The Opposition View: Plymouth Argyle

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 24 November 2017

Let's go back to last season. How disappointed were you to lose the League Two title to Pompey on the final day?

Firstly, congratulations on that! You guys did it in style. We’ll call it even after that last minute play-off goal a couple years back.

Of course, it would have been nice to win the league again but looking back we achieved our aim of getting promotion fairly comfortably. After the Wembley defeat and the years of hardship that we’ve been through (as with yourselves), the emotion and jubilation in the away end in Grimsby on the last day of the season was all the same. Combined with a little bit of relief perhaps!

The slight sour grapes in me might suggest that not many people particularly remember who won the title and how after the summer is over and the new season starts! Not sure how well that’ll go down with your crowd though!

Coming back to this season and Plymouth are currently second from bottom in League One. What has gone wrong this season?

This season has been very disappointing so far. None of us were expecting fireworks but we were certainly aiming to be more comfortable than we are.

The key has been the indiscipline, especially inside the first ten games. Far too many red cards have lead to games where we’ve not competed at all, and even those with the most green tinted glasses couldn’t argue any of the red cards so it is self inflicted. Every game we’ve managed to keep eleven on the field we’ve shown we can mix it with the best in the league (e.g. victories against Charlton and Bradford). 

Also the home form/tactics have lead to an increasingly frustrated fan base. We play with one up front and three defensive midfielders in front of a back four. Whilst it works away when teams come on to us, we play the same way at home when the green army would like to see the team being a bit more positive.

Things are getting better, we’ve taken a while to adapt and figure out our strongest side allowing for the injuries and suspensions we have/had. We’ve only lost one in the last seven, unsurprisingly that one was when we had another red card after less than 20 minutes in! Our difficulty comes when we concede first, we don’t chase games well at all.

Have Sonny Bradley and Jake Jervis stepped up to this level of football or has it been too difficult for them?

Sonny struggled at the start of the season and I think he knew it. I think his frustrations were released when he punched a Donny Rovers player. The break from that if anything did him good, it seems like he’s gathered himself together since then and has been part of a mainly successful defence over the last six or seven games. Capped off by a classic back post Bradley header double on Tuesday night which is hopefully the sign that last season's Sonny is well and truly back.

Jervis has done well in the role he’s been given this season. He has been playing the Derek Adams thankless lone striker role after Ryan Taylor broke his ankle less than 45 minutes into the season. We were screaming out to recruit a striker in the summer who’d suit the role as we knew our hopes were pinned on Taylor, but one never came.

The majority of us prefer Jervis in his more dangerous role being able to open his legs up running in behind off the wing and not trying to hold the ball up and bring others into play on his own up front.

He’s doing a lot of running around up there and is learning the job more with every match. Yes there are better players in this league to suit that position but unfortunately we don’t have any of them (except the injured Taylor!). Jervis could be doing a lot worse.

Are Plymouth fans still behind Derek Adams or is his job in real jeopardy if Argyle lose on Saturday?

It’s a split fan base at the moment on the Adams front. We can all see the players are still playing for him and giving 100%. The frustration comes with the aforementioned negative tactics and style of play, especially at home. We know by now that this is how Adams sets his teams up to be direct, organised and hard to beat and it’s all well and good when that’s getting positive results, but if it’s not then us fickle football fans soon get annoyed and demand answers.

We’re on a relatively decent run and I think he deserves more time to get us out of this, and i think he will. He has not been telling all the players to get sent off so some responsibility for our position needs to lie with them.

It would do him no harm with the fans to bite the bullet on his stubbornness at home matches and give us two up front. Especially considering we have games against Gillingham and Oldham approaching.

Matty Kennedy was a loanee for Plymouth earlier this year, what do your fans think of him?

Kennedy was great for us last year and I’d definitely have him back now. He was well liked by our fan base. If he has ironed out his consistency problems, then you have a good winger on your hands for the year. There can be no excuses from our players if he cuts in off the wing and bends one in the far corner on Saturday as we know that’s what he’ll try and do and saw it a lot last season. 

What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of this current Plymouth team?

Our strength is our organisation. If we take the lead or go away for a point we are more than capable of parking a decent bus where everyone knows the job they need to do.

Weakness is aside from the obvious disciplinary issues is our ability to score goals. We didn’t get the striker in that we needed and in general if Carey doesn’t fire or score a screamer then the team doesn’t. We have pace on the bench if we are chasing a game but they lack the end product. 

Also we have four injured goalkeepers. The only senior we have fit is Mathews who is on an emergency loan from Norwich. Mathews is a class keeper, but should he get injured, then on the bench is now our under-18's second choice keeper who is 16. 

Everyone knows how good Graham Carey is but who are the other key men in the Argyle squad?

Aside from Carey who I fear has well and truly put himself in the shop window, we’ve had two other stand out players this season. 

The first is Toumani Diagouraga who plays in the middle of the park and is our engine. Toums signed for us on a free from Brentford seven or eight games ago when we were in deep trouble. He came straight into the side and was just what we needed. Our run since he joined the club, along with Carey’s upturn in form since Diagouraga has been behind him is no coincidence. He has Championship experience with Leeds and Brentford and was a key man in Brentford’s promotion from this league.

The other player is Yann Songo’o. Fast becoming a cult hero with the green army, Yann was on everyone’s list as someone who’d need to be replaced with an upgraded player for League One this year but after being out of the side for the first few games he has taken his opportunity and grown ever since.

Playing in front of the back four, he breaks down, blocks and intercepts opposition attacks almost single-handedly and his full blooded, committed man of the match displays have earned him a lot of plaudits this year - not least from the Wigan fans who were asking how much for him after the game! He’s been the most consistent performer and is a shoe in so far for player of the season. You’ll probably see him slot into centre back on Saturday next to Bradley (as he did on Tuesday vs Northampton) as Edwards is still suspended.

Pompey have been inconsistent this season but generally better at home. Would you take a draw at Fratton Park on Saturday despite the reports that Brett Pitman and Christian Burgess will miss the game?

Yes I certainly would. Fratton Park is a difficult place to go and an away point is a good point. Especially considering it would mean going into the game against Gillingham on the back of two good results.

Pompey are dangerous at home and although it’s true Pitman is likely to be out - who seems to have scored pretty much all of your goals - you’ve got other dangerous players who can slot in. Chaplin and Bennett normally perform for you against us, and although I don’t know much about him I’ve heard a few good things about Hawkins.

This combined with the whole Kennedy vs ex-team factor means we certainly shouldn’t be taking your attacking threat lightly if Pitman is confined out. What a cracking signing he has been by the way!

Predict the outcome of the game.

We don’t have a bad record at Fratton Park recently but I’ve got a bad feeling about this one. Head says 2-0 win for the Blues but heart says we may sneak another typical Argyle 1-0 away win.

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