Best Blog or Account to Follow: Rory Drake is a sports journalism student, big Pilgrims supporter who has a deep interest in the sport as a whole and as such, is well worth a follow on Twitter.
Record Last Season + Quick Summary:
League Two - 2nd; W 26 / D 9 / L 11 / F 71 / A 46 / Pts 87
Two defeats from the first two matches in the league were very quickly forgotten as Plymouth bounced back in some style, winning seven in a row and only one more significant wobble was suffered during the latter half of 2016. Going into the final match of the regular season, their excellent form had them a nose in front at the top of the pile and just one more triumph would have handed them the championship ahead of Portsmouth and Doncaster Rovers. However, a first minute goal by Grimsby Town put significant pressure on Derek Adams’ charges to come back into the game and even their opponents having Gavin Gunning sent off didn’t drastically alter proceedings. An equaliser by James Spencer on the hour mark proved insufficient to maintain their loose hold on the trophy and ultimately, they lost out to Portsmouth on goal difference. Nevertheless, promotion was achieved with style and matches to spare and solid foundations to work upwards from in League One.
Top Goalscorer: Graham Carey (14 goals in 46 starts/4,059 minutes)
Top Creator: Graham Carey (15 assists in 46 starts/4,059 minutes)
Manager/Head Coach: Derek Adams; seems to have been around as a manager for a long time but is still only 42. The Scot boasts a win percentage to date of 45% and is almost certainly Ross County’s best in the modern era, bringing massive success to the Dingwall outfit in two spells split between being assistant to Colin Calderwood at Hibernian during the 2010/2011 campaign. After a season out of the game, he made the long trek south of the border to the port city in Devon in the summer of 2015. In his maiden term at the club, he had them top at Christmas but very gradually, they lost their grip on an automatic place and had to settle for the play-offs. A dramatic triumph over Portsmouth in the semis was followed by an uncharacteristic display in the final against AFC Wimbledon and the Dons were promoted in their stead. He rallied his troops after that bitter disappointment to achieve their aim at the second time of asking.
Not shy of controversy and public rows, these traits belie a character who is deeply analytical and almost always receives excellent performances when it matters most. He has a very bright future in the game whether that is at Plymouth or elsewhere in the years to come.
Ins: Joel Grant (Exeter City), Jamie Ness (Scunthorpe United), Ryan Edwards (Morecambe), Ruben Lameiras (Coventry City), Lionel Ainsworth (Motherwell), Robbert te Loeke (Achilles ’29), Gregg Wylde (Millwall) & Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (Doncaster Rovers).
Outs: Ryan Donaldson (Hartlepool United), Billy Palfrey (Truro City), Connor Smith (Yeovil Town), Ryan Brunt (Exeter City), Jimmy Spencer (Mansfield Town), Marc McCallum (Forfar Athletic), Jordan Slew (free agent), Louis Rooney (free agent), Ryan Lane (free agent), Nauris Bulvitis (free agent), Vincent Dorel (free agent) & David Ijaha (free agent).
Predicted First XI & Shape:
Tactics: Adams has added more options in advanced, wide areas but I wouldn’t expect the overarching strategy to differ too much from what worked so well last term. The back ‘six’ will contain, break down and then play swiftly forwards to Graham Carey on the counterattack. The full-backs tend to be very conservative to maintain the shape of the defensive line, so overlaps are unlikely. Left-sided Sonny Bradley adds balance to the team, does the simple things very well and is a big threat from set pieces in the other penalty area. He and Ryan Edwards will sit deep to avoid being caught for pace on the turn.
Yann Songo’o will be the anchor man in midfield, attempting to destroy whatever crosses his path. David Fox will step a little further forward and look to pick out Carey or the wide men with accurate lofted passes and through balls. He’s also an alternative to the playmaker from corners. Carey gets forward with lightning speed but has the vision to keep pace with himself, just as often opting to dink a cute pass for a teammate to run onto as he would try to shoot from range.
Rúben Lameiras arrives at Home Park with a penchant for creating lots of chances, so some of the burden Carey carries should be redistributed to him. Not as quick as the other two in the attacking midfield three behind Ryan Taylor, he makes up for that with superb agility and dribbling skills and could easily swap roles with Carey or even Jake Jervis on the other flank. Jervis can also play up top but might start the season on the right, tasked with stretching the opposing defence to make it easier for Taylor to find space to receive crosses or balls to feet to bring in the runners from midfield. The target man possesses a powerful left foot and his headers can be like bullets if he gets enough purchase on them.
Predicted ‘Area’ of Finish: Play-off chasers. With Adams in charge, the Pilgrims will progress. That much I’m certain of. Not every side in the league can set themselves up from the off in an attacking way. There will many games where Plymouth won’t have the lion’s share of the ball or the clear-cut chances… but because the defensive seven are so similar to last year, well-drilled in their roles and more importantly have the consistency to make a decent fist of it in the third tier, it stands them in good stead. Carey’s decision to stay is vindication of the structure in place at the Devon club and Adams’ management skills. One or two more main strikers are probably needed to give the opposition more to ruminate over but other than that, they have improved where they needed to in the transfer market. It would be no surprise to see them in or around the top six come May and also claim the ‘title’ of being the highest-placed promoted League Two side in 2017/2018.