a season back playing football at junior level. You have to wonder whether his progress may have been stunted slightly by those developments.
Nonetheless, he’s only 22 and very talented. Lowe will no doubt be well aware of the player, and signing him could prove to be an astute move.
Club: Bristol City
To say I was absolutely bamboozled when I saw that Rowe was knocking on the door of the ripe old age of 33 would be an understatement, but that isn’t to say the former Bristol City man doesn’t have anything left to offer. Rowe made 31 appearances in what was a dismal season of transition for the Robins. However, despite the lacklustre season Rowe would bring some experience to the Argyle wide-areas and act as a useful utility man who can operate both centrally and out-wide.
Rowe made 60 appearances during his time at Ashton Gate, but it was his time with both Peterborough and Doncaster where he experienced his most success. Rowe was captain of Posh during a season in the Championship and also a part of the Doncaster team that impressed in the League 1 play-offs a few years back, only to fall short to the eventual winners Charlton Athletic.
Rowe would arrive at Home Park with experience and plenty of it; this is certainly destined to a useful asset if Lowe does consider bolstering his options at left wing-back.
So good they named him twice, Kaikai would appear to tick a lot of boxes as Argyle search to add depth to the wide areas.
The London-born winger has been called up for the Sierra Leone national side and in truth was probably a victim of Blackpool’s promotion to some extent. He had a successful spell with them, able to play out wide or as a number ten and would surely have been retained had they been planning for League One football.
As it is, however, he was released and would surely be a valuable acquisition for an upwardly mobile League One side. He is right footed primarily but can play on either side. Lowe tends to prefer players on their natural side as wing backs so we’d probably see him challenging Joe Edwards assuming we stick to a 3-5-2.
That said, if we choose to switch back to a 4-2-2-2 again, he could be very handy out left. Kaikai is also a highly skilful player and would be likely to wow the Home Park faithful with at least one moment of real magic if he were to sign.
Club: Blackburn Rovers
Certainly one of the more ambitious names on this list, Amari’i Bell has clocked up an impressive 87 appearances in the Championship since joining Blackburn from Fleetwood in January 2018. Despite this, the 27-year-old has never quite managed to cement his place in the Rovers side. With the permanent signing of Crewe’s Harry Pickering as well as the imminent arrival of Barry Douglas, Bell’s opportunities would look to be limited once more at Ewood Park.
The former Birmingham man was recently called up to the Jamaica national side for the first time this year and made his debut against the USA in March and recently featured in the Raggae Boyz’s 1-1 draw with Serbia.
With an abundance of both pace and power, the 5ft 11in man would provide a natural wing-back option alongside the likes of George Cooper and Conor Grant, both of whom are naturally midfielders. At Championship level, Bell’s offensive output has often suffered registering just three goals and four assists in 99 appearances. A step down looks likely in order to recapture the impressive form that saw him provide 16 goal contributions in 73 appearances before Rovers spent £300,000 on his services.
Club: Oxford United
Status: Offered new contract
Forde would appear to be a reasonable coup for Argyle should he sign, but it’s far from unrealistic. He’s been offered a new deal by Oxford, and given their success of recent years you may expect him to sign. However, whilst making 44 appearances across the season may make him seem relatively ever-present, 20 of those appearances were from the bench. He was also subbed off nine times, meaning he only completed 90 minutes 15 times across the campaign.
Forde would bring two useful attributes: experience and versatility. He’s got good knowledge of League One from his time at Oxford alongside previous spells at Walsall and Rotherham. And he could slot into many positions. He’d probably be ideal as a right wing back in Lowe’s system, but could easily deputise in central midfield if required.
Perhaps he’s too similar to Joe Edwards to start regularly at Home Park. But as a player in his own right, Forde has a lot of desirable attributes.
Club: Luton Town
Kazenga LuaLua is probably one of the more recognisable names on this list, and not just because of the Premier League exploits of older brother Lomana. He’s probably best remembered for a long spell at Brighton, in which he made 183 appearances in all competitions for the Seagulls. Sadly for LuaLua, his decline at Brighton coincided with their promotion to the Premier League, and he never got a chance with them at the highest level.
More recently, he’s had a reasonable spell at Luton. He notched 11 goal involvements (2G/9A) as the Hatters were promoted from League One, and has had a regular smattering of appearances ever since. However, he’s never really been able to nail down a place in the team, and his release at the end of his most recent contract comes with little surprise.
Now 30, one suspects League One may be his next home. And if Lowe wants a serious attacking threat patrolling the left flank, LuaLua may be the man for the job.
Club: Fleetwood Town
The man who scored a goal that might be described as ‘the most unsporting in Home Park’s history’ is unlikely to be a natural candidate to endear himself to the Green Army. And that’s the reason why it probably won’t happen, all else being equal. Yet, once you get past the initial acrimony, he could be a handy signing for us.
He’s another one who ticks the ‘versatility’ box, able to cover a space in either the back or middle three, as well as his natural position of left wing back.
He likes to take set pieces and whip crosses into the box, both of which are attributes Ryan Lowe will want. We often look to move the ball out wide and with the recent arrival of some big centre backs, it can be deduced that corners and free kicks are likely also both be regular sources of goals next season.
We didn’t get many in 21/22 but that wasn’t for want of trying, with a lot of good deliveries. Morris would add another name to our list of capable crossers.
That said, he was released by struggling Fleetwood with question marks over his defending, so he’d probably start as back-up for now.