We’ve been chatting to Nick Smith from Argyle Life about tonight’s League One fixture.
How have you started the season?
Very well. We’re sixth in the league, last I checked only one side has scored more goals than us, and we’ve managed to plug the gap in defence, for now at least. The games have been fun to watch – in my opinion at least – and we’re passing the ball like a confident side who have been doing it a long time. You get those teams who try to pass the ball around because it’s in fashion, but for the most part we look the real deal. Calm, composed, making spaces to hurt other teams.
Who are the dangermen for the Pilgrims and how do you expect them to line up?
How long do you want the list? We play with two strikers, two wingers and (usually) two attacking midfielders, so our goal threat is spread among six players. I often run out of time to explain the different threats of each player, so I’ll do it short and sweet: George Cooper is one of the best crossers of the ball in the league, Danny Mayor is one of the best dribblers and intelligent footballers (though he’s got an awful tendency of overplaying in the opposition area, allowing opponents to get all men back and snuff out the threat).
Conor Grant (might miss the game through injury) has emerged as one of our most threatening players with two goals and four assists. Excellent crosser too, dangerous left foot, can cut in from the right and shoot. Ben Reeves might start instead of Grant if he’s injured, he’s coming back from injury but looks sharp and should have had three assists against Cheltenham in the EFL Trophy (all wasted by the strikers). Haven’t mentioned Camara because he’s probably injured. Byron Moore, right-winger-cum-striker at right wing-back, not been on top form yet but is quick, hard-working and pops up with goals.
Then it depends who starts up-front. Frank Nouble is incredibly strong, does a lot of good hold-up work, even if he is a bit less polished than his teammates, less likely to get on the end of a chance, more likely to be laying the ball off to a midfielder. Telford and Jephcott are sharp and alive in the box, whereas Hardie’s speed is a major threat on the counter.
See, I tried to do it in short, it just keeps getting longer. I miss the days when you could just answer “Graham Carey and Ruben Lameiras”. My guess is: Cooper; Aimson, Canavan, Watts; Fornah; Moore, Revees (if Grant is injured), Mayor, Cooper; Jephcott, Nouble
What weak areas might Lincoln expose?
In all competitions, we conceded twelve goals in our first five games – and should have conceded more but Blackpool missed a few good opportunities in our 1-0 win against them. Since then, we’ve conceded four in four league games and looked much better defensively. Even then, Burton missed a huge chance against us, Hull were inches from adding more goals and Shrewsbury and Northampton both found ways through our defence despite being two of the lowest scorers in the division.
If Lincoln can press our midfield and defence well, they’ll get opportunities to turnover possession and run at our exposed back-three. However, they’ll have to avoid doing what Northampton did. They allowed us too much possession and we were in control, defensively at least, for 80 out of 90 minutes despite their pressing. That’s quite a long time to go without really exerting much attacking pressure. Shrewsbury were similar. They turned over the ball more with better pressing, but they still struck all but one of their shots from outside the box and we were pretty comfortable.
What were the highlights and lowlights of your summer, in terms of recruitment?
What are lowlights? Just kidding. It was a near perfect summer. We kept practically all our best players, shed a lot of players who didn’t fit the style or who weren’t good enough and improved the quality of the squad in practically all areas.
Quite a lot of people were disappointed at Antoni “Manchester Messi” Sarcevic leaving, but that was more due to popularity than ability. I think people tend to agree with that, judging by social media comments, though obviously not all will and I could be wrong. Not that he wasn’t a good player – three promotions from League Two in his career says all you need to know in that regard – but he didn’t really fit the style we wanted and we had to change our approach quite significantly during Autumn and Winter last year to accommodate that. His departure was a bit of a blessing in disguise in my opinion. His popularity made him undroppable to an extent. But we’re sixth in League One and playing better than we did for a fair chunk of last season. And the less said about how Bolton fans currently speak about Sarcevic (who is no doubt loving that huge salary they’re paying him for the next two years), the better.
Derek Adams v Ryan Lowe, what changed?
A lot – but there is lots to add. Some improvements would have happened with Adams at the helm anyway. Our Chairman has been improving the club from the ground up, with investment in finally redeveloping the Grandstand, improving our training pitches, hiring the right people behind the scenes at every level. The change in the club since it was struck by administration a decade back is remarkable.
Lowe no doubt has more money to spend than Adams did for the majority of his time here (at least relatively speaking, though football finance is murky and we don’t know for absolutely sure about that fact yet). However, Lowe has worked wonders in some regards. If you saw how some of the squad played under Adams, you’d have been amazed to think they could pass the ball as well as they do now. Admittedly, very few now remain from that – shockingly, it’s mostly the defenders who are still here, despite being universally blamed for relegation two years back!
Nevertheless, he very quickly embedded his passing ethos, a radical change and a style of football I can’t ever recall being so dominant than at any other time watching Argyle. Sure, we’ve played attacking football, and we could pass and create chances, but always in a more direct way. Now we can move the ball from back-to-front, everyone is comfortable in possession. Previous attempts at that ended up in consistently sterile sideways football leading to a panicked hoof downfield by an anxious, limited defender. Sure, we still go long, but we do it in a more controlled way, targeting runs in behind the full-back and so forth.
Adams gets a harsh rep from some still, but as time goes on he’ll be remembered for his successes at the club rather than his failure in 2018/19. Regardless, this is a different era now, or at least it feels like it for the moment.
What do you know of us, having not played us in the league for a long while, and what do you expect tomorrow night?
My understanding is:
Jorge Grant – danger man. Get him the ball in the final third, most likely starting from wide left moving infield(?) and he’ll hurt us. If he can find dangerous positions to receive the ball, like Sam Hoskins did around the hour mark for Northampton, then he’s going to create chances. Hopper is an excellent target man (I badly wanted us to sign him in 2018 to fight with Ryan Taylor, he’d have been a perfect player for that system). Direct into him and laying it off will allow you to go from back-to-front quickly, so Canavan will have a battle on his hands. If Scott Wootton unexpectedly starts in the middle of the back three then maybe we should just call the win for Lincoln now and take the early night’s sleep.
In terms of how you play, I’d say that you’re comfortable not having the ball. That’s not to say that you’re defensive, but that you know the value of turning over possession and countering at speed. Set pieces are clearly a threat too.
How did I do? (You’ll see this evening! – Gary)
Tell us a bit about your site and how you got into content creation?
Argyle Life has been going for five years now since Derek Adams took over initially in 2015. It was a project initially that snowballed when people expressed a desire to write about Argyle. More than anything, we try to add content that you can’t find about Argyle and football in general anywhere else. A bit more detail, a bit more effort, much less click-baity.