FOUR games into pre-season, Haden Tye analyses what we have seen, and speculates on how Argyle may line-up this season...
Pre-season is a wonderful period. It's a time for hard work and adjustment. It is an opportunity for variety; with an array of different grounds, players and clubs that are all eager preparing for the forthcoming season. But above all else, it is a time of speculation.
Speculation about which players will come, and which will go. Speculation about how good the new players are, and who will feature when the season is underway. Speculation about where the team needs to strengthen, or where they are stronger than previously.
In Argyle's case, there has been much speculation about what formation Derek Adams will play. So far, pre-season has hinted that he will pick a formation that is best described as 3-4-1-2. The systems consists of three central defenders, with wing-backs that work at double time, to act as both full-backs and wingers. There are two holding midfielders. Just in front of that, is a roaming role that looks to create chances and that leaves two strikers up-front.
Our fourth game of pre-season at Torquay hinted further that the 3-4-1-2 would be our formation of choice next season. The players that Derek has at his disposal fit into the system seamlessly. We have got four really good centre-backs, and it means three of them will be on the pitch. It demands a lot of both wing-backs but both Garys - Sawyer and Miller - have a lot to offer. Furthermore, it means that we can offer the threat of two strikers, whilst bringing the best out of Graham Carey - or whoever is the '1' - by giving him the freedom to roam and create opportunities for his fellow Pilgrims.
So far, Derek has opted for the 3-4-1-2 for the majority of all four games. He started with it at St Blazey, reverted to it in the second-half at Tavistock, started with it again at Bovey Tracey and played it for 70 minutes at Torquay. The shape changed with just under 20 minutes to go at Plainmoor though as Jordan Slew replaced Nauris Bulvitis, meaning the system switched to four at the back and three up front.
This was an attempt to win the game by Derek, taking of a centre-back and bringing on a striker. It did not work, but pre-season is, at least partially, for experimentation. It seems that we are not disregarding a formation with four defenders, and that itself makes us flexible, and hard to work out.
If we play to the best of our ability within a 3-4-1-2, then it is plausible that teams will struggle to work out a way to play against us. If we play in the formation correctly, then we effectively have an extra two men, as Sawyer and Miller are acting as full-backs and wingers.
However, pre-season, first and foremost is about fitness and preparation, against varied opposition. With respect to St Blazey, Tavistock and Bovey Tracey, we would won regardless of the formation we played, and the Torquay game is hard to judge alone. The amount of variables that may have contributed to the performance mean that it may be a while until we start to see the benefits of Derek's new system.
We have a new squad that need to adapt to playing together, but I feel there is a lot of competition for places that means we have an excellent chance of succeeding in the coming season. The formation is exciting; we have a lot of good players, and we are trying something a little bit different that could well play a role in the outcome of next season.